Does this situation ring any bells? Enclosed in a small space for hours with colleagues, eating a quick lunch between meeting with industry professionals, and talking about the progress of classes. Some may call it a curriculum meeting, others call it an advisory meeting, and the new educational lingo may call it PLC. I call it National FFA Convention Bus Ride.
I’m sure I will never get any professional development credits for a journey that I can take a nap on a whim. However, there is a great opportunity to be reflective with other teachers while traveling. It’s never a forced conversation it’s just what’s talked about. It helps that some students migrate up to the teacher section and ask a few questions about a test or some grading sparks some conversation.
The timing of this professional development course is perfect. Most of the teachers on the bus have been through a first round of parent teacher conferences, homecoming, and have established their SLO goals. It’s a good time of year to break down what has happened with other teachers in the same content area. Great to exchange new horror stories and happy stories. In the end, I think I will make a certificate of completion of over 20 hours on a bus ride for this “professional development”.
Value is what teachers look for in all of the sales. The clearance rack of Wal-Mart is an inspiration center for all sorts of lessons. Usually I find some cooking technology that can be tested in my Food Products class. The value of re-heating foods is something I teach my students while reviewing food safety and food storage. Students can learn through a reheating lab how different methods change the texture of food and how different heating technologies work. I feel that the value of this lesson is the direct impact that is has on their college and career readiness. The reheating of pizza in college after a late night of studying or the reheating of macaroni and cheese for your first sack lunch at your job are reason enough to obtain the knowledge of safely reheating food.
The first day of the lab students bake some frozen pizzas or make some mac and cheese on the stove. When the food is fresh each student has to taste the food and write down notes about texture, flavor, heat distribution, and mouthfeel. After tasting students must package the food in plastic bags or containers for re-heating the next day.
When students arrive the second day assign each of them a different heating source. Give one group the microwave, one group the stovetop, and one group the oven. Each heating source has its own directions so the lab also makes for a good time to test the skills of how well students follow written directions. Students must reheat their food and give samples to the other students in class to taste and evaluate on the same criteria of the fresh versions.
Discuss what is the best heating method and how each of them safely prepared the samples. Leftover samples may be prepared ahead of time if the class is small enough to do all of the tasting and reheating of the samples on the same day.
Graceful is how I would like to appear when administration drops in my classroom to observe how things are going. It’s not always the case. Sometimes the classes are a work day with students sitting silently at their desks and other days it’s a fully hands on lab with students in multiple spaces. The most recent event involved the latter. The lesson for the day was a Bring Your Own Meat lab. Students were to learn the different muscles in different cuts of meat. To prepare for the lesson I spent some of my lunch period starting up the grills and cooking a test steak. This helped me determine if I would need to divide the class up into two groups or three. My test steak got finished just as the end of lunch bell rang. There was one class period between lunch and the class that was conducting the Bring Your Own Meat lab. The grills stayed about as hot as they needed by the time class started and the lab was about to begin. To start the class I was in a bit of a hurry because some students brought in some meat from chicken and game species so they would have to be grilled second to avoid cross contamination. The class is co-taught so it was divided that one teacher was in the classroom going over a worksheet that students researched different cuts of meat and the other teacher (me) was out at the grill helping students grill meat. As I explained to the students the goals of the lesson and the worksheet administration walked in the door for the observation. At that moment, all of the brain synapses fire for what a perfect lesson looks like. I make sure I’m smiling well organized and tell students exactly what is going on. Just to double up on the checklist now streaming through my head. With the grills at the peak of their heat and a ticking clock for cook times. That was the first mistake. I was a bit rushed. After explaining the worksheet as lightning speed I needed to get about half of the students out to the grills to start their cooking. Not all of the students remembered to bring meat but some students brought in multiple cuts and quickly became friends without meat. The alternative for students who didn’t bring meat would be to cook some patties created from brat meat. Some students claimed to be experts at grilling while others it was their first time with tongs in their hands and hot charcoal at the ready. I divided the class up in half, starting with the students that brought beef. I had a meat thermometer for students to check the cooking temperature of the meat. When students thought their meat was ready I helped them check their meat temp with the meat thermometer. As the meat cuts finished students swapped with the counterparts in the classroom to get their worksheet done. Students in the classroom had questions answered by the co-teacher in the room. The meat that was on the grill right away cooked quickly. But as the class went on any meat added to the grills took longer and longer to cook. The problem with students bringing in chicken was that the chicken breast was the thickest cut of meat any student had and it had to be cooked to he highest temperature when the coals were cooling down. In the end only two students had to stay late to finish up cooking their meat. Other than the student that was cooking chicken another student who brought venison burger was also at the grill. The thickness of the burger made the cooking time go long.
Throughout the lesson I tried to maintain my grace as my knuckle hair was singed off as I helped students while they were being questioned about today’s lesson from my observer.
The great thing from the lesson is that the students got a real world connection to the unit. The students were allowed to have some fun during school, and many commented that more lessons need to be designed this way.
Nostalgia is using the lessons and teaching the things that I learned when I was in High School. Teaching the lessons reminds me of the days of old and energizing me to be re-inspired to be an agriculture teacher. When I was in High School I took a course in Golf Course Design. At that time it was offered at the same time as the Greenhouse class. There were a group of us that were taking Greenhouse for the second time to try out this more advanced curriculum. The golf course was built out of styrofoam and model train set materials. Every class period research was being done on what types of grass were used for the course and how to shape every hole to make it challenging for the right customers. We designed our course to be a golf club so that it wasn’t for the serious professional but not just anyone off the street could come and play the course. The golf course featured a bluff overlooking the holes and included an island putting green. Ultimately the golf course model would be shown at a golf show and compete against other student made golf courses. It was a great experience to apply learning and have a real-world application. The judges of the golf course design contest were real golf professionals. In the end the team I was in won the contest that year. The golf course still hangs in the Agriculture room along with the others that were built throughout the years.
Another project I did in the greenhouse class was research the effectiveness of fertilizer on corn. I set up one flat of corn seeds with 12 plants for each part of my experiment, 12 control plants, 12 plants with fertilizer put in the soil before emergence and, 12 plants that began fertilization treatment after emergence. I used a standard miracle grow fertilizer that I mixed to the manufacturers recommendations. Every day of class I measured and averaged the heights of the plants. The early fertilization slowed down the growth for the pre-emergence trial. The plants that were fertilized after emergence grew the fastest. Eventually all of the plants got to be the same height. However, the containers that were used for the project were small and most likely slowed down the corn’s growth in each trial until all of the plants were as big as they could get with the containers they were put in.