Friday, August 4, 2017

Guest Blog @allyson_balmer: CASE Institute 2017 - Welcome to Professional Development

My name is Allyson Balmer and I am a rising senior at Penn State University majoring in Agricultural and Extension Education. I am a member of the 2018 cohort and will be student teaching this spring with Gretchen Dingman at Tri-Valley High School.

A few weeks ago I had the incredible opportunity to attend a CASE (Curriculum in Agricultural Science Education) Institute and get certified in the Natural Resources and Ecology curriculum in Pontiac, Illinois.

The institute lasted 10 days, where the class of agriculture teachers, from various states, went through the entire course in that amount of time. As I went through the course, I played the role of a student and filled out the entire student binder and all the worksheets. My lead teachers would check certain lessons that had to be done proficiently and at the end of the 10 days, I was certified. This certification will always stay with me, as I now have the entire teacher and student curriculum.

Here are a few things I learned while at my CASE Institute:

1. Agriculture Teachers ARE Science Teachers.

In every agriculture class there is some aspect of biology, chemistry, etc. that is reiterated and brought to life at a hands-on level. Thus, we, as agriculture educators, need to take that seriously so that we can continue to be respected among academia.

For example, if there is a lab activity for students to conduct, we need to make the experience as "real-life" as possible. This means using glass beakers, flasks, graduated cylinders, pipette droppers, microscopes, and other scientific lab equipment whenever possible. Enough with using Dixie cups. Let's show the other academic areas that we too can put science literacy and skills into our agriculture curriculum.

By doing this, students feel more valued, that their work is important, and that their development in all STEAM (science, technology, engineering, agriculture, and mathematics) fields is a priority to agriculture education.

2. Inquiry-Based Instruction/Self-Directed Learning

Throughout my collegiate career, the topics of self-directed learning, growth mindset, and inquiry-based instruction have been the focus of a variety of classes. There is a central theme, a shift to student-centered learning where the teacher is a guide/mentor/facilitator. Students are encouraged and challenged to ask why, think at a deeper level, and become less dependent on the teacher.

In CASE, this is a highly important component to both understand and practice in the classroom. This curriculum is designed for student discovery by following the step-by-step procedures provided in their student binders. This means less spoon-feeding, developing students who can problem-solve on their feet, and creating hands-on and real-world application even in a classroom setting.

This experience was an opportunity of a lifetime for a pre-service agriculture teacher as I made new connections, gathered ideas from other agriculture teachers nationwide, and now have an incredible curriculum to use while student teaching and beyond.

Allyson Balmer
Penn State University
Agricultural and Extension Education
2018 Student-Teaching Cohort at Tri-Valley High School
Twitter: @allyson_balmer

1 comment:

  1. Allyson, So glad we were able to help you on this special part of your #TeachAg Journey!