Thursday, March 10, 2016

Q(uestions) & A(griculture)

I took a few students to a competition and for my sub plans I used the FFA New Horizons Magazine. There was a great interview with Secretary Tom Vilsack in it and an extended exercise gave the students the opportunity to develop their own questions about agriculture for Mark Killian, the person in charge of agriculture in AZ. The students wrote some amazing questions that I just had to share with you!

  • Agriculture includes caring for the ecosystem, so what are some practices that people are utilizing to help it?
  • The population is expected to double by 2050, so what will food availability be like then? What are ways we can grow enough food for the growing population in safe and healthy ways?
  • What is being done and/or what can we do to help the poaching of animals?
  • What are ways we are fixing our ecosystem and problems like water pollution and deforestation?
  • How are you working to educate people about the truths of agriculture?
  • What are we doing to bring more people into the agricultural world?
  • What are some suggestions you have to become a part of Arizona's agriculture?
  • What is the greatest challenge Arizona agriculture is facing?
  • What do you feel is Arizona's greatest agricultural accomplishment?
  • What should this generation do to change the face of agriculture?
When I read these questions I was so impressed and proud. These are the questions we should all be asking those in charge of agriculture. This generation needs to ask questions and find the truth. With so much media propaganda it is imperative that we teach our students how to think for themselves and do research on those issues facing the agricultural industry. 

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Saying NO!

As I review the title of this blog post I realize that it may be a bit misleading. I am not writing a post about how to say no rather writing a post about why it is so dam hard to say no and why I don't condone it.

I have made it through the first week of my third year teaching. The following are requests made by students thus far:

"Can you be the advisor of a dance club, so we can boost school spirit?"

"Can we get goats on campus?

"Can we show animals, both small and livestock?"

"Are we getting chickens? If we are can I use them as my SAE?"

"Are we doing an officer retreat? We should do it over a weekend, spend the night at a hotel, and do team building activities."

"Are we going to be participating in the Ag. Literacy events?"

"Can I start an aquaponics and use it for my SAE? I could even grow plants to feed the class pets."

"I am a little queasy when it comes to dissections. Can I have alternate assignments so I can still be in the class?"

"Will you be my senior project mentor?"

"Will you proofread this project proposal for me?"

"This is the student handbook. Will you read over it and make any spelling and grammar corrections?"

"Can I sign up for a CDE? Can you explain what a CDE is? Do you win those plaques for competing in a CDE?"

"Are we taking a FFA trip again this year? Where to? How much? When?"

"Can we buy embroidered t-shirts for the FFA officers to wear during events?"

"Do I have to wear OD? It is really hot Marsh!"

This is just to name a few. Wondering what my response to these request was? I bet you can guess. I said, "Yes, we can definitely do that!"

Now, each time I say those six words, a piece of me dies inside, but amazingly enough I say it with an unwavering amount of enthusiasm each time. How? Why? I know with each new committment I make to my students that I must uphold it and it will require a great deal of time from me with no monetary compensation. With that being said there are a few things I want to make note of.....

  1. I am NOT a teacher for the money. I work two jobs just to support myself and buy items for my classroom and the FFA. I drive a 2006 Honda Civic and do not own anything name brand. I neglect myself to give my students what they need to be successful. 
  2. I look forward to Mondays. I look forward to going to bed some nights just because I know when I wake up I get to go to school and be with my students. I choose this profession because I love my students and I love seeing them excel in all they do.
  3. I remember the first time I was exposed to agriculture education and FFA. More importantly, I remember WHO I was. Without ag ed, FFA, and my amazing ag teacher (Mr. Robert Leib) I would have not be as successful as I am today. FFA undoubtedly changed my life and who I am for the better. I want to provide my students with all of the opportunities I was afforded and more. 
  4. I know that all the extra time I put in, the sleepless nights, the rolling out the sleeping bag because it is pointless to leave my classroom for the night, the immense amounts of caffeine I intake just to keep my eyes open, the tears, the frustration, and the thought of "the light will never come" all leads to one thing-->the ultimate goal--> STUDENT SUCCESS. I know that when that success appears it will erase all of those bad memories mentioned above and I will, even if for just a split second, find utopia. Utopia because my students have grown, worked hard, and accomplished a goal they set for themselves. 
So, no I do not know how to say no. Yes, I am aware of the looming fear of "burning out." 
I figure five great years is better than 20 mediocre years. 
I will continue to say yes, until my mind and/or body will no longer allow me to. 

