Friday, May 27, 2016

It's a Wrap: Domestic Study Away 2016 #PSUAgEd2TN

Editors Note: The following is the final blog instalment of #psuaged2TN, our domestic study away program. Nate Repetz (@N8_Repetz), a junior and member of #psuaged17, shares below. This incredible opportunity is made possible by the generosity of the CHS Foundation.

The whole group at Clarkrange High School

On Sunday May 8th, seven future agricultural educators and one brave teacher educator loaded a van. The destination was the Volunteer State. The reason was the 4th annual Domestic Study Away trip. The focus was STEM in agricultural education in urban and rural settings. We each had different reasons for going on this trip, but we all ended with renewed passion for agricultural education.

This was our fourth annual Domestic Study Away, and each has had a different feel to it. Others have questioned why we would sacrifice a week of summer to visit ag ed programs. This year, our four greatest take-aways are why we do this trip.

4 Take-Aways

2016 crew downtown Nashville
1. Exposing ourselves to agricultural education throughout the nation: Agriculture is truly a global industry. You do not always need a passport to see these differences. The agriculture industry, and therefore agricultural education, looks different in TN than it does in PA. This trip allows us to see these differences so that we may feel prepared to teach in any location we choose after graduation.

2. Expanding our professional network: We had the pleasure of meeting several wonderful individuals during this trip. Each one was open to future questions and advice. It is never to early to make connections throughout the nation.

3. Connecting OUR classroom content to concrete experiences: Agricultural Education is always hands on, but in teacher education it is hard to have these hands on experiences before we student teach. This trip gave us the opportunity to work with hundreds of different students with numerous backgrounds in a very short period of time. Also, we were able to apply educational theory that we learned in our own classes. One example was Kolb's Experiential Learning Theory. We had our concrete experiences during the trip, every day we reflected and learned from the experience, and tried to implement what we learned the next day. This trip provided a glimpse into the life of a teacher
Grand Ole Opry

4. Grow as a cohort: There is no better way to get to know someone than by spending a whole week with them in hotels and rode trip in a van. With all the experiences we have as ag ed majors, our fellow students start to feel like our family. This trip is a wonderful opportunity to spend time with some of our best friends.

In conclusion, the 2016 Teach Ag Society Domestic Study Away was one for the record books. We could not have done this trip without the help of our 4 continued sponsors: The PSU Center for Professional and Personnel Development in Agricultural Education, the Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences, the University Park Allocation Committee, and most importantly, the CHS Foundation. I would also like to thank Dr. Billye Foster, Dr. Chaney Moslty, Dr. Kris Elliot, Ms. Beverly Flatt, the Tennessee Farm Bureau, and all of our other partners. Without their support, this trip would not have been possible. Here’s to the bright future of Agricultural Education!

Here is short fun video I made of our experience and the "Cascarones" experience we culminated with:

We are excited to begin planning our 2017 experience to Wisconsin. This will be lead by our co-chairs, Heather Wasson (hlw5145) and Rose Cowan (rvc5334). If you are interested in partnering with us in 2017 or would like to be considered as a 2018 destination, please contact the student chairs or our adviser, Dr. Daniel Foster, @FosterDanielD,

To learn more about starting on the path to having a career that makes a positive impact on the lives of students across the globe by becoming an agricultural educator, please contact the agricultural teacher education program at Follow us on Twitter at TeachAgPSU, on Facebook, or on our blog.

Nate Repetz

2016 Teach Ag! Society Domestic Study Away Chairman

2017 Student Teacher

Monday, May 23, 2016

7th Annual Teach Ag! Essay Contest – Finalist Announcement!

The time has come to announce the 4 finalists of the 7th Annual Teach Ag! Essay Contest! This year we had 52 participants from 22 different schools from across the state!

