Ag studies, FFA now A-D-M programs
ADEL – They don’t have an ag shop – yet.
They don’t have a greenhouse, a lab, nor a workshop – yet.
But what the ag students at Adel-DeSoto-Minburn High School have now is ag instruction and its freshly chartered FFA chapter.
After years of sending ag students to Earlham in a shared curriculum arrangement, ADM’s 2015-2016 school year brought ag under its own roof.
“We have a lot of interest in ag,” said McKenzie Gettler, ag instructor and FFA advisor, “and it’s a lot better having it here.”
Last year, ADM transported about 20 ag students to Earlham.
Katie Collins, a senior, and president of ADM’s FFA chapter, has been one of them since her freshman year.
She said it was a time commitment for those traveling to Earlham since they missed two class periods to make the trip.
“You couldn’t have a study hall,” she said.
And although she said she’d miss the interactions of the 15-minute bus rides to Earlham and back, overall, having ag studies at ADM opened the doors for more of its students to choose ag and, she hopes, FFA participation.
ADM has 41 ag students this year, most of them freshmen, Gettler said.
On Feb. 12, Gettler, with help from district FFA officers, held recruitment among eighth-graders to get them interested in studying agriculture and joining FFA.
Gettler said she designs her ag classes with resources from Curriculum for Ag Science Education.
CASE is a system of instructional support for the classroom teacher. Its model provides four major areas of support – curriculum, professional development, assessment, and certification.
Each area contributes to the validity of CASE instructional materials by ensuring that teachers are properly equipped and trained and student learning is clearly accountable.
“It’s all very hands-on,” Collins said, “and easy to apply in real life.”
Collins lives on a family farm, with row crops and a cow-calf herd.
She said she has a better understanding of the growth stages of plants, the soil science in growing them, and fertilizer and light requirements.
“I love being able to go back home and do the same things,” Collins said.
In addition, Gettler said the CASE curriculum will help students when its time to take their Scholastic Aptitude Test, especially in sciences.
The process of getting an FFA chapter started at ADM was “a pain-free process,” Gettler said.
But it wasn’t effortless.
Collins said last summer she and her family bought the seeds to plant a large fruit garden, mostly with pumpkins and watermelons.
With help from other students they kept the melon patch weeded.
During fall events, such as Friday football nights, and on Saturdays, they sold their produce in the community, with some of the money donated back to start the FFA chapter.
It served as Collins’ Supervised Agriculture Experience project.
“It was a lot more hands-on than my corn and soybean SAE,” Collins said. “It was labor-intensive.”
Gettler said the students garnered support from the community – farmers, fair board members and businesses – and the school district to create ag studies and setting up an FFA chapter.
An alumni organization was created to serve as an FFA booster group.
And, of course, there is a wish list.
Gettler said she’d like to see the program add a greenhouse for horticulture studies, as well as try their hands at aquaponics – growing fish and plants together in tanks – and hydroponics, – a method of growing plants using mineral-nutrient solutions, in water, without soil – create an animal lab and have a few acres for row crop production studies.
Ag and FFA
Senior Allie Wisgerhof, vice president of ADM’s FFA chapter, lives in Van Meter on 100 acres with “five horses, three dogs and a couple of goats.”
She started ag studies as a junior, traveling to Earlham. She’s studying ag business.
Wisgerhof said she’s been accepted at Iowa State University, where she plans to study animal science for a pre-veterinary program.
She said she enjoys the ag program, with its hands-on approach to learning “and being involved in something you care about.”
Collins said she’s always wanted to be involved in farming with her father and looks to FFA to help her develop leadership and record-keeping skills.
“Even if I don’t go into ag,” Collins said, “these skills will still serve me well.”
Wisgerhof said she sees the FFA chapter’s 2015-2016 members “as the concrete for a foundation.
“We started from nothing and I hope the foundation keeps growing and affects other students’ lives and get (them) more informed about ag.”
Lee Griebel, ADM High School principal, said the school district looks on with pride that it has its own ag program.
“It was a good program with Earlham,” Griebel said, “but it was Earlham’s program.
“All the success of the ag program is due to the students’ efforts, excelling in their efforts,” he said. “And now we get to see the blue jackets with ADM on the backs. It’s fantastic.”
But the key, he said, is Gettler.
“She is phenomenal,” he said. ‘She’s high-energy, committed, and the students’ best interests is first and foremost with her.”
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