Saturday, August 23, 2014

African Safari Trip

My AMAZING Trip to South Africa!

My wonderful school gives students the opportunity to shadow and work alongside a large animal veterinarian in South Africa. Our two week trip began in late May and we took ten students from all five campuses on this amazing adventure.

We had the opportunity to tranquilize a few zebras to perform health checks and transport them to a lower populated safari. 

Poachers will cut the horns right out of the rhino's head to sell them on the black market. We put GPS trackers in these beautiful creatures to help catch and cut down on poachers. 

This lion's home is at Born Free, an animal conservation center. They rescue abused animals and care for them because they cannot be returned to the wild.
 I had the opportunity to ride in an open helicopter. This is the same helicopter that Dr. Brothers darted the zebras and rhinos out of!

The most beautiful coast ever! We spent the day walking along the sand dunes in Port Elizabeth. These dunes are the largest natural sand dunes in the world!

This safari has been specifically designed to give the students of the Arizona
Agribusiness  and Equine Center in the USA an insight into the conservation and wildlife veterinary   issues that are faced in South Africa on a daily basis.

This safari took us 'behind  the scenes', giving us the opportunity to observe the work of a resident  South African wildlife veterinarian, and discover the fantastic world of wildlife conservation and guiding  in Southern Africa.

We were guided by a Wildlife  Veterinarian, researchers, various local guides, and an accredited  Field Guides Association of South Africa trainer and assessor and his facilitators, all of whom shared their knowledge and expertise in their specialized field, giving us a unique and rare insight into the world  of wildlife in Southern Africa.

Not only did we have a fantastic time  but our participation  also meant significant financial  support to the various wildlife projects.

The Best Part?!

Listen to what the students had to say about their experience! I had the students answer a few questions after the trip. Check it out.

What was the most memorable moment for you?

Payton said, "Getting to go to the orphanage and seeing how content those kids were with what they have. It really opened my eyes to how much happiness can come from so little."

Megan said, "The most memorable moment for me was the rhinos. We were able to touch them and feel them breath. It was the most amazing experience!"

Meagan says, "I loved the little things, like the stars, hearing the jackals, and being so close to a rhino you could see the hair on their ears."

What is the one thing you will never forget?

Michele said, "I will never forget the fact that most problems are caused by humans and animals just happen to be involved and get punished for human mistakes."

Nathan said, "Something I will never be able to forget is listening to Dr. Brothers' opinions and thoughts on conservation and the well-being of wildlife through a business perspective. To be able to have that opportunity is unforgettable!"

Chelsi said, " I will never forget seeing the beauty of the wilderness. To be able to see these wild animals up close and know I am doing something to help and protect them.

Do you believe global experiences are important?

Emma says, "Yes! Reading something from a textbook doesn't give you that long lasting connection that you receive when being in a REAL place. It changes people and it changes the way you thing/perceive the world that you live on."

Colee says, "If we stay in our own bubble forever we will never experience the richness of other cultures."

Kaley said, "Yes, it gives you a different perspective on life."

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Agricultural Education - Envisioning the Future: NAAE Advocacy Video Challenge

What does the future hold for students in agricultural education programs? Watch this short video produced by students at the Arizona Agribusiness and Equine Center Red Mountain to learn what they get from agricultural education. This video received honorable mention in the 2014 NAAE Advocacy Video Contest.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Reproductive Unit Reflection to Character Building?!

In my Animal Science class I have been teaching the students about the reproductive system. Here are some of the concepts the students have learned throughout the unit"

  • Artificial Insemination Techniques
  • Male Anatomy
  • Female Anatomy
  • Estrous Cycle
  • Reproductive Hormones
This is A LOT of information to comprehend. I employed five or six different techniques to help the students understand the concepts. The students mapped out the hormone track with chalk, created anatomy posters, took notes, watched videos, and engaged in class discussions all out reproduction. I knew this unit and the concepts involved were difficult and it was going to be a challenge for me, as an educator, to adequately portray the information in a way the students will understand and comprehend the information. Yesterday the students took their unit exam. I set up the exam in a very unorthodox manner. There were four stations that the students rotated through in groups. Two of the stations the students where able to utilize one another's knowledge and the other two was individual work. 