The Penn State Teach Ag! Essay Contest is an awesome opportunity for Ag students from across Pennsylvania to experience what it is like being an Ag teacher for a day. Students must pick an agriculture topic, develop a lesson plan and teach their class, and then write an essay answering the questions, “Why teach Ag?” and “What I learned as an Ag teacher for a day!” Students also have the option to create and submit a YouTube video about “why they would want to teach Ag” or “why they love their agriculture teacher.”

This event was created to promote an awareness of the national shortage of agricultural educators, and it has the ability to spark the interest of secondary agriculture students to become Ag Teachers. In addition to allowing students to explore the career of agricultural education, there are also some neat prizes for participating!

Each contestant receives a limited edition PSU Teach Ag! T-shirt and is invited to attend an ice cream social in their honor after the opening session of the State FFA Convention. In addition, the top four each receive a gift card for National FFA, and the first place winner also receives a free registration for a 2016 FFA Event of their choosing! 

And now, in no particular order, it is our pleasure to announce the top four finalists of the Teach Ag! Essay Contest:

Alaina Davis – Octorara Area High School

Agriscience Teacher: Ms. Jenna Moser

Thomas Gabel – Newport High School
Agriscience Teacher: Ms. Natalie Barkley

KamiLee Woodring – Bald Eagle Area High School
Agriscience Teacher: Mr. Todd Biddle

Bethany Comp – Greenwood
Agriscience Teacher: Mr. Michael Clark

Congratulations to the top four and all participants! We will announce the winner of the contest during the opening session of the Pennsylvania FFA State Convention at Penn State! Congratulations once again!

Rosalind Cowan
2018 Agricultural Education Student Teacher
Twitter Handle: @cowan_rosalind

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Hired! Teacher Candidate Olivia Murphy-Sweet Hired by Peace Corps #psuaged16

Name that place: 

Area:  196, 722 square miles, slightly smaller than South Dakota
Climate: tropical, hot and humid 
Population:  13,975,834 
Last Hint: Will be the new home of a Penn State Teacher Candidate?  

 If you guessed Senegal, you guessed correctly!  Ms. Olivia Murphy-Sweet has been selected to serve as a Sustainable Agriculture Specialist Peace Corps Volunteer in Senegal departing in September!

Throughout her time at Penn State, Olivia was engaged in academics and student organizations.  She was involved in Teach Ag! Society and the Omega Phi Alpha Community Service Sorority.  Olivia has an  International Agriculture minor which led her to Belize to conduct undergraduate research.  It was this experience that led her to the Peace Corps.  "After doing my research project in Belize this past summer, I knew that I could do Peace Corps because of my passion for agriculture and working internationally in different communities. I enjoy integrating myself in new cultures."  She credits Melanie Miller Foster for pushing her through her research and out of her comfort zone.  After completing her research Olivia, with the help of International Agriculture Instructor and Minor Coordinator Dr. Daniel Tobin, applied for the Peace Corps.  

Olivia will participate in various projects in Senegal serving
with the Peace Corps. 
Olivia will be living in a Senegalese community engaging with local community members and farmers to improve their food security.  The goals of the agriculture project in Senegal include: improving crop management skills and intensifying fruit and vegetable production.  These goals are accomplished through various community projects with the help of Peace Corps volunteers.  "Peace Corps allows me the time to fully integrate myself into a community and then they allow me to work on my own projects."  Olivia is most excited to meet new people and see how her experiences gained as part of the Penn State Ag Ed program will benefit both her and her community.  

Olivia has spent the last 15 weeks student teaching at Walter Biddle High School with Ms. Tiffany Turrentine and Ms. Jessica McAtemeney.  "Ag Ed has taught me numerous ways of planning and mapping out problems to finding solutions." Through her training at Penn State and also her student teaching experience in Philadelphia, Olivia has gained more skills in patience and observation before altering any situation. "Ag Ed skills are crucial in international development if you are working in the agriculture sector."  

