Saturday, May 16, 2015

#PSUAgEd2Miss - Day 3: Great Coasts and Great Schools! The power of Agriculture

Editor's note: This is a continuing series on our third annual Teach Ag! Society Domestic Study Away to Mississippi to help with financial literacy and supervised agricultural experience.

Thursday, May 14th, 2015
What scenery did your day start with? Ours was a drive along the Gulf of Mexico shoreline from Ocean Springs towards Gulfport. Reminiscing and still digesting an evening of fried catfish, Dr. Foster’s insightful aunt, Cindy Ricketts (a community newspaper woman), and a powerful reflection conducted on a pier, our team was ready to cease our day packed full of opportunities to learn, absorb, and grow. During the day, we had three places to visit: 
  • The Port of Gulf 
  • Forrest County Agricultural High School, and 
  • Newton County’s Career and Technical Center (CTC).

Mississippi Port of Gulf
We are continually amazed by how big agriculture is across our nation and world wide. At the Port of Gulf, We witnessed the impact of international trade on the state of Mississippi. The port is very important to not just the local community, but many companies based around our country. The many tenants at the Port includes Dole Fruits, which we enjoy in Pennsylvania.
The Port is tremendously innovative through tragedy. Ten years ago Mississippi was in the pathway of hurricane Katrina. Katrina destroyed many homes and businesses including the port.  The day after Katrina struck cargo boxes from the port were found 200 yards away and thousands of international good scattered across the coast, making it hard to clean up and keep going with production.

Today, ten years after hurricane Katrina, Mississippi has recovered 80% from this tragedy. The construction contracts have had a significant impact on the local economy by supporting design and construction jobs. The restoration construction is expected to be completed in 2017. Through tragedy the Port found ways to improve their business to keep international agriculture in our country. Dole fruits has signed a contract with the Port of Gulf till 2039, that means they will be bring products into our country at that port for 24 more years! This is a huge impact on importing international agriculture products.

Forrest County Agricultural High School
When some think of high school, typically they think of classrooms and teachers giving lecture. At Forrest County Agricultural High School, the dedicated agriscience instructors take learning to a whole new level. The teachers expect the students to learn with more hands on methods, most of the students take time to work in one of the many facilities, which range from barns and greenhouses to planting fields.
The students that we encountered today were all very passionate about the work they were doing at the school and were very eager to talk about everything they were doing. Some students were talking about working with the goats and cows, while other spoke about working in the greenhouse and planting strawberries.
These programs that the school has set up show a type of learning that we don’t typically think of. Experiential learning has so many benefits like leaving high school with experience they can use for their future careers. The students understand that what they are learning is important and they plan to take the skills they have gained with them for their future career.

Newton County Career and Technical center (CTC)
Newton County CTC truly exceeded all expectations. We had the unique opportunity to work with their Junior FFA Chapter. The Mississippi Junior FFA Association is unique to this state!. The dedicated Newton Junior members, their parents and two accomplished, progressive, and impacting teachers, Mr. Clark and Ms. Wagner were raring to go. Jenna Timmons and Katie Andrews facilitated our SAE workshop with the students and their parents both attending and learning. After we ate a delicious a homemade dinner from the parents, Janae Bickhart took a 30-minute timeframe to teach the students and parents about the proficiency award and the best practices and procedures to filling out the application.
We were in a unique situation with having the two co-teachers of Newton were also president and president elect positions for Mississippi Association of Vocational Agriculture Teachers (MAVAT). Due to this we were able to take utilize our time with them picking their brains for information and advice.
Here are FIVE nuggets of Knowledge we received:
1.  Be real with you students from the first day of school
2.  Always make time for yourself and your family
3.  Only one what is right
4. Join your professional organizations. If you expect your students to be leaders you must show them that you are too.
5. Do not be afraid to ask for help
After a long day, we all got together at Sonic (Shout out to Dr. Mom!) for our evening reflection. We decided to focus on individual self-reflections followed by group reflections. It really seemed to sink in with us just how much all of these teachers truly care about their students and how much we would all love to someday be able to talk about our students with such passion as all of the teachers we have met.
Great Things await tomorrow in Day 4!

Submitted by:

Katie Andrews, 2016 Student Teacher, @klandews_24

Matt Holt, 2016 Student Teacher, @mholt5595

Heather Wasson, 2018 Student Teacher, @heatwasson

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