Thursday, May 18, 2017

Guest Blog: 5th Annual Domestic Study Away Reflection: “A Journey of Growth and Cheese Curds”

Editor's Note:
What is a Domestic Study Away? A Domestic Study Away (DSA) is a non-credit experience that is 100% Student-Developed and Student-led. The Penn State Teach Ag! Society runs where a group of students travel to a State to explore the following:
  1. What does #AgEdu look like in other states? How is the total model of school-based agricultural education (Classroom Instruction, Youth Leadership Development <FFA> and Work-based learning <SAE>) uniquely provided? 
  2. Who are the #AgEdu Stakeholders in the state? Specifically, what agricultural industry is being served? 
  3. A unique yearly selected professional development topic! For #psuaged2WI, it is "Gender in the Agriculture Industry, Agricultural Classroom and Agricultural Education Profession".
You can virtually engage with this experience by reading and commenting on the daily blogs and following the experience on Twitter and Facebook with our hashtag #PSUAgEd2WI. We could not complete this transformative learning experience without the incredible support of our partners including: The Pennsylvania Association of Agricultural Educators, The Wisconsin Team Ag Ed, The Penn State Center for Professional and Personnel Development and the Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences Student Activities Fund.

This is a series of blogs capturing reflections from each day of the experience by one of the participants. The goal is to post the daily reflection 24 hours after completion of activity. Below is the final reflection prepared by Rosalind Cowan (@cowan_rosalind), a member of the #psuaged18 cohort and the 2017 Domestic Study Away Chair.

As I sit on campus in Happy Valley, my mind and heart are just overflowing with newfound knowledge and gratitude. For the past 9 days, we have been traveling all over the state of Wisconsin engaging with rock star Ag Ed programs and agriculture industry partners. We grew both personally and professionally as we explored our professional development focus of Gender in the agriculture industry, secondary Agricultural Education programs, and the Agricultural Education profession. It has been a whirlwind of a trip, but I think I can speak for all of us when I say that this year’s Domestic Study Away to Wisconsin has been full of inspiration, new friends, impactful growth, and last but not least, a ton of cheese curds.

#PSUAgEd2WI Fast Facts!

1. 9 days

2. 8 students (7 students from #psuaged18, 1 student from #psuaged19)

3. 1 van

4. 6 states (PA, OH, IN, IL, WI, MN)

We reached America's Dairyland
5. 8 primary/secondary Agricultural Education Programs: East Tech HS, Holmen HS, New Richmond HS, School for Agricultural and Environmental Studies, Randolph HS, Kewaskum HS, Big Foot Union HS, and Pontiac Township HS.

6. 11 Teach Ag Stars with OVER 220 YEARS OF COMBINED TEACH AG EXPERIENCE: Jeremy Grove, Roger King, Rachel Sauvola, Sheri Hicken, Keith Gundlach, Dave Rizzardi, Jeanne Case, Lori Schmitz, Jesse Faber, Parker Bane, and Linda Sattler.

7. 10 Ag Ed Related Partners: University Wisconsin – River Falls, Wisconsin Farm Bureau, Madison College, Holyland Food Pantry, St. Paul's Church, Pens for Hens, iCEV, Stewart-Peterson, Wisconsin FFA Foundation, and the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction.

8. 11 Industry Partners: Wetherby Cranberry Co., Accelerated Genetics, Foremost Farms, Culver’s, Jung Seed, Mackinson Dairy, LaClare Farms, Bluestream Bison Farm, Second Look Holsteins, and Bonlander Furs Mink Ranch.

While reflecting on our adventures and reflections we had each day, I am overwhelmed by how much we experienced and learned. The impact of this year’s Domestic Study Away extends far beyond the opportunity to experience Agricultural Education and the agriculture industry in another state. Take a look at our other blogs from this week to gain even more insight on our day-to-day experiences. Overall, here are four important themes from this year’s Domestic Study Away that will hopefully help you understand the power of #PSUAgEd2WI.