Ms. Tiffany Turrentine and Olivia with the ferrets from the
animal lab. 
Her skills in agricultural education and experiences internationally will guide her as she discovers different perspectives throughout Senegal. A new language, new community and new ideas can come with a little hesitation.  Thankfully Olivia has her Penn State and immediate family behind her 100%.  "I have a strong network of family and friends." Olivia's advice?  "Don't be afraid to do your own thing.  It's okay to be selfish and see the world!"  Good Luck Olivia, and Congratulations!  If you would like to read more about Olivia's experience and her future work in Senegal, check out her blog and the Peace Corps Senegal Website.  

To learn more about starting on the path to having a career that makes a positive impact on the lives of students across the globe by becoming an agricultural educator, please contact the agricultural teacher education program at Follow us on Twitter at TeachAgPSU, on Facebook, or on our blog.

Kayla Hack

Student Blogger

Twitter Handle: @hackkayla

2017 Agriculture Education Student Teacher

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Program of the Month: Big Spring High School

Pennsylvania is home to over 150 FFA chapters, representing the Blue and Gold at its finest. There is one chapter that has stood above the rest this month to become our May program of the month. The Big Spring FFA Chapter!

Sherisa Nailor, Katie Andres (Current student
teacher) and SaraBeth Fulton
Big Spring is celebrating 60 years this year, with an annual member and parent banquet; a big milestone for the FFA chapter led by Mrs. SaraBeth Fulton and Mrs. Sherisa Nailor. Mrs. Fulton has been teaching for twelve years and Mrs. Nailor for ten. They are proud to be one of the few programs led by two female teachers. They said "Big Spring is a growing program that strives to incorporate critical thinking and problem solving skills into all students and FFA members, while incorporating strong community service habits."  

 Every year the program at Big Spring has continued to grow. The demand for agricultural classes is extremely high!  Every year there are over 700 requests for agriculture classes and currently they can only accommodate 220!  Their involvement and success in various competitions has matched their classroom growth.   Mrs. Nailor and Mrs. Fulton offer a wide variety of classes.  Their most requested class, "Living on Your Own" is taught by Mrs. Fulton.  Living on Your Own "is an introductory course to basic home maintenance that allows students to  create projects and complete laboratory practices."  Their "Essential Home Projects" course adds to this knowledge where students are actively involved in flooring, concrete, building and creating bio-diesel.  From home maintenance to AP Environmental Science, there is no doubt that Mrs. Fulton and Mrs. Nailor are preparing students for careers in agriculture, food and natural resources.  Their program is growing and they hope to add a 3rd teacher to further the success at Big Spring someday in the future.  

Secretary Redding and FFA members at his visit during FFA week!

Secretary of Agriculture Russel Redding was able to witness the success at Big Spring with a visit during FFA Week where he shared about the importance of Agricultural Education and FFA in Pennsylvania.  

          Current Classes Offered: 

Big Spring students preparing a garden display.
Living on Your Own
Basic FFA Leadership
Advanced FFA Leadership
Equine Science
Essential Home Projects
Introduction to Agriculture, Food, and Natural Resources
Honors Animal and Veterinary Science
Small Animal Science
Food Science and Safety
Science of Animal Agriculture
Plant and Greenhouse Science
AP Environmental Science
Small Gas Engines

Recent Chapter Accomplishments:

Regional participants for Junior Prepared, Senior Prepared and Conservation Public Speaking
1st Big Spring State Poultry Judging Career Development Event

Big Spring FFA Members!

As their chapter continues to grow we look to Big Spring FFA as an example.  They offer diverse classes and are truly committed to the FFA mission, developing students potential for premier leadership, personal growth and career success!  Congratulations on being named our May Program of the Month! 

Want to hear what is going on right now at Big Spring? 
Twitter: @BigSpringFFA
Facebook: Big Spring FFA

To learn more about starting on the path to having a career that makes a positive impact on the lives of students across the globe by becoming an agricultural educator, please contact the agricultural teacher education program at Follow us on Twitter at TeachAgPSU, on Facebook, or on our blog.

