NEW ORLEANS – Erica McBee, agricultural educator at Kearney High School in Kearney, Missouri, is one of only six individuals nationwide who received the National Association of Agricultural Educators (NAAE) Ideas Unlimited Award at the NAAE annual convention in New Orleans on November 21.
During the school year, students are released early on certain Fridays, resulting in shortened class times. McBee found that it was hard to keep students’ attention on these short days, so she developed Farming Fridays.
Farming Friday is a long-term group activity where students have theoretically inherited 40 acres of land to manage. The students are given a large map and must decide where the best location for their 40-acre farm should be. Students claim their acreage by drawing the boundaries on a master map. If they do not do this promptly, another group can take their property. Next, they decide what their farm will produce. The next Farming Friday, students get their first farming challenge.
During the year, McBee creates challenges for students, like neighbors who are frustrated, property line disputes, or pests that are causing problems. Students are also given a balance sheet and must keep record of all of farm receipts, expenditures, and fines. They can earn money by participating in activities or by selling products or services related to their farming operation. At the end of the year, the goal is to be the group with the highest balance in its account.
Since implementing Farming Fridays, McBee has found that students are no longer distracted by leaving early on Fridays, but are excited to work on their farms.
“Whether you live in a large city or the most rural community, agriculturists can face many of the same problems: identifying plants and pests, budgeting/accounting problems, electrical wiring gone bad. Other instructors could use this problem based learning activity to enhance their already existing curriculum. Regardless if they have early release days, “Farming Fridays” is a great instructional tool that allows diversity in the curriculum,” said McBee.
National Geographic Learning | Delmar Cengage Learning sponsors the Ideas Unlimited Award. NAAE is the professional association for agricultural educators. Its mission is “professionals providing agricultural education for the global community through visionary leadership, advocacy and service.” The NAAE office is located in Lexington, Ky.