Fierce makes me think of a behavior. Students may be fierce at times. However, teaching agriculture, I must inform students how to best handle animals so that they don’t become fierce.

Animal behavior is a topic covered in a few of my classes. The final project to the animal behavior unit is training a chicken to find a card in a deck of cards. Students have taken this challenge in many ways. Some students were able to master the skill quickly while others blamed their failure on the chicken.

Students are taught the process of which to have animals associate behaviors with cues. Students research Pavlov and Skinner as an introduction to the unit. Students are also taught how to handle the animals and prove their learning  of animal handling through giving chickens baths.

Students work with animals for about a week. Students first attempt to have the animals associate a natural behavior with the sound of a dog clicker. Students are able to use mealworms as motivation for the chickens. I have used all ages of chickens for the project. There are always successful students and unsuccessful students in every group.

At the end of the lesson it’s a bonus if the chicken is doing what it’s told. Students need to be able to properly explain how the animals learn and how to best handle animals. Proper animal handling enables the safety of the animal and the animal handler. Any production animal that is mistreated is not going to produce as well as an animal that is provided with the utmost care.

Animal comfort and care discussions are used as breaks for the students and animals during the training week. We talk about shapes of pens, how some horses can be afraid of their own shadow, and how robotic milking can change animal behavior.

I was talking with one of the parents of my students this summer who’s cows have gone to a different farm repeatedly for at times years. The oddity is that the cows, when coming back to their home farm, find their old assigned pens in the barn automatically. Creatures of habit just like most students.




Teachers are experts in creating more experts. My students are experts in so many different things. It’s amazing.

Tapping into the expertise of students really opens up possibilities for new ideas and lessons. Formally teachers can survey the class. Asking questions of hobbies and interests. This method is great to start out with. There is a record of students that can be kept in a neat folder in a filing cabinet after careful study for the first week of school.

The more effective expert keeps on studying and updating information as it changes. Taking a few minutes before school to wander the halls while drinking a morning cup of coffee is a great way to connect with students and ask about the previous night’s successes. Coffee makes it casual.

When something striking happens to a student then it can be added to the file folder, mental or physical.

Another time that is great for polling students is the few minutes before class starts. A pre-captive audience is there and prehaps there may be a lucky break for a smooth transition into the day’s lesson. Quarterly the formal re-polling of students so that they can update their information or new information can be added is great. Also, the class can bond as a group instead of just one-on-one. Talking with students is so much better than the paperwork.

With the cards before the hallway stroll pull out your makeshift student information rolledex, review it, and find a student to chat about a hobby. If feeling really ambitious a Wikipedia article about the student’s interest can be perused before the morning coffee stroll. Looking up information can lead to better questions and show that some effort is being made beyond just knowing of the existence of the hobby.

The most simple thing is just go and walk the halls asking studetns with sports jerseys about who they are playing and wishing the studetns luck.

Cheat – Making Mayo

The lesson that its hardest for students to cheat is when I teach how to make mayonnaise. In this lesson I teach students what an emulsion is. I have the students mix the recipe by hand. Students need to add oil drop by drop. If students try to cheat and go to fast the recipe doesn’t work. Everyone in the class makes the mayo with vegetable oil, water, and egg. Then we try a few new things and I assign different students to different types of cooking oil. Students predict how each mayo will taste different with each oil. I had the students taste test the mayo with bologna sandwiches. However, the next time I do the lab I will probably upgrade to crackers, cheese, and summer sausage.

Olive oil makes the worst one.




Teachers are mistake masters. Teachers correct mistakes all the time and then if they themselves make mistakes it is best practice to reflect on the mistake and if needed re-teach the lesson for the betterment of the students.

In my courses mistakes fall into a few categories red pen, eraser, and start over. Red pen mistakes are ones that are found on summative assessments, tests and quizzes. Eraser mistakes can be found in the formative assessments, class work and group work. Start over mistakes are usually found in the lab, rebuilding an engine and making a fresh sausage.