Four Important Take Aways from #PSUAgEd2WI

1. Ag Ed is for EVERYONE, and as teachers, we are responsible for creating that culture and environment for our students. 
Learning about urban culture at East Tech HS
Whether we are talking about gender, race, or religion, we learned on this trip that the Agricultural Education teacher plays a central role in developing and maintaining a learning environment that is welcoming and supportive to all. At East Tech FFA with Jeremy Grove and his students, we learned about cultural differences and how to make FFA cool for everyone! One quote really stuck out when discussing minority and urban populations in FFA: “Instead of trying to always immerse us in your culture, immerse yourself in ours”.

Discussing gender in Ag during our LGBTQ Panel
Then, at Madison College, we had the chance to have a respectful, honest, and insightful panel discussion with five LGBTQ+ individuals. They volunteered their time to come and discuss their experiences being an LGBTQ+ individual, both in their careers in the agriculture industry and their experiences in secondary classrooms. We learned the importance of recognizing all students as individuals, not tolerating any derogatory comments between students, and not gender labeling activities (such as having only boys do jobs that involve lifting). Here are some wise non-negotiable rules for our future classrooms: “As a student, you can’t: Risk Lives, Risk Grades, or Risk self-esteem/self-worth”.

2. Community is INVALUABLE, just ASK.
Culver's supports agriculture and local FFA chapters
As new and upcoming teachers, I think sometimes we feel like we have to do it all, whether it is because we feel like we have something to prove or aren’t sure how to get help. However, there is simply no reason to feel this way! Every teacher we visited told us how they created relationships and engaged their community around the Ag Ed program: Be INVOLVED both in and outside of the Ag Ed program and JUST ASK. A secondary Agricultural Educator only has so much time and energy, which is where community involvement plays a huge role. We got to meet with community members and FFA Alumni chapters at many of the programs we visited, as well as engage with Ag Ed related partners, and it was both inspiring and touching to see the relationships between the Ag teacher and their community. 

3. Student Ownership, Student Voice, and Autonomy are Key to Student Success 
Students rock their lesson at their Food for America event
From the beginning to the very end of our trip, we witnessed the value of students having ownership in their work at every place we visited. We learned the importance of each student having a niche or area within the program that they managed, instead of being involved with everything. This way, students made these projects or events their own and took pride in the work that they did. In the classroom, learning was inquiry based and promoted intrinsic motivation as well as confidence. We even got to try our hand at facilitating an inquiry based lesson! It was a great opportunity and we gained a lot from the students’ feedback.

We even got to experience the benefits of giving students ownership personally. We participated in service learning by helping Lori Schmitz and her husband restore and clean headstones at a local cemetery. Lori was an excellent educator; her passion combined with giving us ownership in the work that we accomplished made us passionate and excited about the work we were doing. 

4. #TeachAg is one big Family 
Learning how to clean and restore a cemetery
There are no words to express just how thankful we are for everyone we met and engaged with in WI. It seemed like the whole state welcomed us all week long! The kindness and hospitality we experienced throughout our trip was out-of-this-world and we enjoyed being able to get to know everyone. Windshield time turned into an opportunity for participants to talk one-on-one with our hosts for each day, and I know that we all made connections that will last much longer than those 9 days we were in WI.

Hanging out with our Ag Ed friends at UW River Falls!

Last but not least are the close bonds that you form with your fellow Ag Ed majors when you spend 9 days straight together in hotels and 1 van. You grow, learn, and laugh together, and by the end of the trip you feel like family. DSA helps you realize how thankful you are to have each and every participant be part of your #TeachAg journey.

Ag Ed students who travel together, stay together

Our 5th annual DSA trip to Wisconsin was definitely one to be remembered. Once again, thank you to all of our partners for helping make this trip such a success: The Pennsylvania Association of Agricultural Educators, The Wisconsin Team Ag Ed, The Penn State Center for Professional and Personnel Development and the Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences Student Activities Fund. The future of Agricultural Education is bright! 

If you are interested in partnering with us in 2018, or would like to be considered as a 2019 destination, please contact me at or our advisor, Dr. Daniel Foster at

CHECK OUT OUR #PSUAGED2WI PLAYLIST (20+ awesome videos)!

Rosalind Cowan

2018 Student Teacher


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