Kayla Hack

Student Blogger

Twitter Handle: @hackkayla

2017 Agriculture Education Student Teacher

Monday, May 16, 2016

Domestic Study Away Day 5: Rising above the Challenges! #PSUAgEd2TN

Editors Note: The following is a reflective observation from different students participating in #psuaged2TN, our domestic study away program. Halee Wasson (@wasson_halee
), a sophomore and member of #psuaged18, shares below.  This incredible event is made possible by the generosity of the CHS Foundation.

As I reflect upon the last day Penn State Teach Ag! Society explored Tennessee’s Agricultural Education Programs, I find myself referencing the following quote: Never stop learning because life never stops teaching.” As a student I am constantly learning; which is why I find education valuable, since I can take what I learn in the classroom and connect it to an experience I am participating in at that time.

On Friday May 13th, Penn State Teach Ag! Society traveled to Clarkrange High School in Clarkrange, Tennessee to explore their Agricultural Education Program. Clarkrange High School is located in the small community of Clarkrange in Fentress County. After visiting metropolitan schools earlier this week, this visit was a great way to wind down, and participate in a rural school experience. The size of CHS’s student body is around 300 students, with an average graduating class size of 60 students. Although small, Clarkrange’s Career Technology Education (CTE) program provides many opportunities for their students to explore and expand their knowledge in career fields related to their interest. We were given a tour of all these CTE programs by Mr. Lee Little (referred to as Mr. Lee); who was the past Agricultural teacher, but is currently serving as the director of the CTE program. Although we enjoyed learning about all their programs, our biggest interest was at our last stop of the tour—the Agricultural Education Program.

During our time in Clarkrange’s agriculture classroom we were able to engage with students and teach them about the many opportunities and careers in the agricultural industry. With the class sizes being no larger than 14 students, we taught our lesson in pairs of two. This provided the other Penn State teacher candidates who were not teaching time to engage in discussion with Mr. Pat Little (referred to as Mr. Pat); who is the current agricultural teacher. Mr. Pat is an amazing individual who is never short of words for the subject he is passionate about – teaching agriculture! Passion and dedication is truly the driving force behind the success of this program.  Every question we presented to Mr. Pat or Mr. Lee was answered with stories of their personal experiences pertaining to the subject matter. These men truly devote themselves to bettering their students, school, and community. They have many successes that they can claim; however, Mr. Lee pointed out, “Although successes are important, failures are just as important.” Like all programs, Mr. Pat admitted to challenges that are presented in his rural school and community.

Though I never personally experienced the challenges Mr. Pat presented, I was thankful that I was able to understand the impact of the issue from learning about it in my rural sociology course. As you may be aware, the percentage of the population living in poverty has fallen, but rural areas still continue to be home to a large majority of the nation’s poor. This is due to many factors, but I feel the most important contributor that was pointed out by Mr. Pat is the rural brain drain. A brain drain is when many educated/professional people leave an area and move to another area that potentially provides better living conditions, more job opportunities, and better pay. In return, this leaves behind those without education or ambition, and prevents the area from growth, socially and economically. Due to this, sometimes school is a better place for a student than at home which is why Mr. Pat finds it important to make the experience a positive one. He does this by ensuring every opportunity presented to students is available to all. This provides students the chance to grow and better themselves.

As a future educator, I feel I have the ability to instill knowledge and ambition to create an intrinsic motivational experience while students are enrolled in my program. Overall, I hope that if I am provided the opportunity, I can create an impact in a rural school through passion and dedication like Mr. Lee and Mr. Pat. The stories shared with us were great reminders why we chose our future as an agricultural educator—for the students.

Follow along with our experience on Twitter by using #PSUAgEd2TN!  To learn more about starting on the path to having a career that makes a positive impact on the lives of students across the globe by becoming an agricultural educator, please contact the agricultural teacher education program at Follow us on Twitter at TeachAgPSU, on Facebook, or on our blog. 

Halee Wasson
2018 Student Teacher
Agricultural & Extension Education