One of the biggest mistakes from the last school year was a fishing trip for my wildlife and fisheries class. We didn’t catch a single fish. I don’t even think there was a sizable nibble on anyone’s line. The students enjoined the afternoon out of school but the effectiveness of the teaching was not as well done because of the lack of fish. This mistake lead to more time in the classroom and a lack of resources for a taxidermy unit.

Fish or not, this is how I would like the next trip to go. Students get off the bus and everyone gets out a fishing pole and some tackle. Before casting into the water everyone has some bait to fish with and can demonstrate how to properly bait their hook. Then, still together, we go to the water and everyone demonstrates how to cast. During this time we review the etiquette of casting. If a fish is caught during this practice, have the student who caught it describe to everyone how to remove the hook. (Having a collection of bananas and a few fishing hooks at school would be good practice for the day before.) Once students have demonstrated the skills needed to fish then they are free to fish for the rest of the trip.




Can I get a Witness?

Is a response I would like to call out to the age old question of “When are we going to use this?”. It would be some kind of wonderful if it were that easy.

Of course everyone can have a witness to where to use learning in the classroom is applied in the real world by inviting a guest speaker. Guest speakers are great not only because it’s a day off of being in front of the room but, it makes the message not just the teacher’s. So… SUPER EFFECTIVE!

A guest speaker may be able to better answer some of the tougher questions students have about a career that the teacher may eventually refer to a professional. Community in the classroom is also a huge advantage. Students get connected with adults. More adults get connected with the school. The department can gain supporters.

Also, there are plenty of in house guest speakers to use. If you know another teacher has a cool hobby that relates to a lesson it’s a perfect opportunity to do some cross curricular work. Students are also great guest speakers. At times some of my students have more experience in taxidermy and deer processing. I had a few students come in during study hall to work ahead on a project and then I introduced them as a guest speaker to their classmates.

I have students fill out a note card with three questions so that if there is a lull or a place questions can be asked that they are prepared with some material. It’s helped out in a few cases. Sometimes the cards are handed out a day or two before the trip as we are preparing. Other times it’s on the bus on the way to the trip.



Make things obvious in class. Spoon feeding information is one thing, making things obvious is another. Being obvious means to be clear and concise with directions for tests, rules, supply locations, due dates, expectations, and everything else. The barrier to entry on getting the logistics of school right should be very low. The rigor for content can be the challenge that is within the range of whatever the school board, state standards, and curriculum.

I feel that I am most obvious in my classes with the material I have been working on for years. My new stuff is a little cryptic even to me at times. I don’t know how students will react to the new material. Some lessons that I have picked from prior years may flop this year just because it’s a new bunch of students.

Obviously students know what mood you’re in before / the instant they walk in your door.

Obviously students appreciate the time you take out of your day to go watch one of their athletic events.

Obviously if directions aren’t clear students will do the minimum or fail to complete the assignment.

Obviously if a student can find a spot to use their phone in class they will.

Obviously it is a good practice to recognize honestly the success of students as often as you can.

Obviously using references from the 1980s won’t “enhance” the effectiveness of a staff meeting presentation unless a smoke machine, a cover hair metal band, and lasers are present.

Obviously keeping the online grade book up to date so that students don’t have a bad time at school and you don’t have a bad time at work is a good idea.

Obviously keeping parents informed of student achievement and behavior is also a good idea.

Obviously have some extra pencils around the room for the student that forgets their pencil, gets a new one, looses it, and then every day for the entire school year repeats the process.

Obviously a student centered classroom is better than a teacher centered classroom.



Miniature brings to mind many lessons from my classroom. The largest miniature project I have my students participate in is creating model farms that depict the differences between organic and conventional farming. As a class students learn about what rules organic farmers must follow. The class uses USDA resources as well as readings from the CROPP cooperative. At the end of the lesson students must have a model built that compares conventional and organic farming. Think of a farm with a line down the middle that separates the style of farms. The great thing about this lesson is that students see that there are many similarities between the two practices. A great discussion to have with the students is that no matter what the practice of farming, animal husbandry and the safety of the food supply ranks above profit.

In other miniature lenses, using the traditional models of animal skeletons and other things are great hands on practice for students that are helped by the third dimension.

With 8 days left before students arrive at school, miniature best describes my summer.