Today I organized the class in a Socratic Circle to reflect on the unit. My goal was to find out what activities throughout the unit worked well and which was needed improvement. It was pretty much just a reflection on my teaching so I could tweak it for the next time. The conversation started out as normal. The students were telling me what they enjoyed and what they didn't like. Then all of a sudden the conversation turned when a student brought up the fact that he didn't like working in randomly chosen groups because he didn't feel comfortable with some of his peers. Some other students commented in agreement saying that they didn't want to speak up or ask questions because they didn't want to look stupid in front of the others. They don't want others to judge them so they don't feel like they can be themselves.

Up until this point in the conversation I remained silent just absorbing everything the students were saying. I had to interject when I sensed a huge lack of confidence in the majority of my students. When I looked at each one of my students sitting in front of me with skepticism on their faces and obvious thoughts of self-doubt running through their minds I could no longer keep quite. 

The following is my "speech" to the class: "If you are uncomfortable walking into a crowded room and speaking or working with strangers it is because you have not embraced your strengths. Each and everyone of you has your own strengths and wonderful characteristics that you need to find and embrace. When you walk into a room you  need to say to yourself I am special because I am... fill that in with your dominant character trait. Have the mindset that you are valuable and you have something to offer. Make it a point to share your strengths with others."

At this point a student interjected me and said, "I don't feel special and I certainly can't tell myself I am special." Wow! Apparently, what I see in each one of my students is not what they see in themselves when they look in the mirror. I told them that I think they are special and they have all impacted me this year. I can tell each student one of their strengths and how it has benefited me as an educator and the class as a whole. 

"Marsh! You think we are special? Tell us why we are special! Tell us what our strengths are!" This was the class's chant once I finished my sentence. The rest of the period I went through each student and told the class why that student was special and what they have to offer. I only got through about ten students and when the bell rang all the students told me, "You know we have to continue this tomorrow, because I want to know why I am special."

Our reflective discussion on the reproductive system unit took a ninety degree and landed on character and who you are. I learned a big lesson today-students have self-doubt and it is our job as educators to help our students see their true potential. We can be the catalyst for our kids. We can help them see and develop their strengths. We know their character and who they really are, even before they know! 

Educators-Never forget the power and influence you have on your students and their self-perception. You can make a student's bad day, good. 

Use your power to empower!!!!

Friday, January 31, 2014

Can we PLEASE make some connections?

I have a difficult time getting my students to make connections between past units and the unit we are currently working on. I have been working on my students' ability to think critically and solve problems through connecting content. We are six months into the school year and finally I do not have to give my kids the death stare for ten minutes for them to make some connections. It was a long and tedious six months, but it brightens my day when I can see the light bulb and they make this profound discovery that what they learned two weeks ago about soil relates to what they are learning right now about plants!!!! : )

In my animal science class we have been progressing through the systems of the animal for a few months. As we reached the third system (nervous) I began to realize that my kids really had no idea as to why and how all of these systems work together. I decided we were going to spend a whole class period making connections. I made the activity worth 20 points and everyone in the class had to participate at least once or EVERYONE in the class will fail the assignment.

Each student had to draw a picture on the board and explain how their picture connected with another picture already on the board. They had to use the information they learned from the different systems we discussed. Not only was this activity great for getting their minds geared for making connections it was also a great review for the test.

Here is a picture of the board. It looks a little convoluted, but it did the trick : ) Plus, they had a blast. The kids talked about it for weeks and wondered when we were going to do it again. 

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Plant Science Upgraded

I teach plant science and my second unit of instruction is plant anatomy and physiology. I did not have a projector at the beginning of this unit so I had to improvise. I drew a plant cell on the board and labelled each organelle and then discussed its function.

After this discussion I split the class into two teams (there are only ten students in this class). I gave them a project rubric, which asked them to create a 3D model of either the plant cell or the animal cell (one group did the plant and the other did the animal cell). I gave them two days in class to construct this model. It had to be labeled and all of the organelles we discussed must be on the model. The second part of the project asked them to create a PowerPoint that included each organelle, its function and a picture. They had to give me the history of the cell and what makes an animal cell different from a plant cell and why. Each group presented both their model and their PowerPoint to the class.

 After we discussed organelles we moved on to the external parts of a plant. I created a Zeega highlighting the basics of the plant. Check it out: Parts of a Plant. We discussed how function correlates to anatomy. To test their understanding on this concept I had them create an edible plant. They had to utilize different candies (which I provided) as parts of a plant. Once they where done they presented to the class and had to explain why they choose that candy for that plant part.