By Dave Wyrick, Michigan Executive Secretary
My vocational agriculture teacher, Mr. Ackley, began his career in 1927. For most of his 40-plus year career, he taught real “Sows, Cows and Plows” to a room full of farm boys. Through his long tenure in the classroom, he saw lots of change. Change in what young people wanted to learn, change in what they were expected to learn and change in what he was required to teach. Mr. Ackley was willing to embrace those changes, a man ahead of his time in that respect. He often shared his proudest moment: the day one of his students became the first female to hold state office in Michigan. As we progress into the future, we need to be willing to follow Mr. Ackley’s lead and constantly update the way we do things at all levels.
During the past year, the National FFA Organization has embarked on a mission to review and update the National Chapter Awards application, the Agricultural Proficiency Awards application and the Agriscience Fair Program in an effort to make them more engaging and relevant to all FFA members regardless of their school setting or previous agricultural experiences.
The National Chapter Awards application added a portion to Form I that asks chapters to identify how well they meet the national program standards for FFA. After all, if we’re going to elevate these chapters to shining-star status, shouldn’t they meet all the standards the agricultural education profession says an exemplary chapter should achieve? FFA advisors can use this award program as a teaching tool, to help develop a sense of program pride while encouraging all FFA members to learn and practice goal setting and effective planning. Teachers and members are going to love the new Models of Excellence award. Members can strive for recognition as they work toward an exemplary Program of Activities in all 15 quality standards.
The Agriscience Research Proficiency application and Agriscience Fair are designed to be relevant to all FFA members regardless of their supervised agricultural experience (SAE) resources and experience base. Unlike in Mr. Ackley’s day, the majority of our students will not be food producers, but they will be knee-deep in the science of production agriculture. We must prepare students for the research career opportunities that currently exist in business and industry. In addition, we are seeing more and more students who need directed laboratory SAEs, as opposed to a traditional SAE at their home or job. It is crystal clear that the Agriscience Research Proficiency program and Agriscience Fair are essential components in satisfying that requirement.
There have been many changes since the dawn of FFA, and rest assured there will be more on the horizon. After all, the only constant really is change. National FFA continues to strive to identify what is relevant to our students’ learning and then make appropriate changes that will resonate with them regardless of where they live or what SAE opportunities they have available. The improvements to the awards and programs are a direct result of the classroom practices we employ to prepare students for successful careers in the 21st century.