Mobile ag: Cheyenne FFA Chapter focuses on ag education
Cheyenne – When Cheyenne Frontier FFA Chapter Advisor Joe Allen began researching different ways to educate children about agriculture, he stumbled across a project that would develop into the chapter’s Mobile Agriculture Resource Unit.
“The idea behind our Mobile Ag Unit is that we can take it to elementary schools in the areas and teach a lessons to students about agriculture to start raising their awareness,” explains Allen.
“Pennsylvania Farm Bureau funded a huge semi trailer with a lab, and I thought it looked really cool, so I started looking at what we could do,” explains Allen. “When our Career and Technical Education Coordinator told me that the school district had a trailer, we started there.”
When the district gave Allen’s chapter the trailer, he says, “It was in pretty bad shape. We started fixing it up and working on it.”
With grant funding from the Wyoming FFA Foundation’s Learning By Doing grants and the Cowboy State Challenge to fund trailer improvements.
Just this year, they finished installing flooring, cabinetry, countertops and shelving units to hold all of the supplies for the trailer. They also purchased supplies to conduct workshops.
The Frontier FFA Chapter works with teachers throughout Cheyenne to set up times to present to students.
“We have a spreadsheet that I send to schools with blocks of time that they can sign up for,” he continues. “They also select a lesson from our list.”
Currently, Frontier FFA member have 15 lessons on a variety of subjects that they can teach to elementary-aged students.
“We have everything from younger kids learning about how agriculture affects them,” says Allen, “all the way up to some different things with planting and having kids learn about the water cycle and plants.”
Allen notes that students explore how their favorite foods are a product of agriculture and how farmers are involved in the community.
Upper-level high school students currently teach the array of lessons, but Allen has also been working with his freshman students to develop curriculum.
Allen notes that his wife teaches second grade in Cheyenne, and she has been an integral part of helping to develop age appropriate activities.
The lessons also align with state standards, helping teachers to accomplish their goals as well.
“Most of the teachers say, ‘I don’t have time to do a farm unit in my curriculum, but if you can teach this lesson and it will address my standards, that is great,’” Allen says, noting that their lessons address a wide range of science, social studies, language arts and math standards. “We teach the lessons and then provide the teacher with an extension so the teacher can continue with the students.”
“We’ve used our Mobile Ag Unit twice so far,” says Allen. “This year has been the building year. It went on its maiden voyage about a month and a half ago.”
In its debut year, Allen notes that they will continue to constantly improve their Mobile Ag Unit’s capability.
“We are constantly trying to build our lesson base,” comments Allen.
He also says that the stocking the trailer with necessary supplies will be a continual challenge.
“A lot of the things we use right now are consumable,” Allen says. “Whether we are talking about paper, glue or whatever, we have the trailer stocked right now, but after using it for a semester, we are going to have to restock.”
Worried about the sustainability of the unit, Allen and his students have continued to apply for education grants to fund the use of the trailer.
“We also just received another grant through Wyoming Ag in the Classroom,” says Allen. “That will help us to obtain some microscopes and other pieces of equipment that we need to help make it sustainable.”
“All the different grants we have gotten are a huge blessing,” Allen adds. “There is no way we would have been about to do that without the support of Encana, Cameco and Wyoming Ag in the Classroom, as well as the FFA Foundation.”
They have a number of activities planned to utilize the trailer throughout this year.
“In May, we’re working on scheduling four or five more outings where we will hit several classes each time,” he explains, noting that the unit will primarily be utilized in late spring, summer and fall.
They also plan to utilize the trailer during Laramie County Fair, as well, to allow Frontier’s FFA members to interact with the community.
“Currently, we have 15 members that are trained to work in the trailer, but we are constantly working to build those numbers,” Allen says. “That is the premise behind this – it is about getting our members to really learn about agriculture because they have to teach people about it.”