A fantastic prompt for an Ag teacher. Over the past few weeks I have used smoke in my foods class for the last few weeks and plan to use it for a few weeks more (weather permitting). The first lesson that students learned off hand is pairing the wood chips with the product that is being smoked. The class has smoked eggs, snack sticks, and summer sausage. I have three varieties of wood chips on hand cherry, apple, and mesquite. The mesquite was used on the eggs and the students have never wanted to try it again. Cherry has been used in the other two projects resulting in some pretty good product. Before the smoke I let my class vote on what kind of chips they want to use. For more information I found this resource while searching pinterest

Next week I am going to be making jerky with the students. In this lab I want to discuss a few things. First I want to teach them how salt preserves meat. Second, I want to teach students how to keep meat preserved by drying the meat. Lastly, I want to teach students the difference between the quality of jerky cut with the grain of the muscle fibers and against the grains of the muscle fibers. Students will start the lab by selecting 2 chicken breasts and weighing each of them. At this point the chicken breasts will be slightly frozen for easy slicing. Students will take one breast and cut it with the grain of the muscle and the other against the grain. Since the long grain pieces will be twice as long as the other pieces students will have to cut the longer strips in half. I chose chicken because it is a cheaper meat and easy to see the grain throughout. An extension of this lab would be a ground meat jerky. Chicken would be ground and then formed into strips using a jerky gun or sausage stuffer. Using quart sized bags the different cuts of chicken can stay separate while marinating. Pinterest is full of recipes. I use HI-Mountain seasoning kit found in the stores. After curing overnight students need to re-weigh their meat before cooking it. Using a smoker or oven cook the chicken jerky to 165 degrees. The USDA recommends that jerky be cooked before it is dried to kill pathogens before drying. Drying preserves the meat because of the low available water in the meat. Drying the meat in a smoker gives the meat a different flavor and is a good starting point for a discussion of aerobic and anaerobic bacterial growth. After each step of cooking and drying students should weigh their meats. Seal the meats in air-tight containers such as glass jars. When tasting the jerky students need to record the differences between the trials of cuts. Students should graph the water loss of the meat, determine which way of cutting the meat is more desirable, measure how the meat tears, and describe how the meat was kept safe throughout the production of the jerky. As an inquiry lesson students should develop their own methods of testing which cutting method is better.

I think I will use Apple Smoke with this lab.




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.

Some Ways of #SchoolPraise

Praise in the classroom it is most effective when it is sincere. Like the array of formative and summative assessments there are different avenues of incorporating praise to lessons and the school day. At my school there are postcards that teachers can pick up in the copy room and write a note to students to send home. Once the cards are written, teachers can turn them into the office and they get sent to the student. The barrier of entry to praise has been minimized. The great thing is that the postcard, in the effort in writing, brings out a natural sincerity to the times before e-mail.

Creating strong supportive relationships with students is key to aiding in their success. Taking time to simply go to an athletic event and then asking the student the next day about their game/match/race lets the student know you were there watching them. If you miss the chance to connect with the student the next day that’s fine. They may have seen you at the game and know that you took the time to go and support them outside the classroom. Sincerity is lost in this action if you are seen on your phone the entire time while the event is going on. However, I think that phone use can be to your advantage by taking a few amazing action photos and tweeting them using the school’s hashtag and put a stat or comment on them. A tweet can be seen by students, parents, administration, and the community. #schoolpride



Summer Scope and Sequences

Yesterday I tasked myself with finishing off the scope and sequences of my summer classes. Additionally, I made a unit plan for my “Filling the Cupboard: A course in Modern Gardening Practices and Community Service”. The community that I work in has many opportunities for gardening projects. There was once a Community Gardening Club before I arrived as the Ag Teacher. Now, it seems that the wave of interest in backyard agriculture has arrived. However, in a town that does have rusty tractors, brand new tractors, and farms literally in town “backyard” agriculture can involve a great many things.

When planning the “Summer Sausage” class. Timing was everything. I needed to choose recipes that were in the butter zone of difficulty. The recipe for Summer Sausage includes an ingredient called Fermento. This whey based product gives the flavor of fermentation without the lengthy process. I also wanted to make foods that students could take home, or eat at the end of the course. During the school year my Food Products and Processing students create batches of 25-40 pounds of meat product. The summer school recipes are very minimal and max out at 10 lbs. This way I can assign the advanced students to work on their own with products and I can work together with a few of the beginning level students.

Filling the Cupboard: Unit Plan

Filling the Cupboard: Scope and Sequence

Summer Sausage: Scope and Sequence

Today I will begin working on revising and reflecting on the courses I have taught this last school year. One of the biggest errors for the coursework was timing. I had a new suite of classes to teach all year. This meant new lessons and many new textbooks. My Dairy Science class fell behind because of the great detail put into their unit plans. My Introduction to Agriculture course at times was too introductory. I will be leaving Introduction to Ag as the final class to revise. This way I will have an idea of what to introduce. With the summer school courses soon underway I will start with the sophomore targeted class of Food Products and Processing Systems.

Teach Ag Daily, Preparing for the Summer

Teach Ag Daily, blog is about the classroom activities, improvements, and improvisations of lessons. The goal of the blog is to create better lessons through reflection and the recording of activities. Today’s goal is to visit a few graduation parties and between the parties finalize plans for the two summer school courses I will be teaching. The first course is “Filling the Cupboard: a course in modern gardening practices and community service”. The main activity for this course will be setting up a community garden at the local food pantry. The food produced in these gardens will be for the people who are in need of fresh vegetables. The second course is called “Summer Sausage”. This course will teach students the basics of preparing different meat products. After polling the students this last week, they are really interested in jerky and snack sticks. The class will also be making bratwurst  for the summer FFA activities.