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Mississippi Marvel! Penn State Teach Ag! Society's Third Annual Domestic Study Away

Posted: June 4, 2015

The Penn State Teach Ag! Society embarked on their third annual Domestic Study Away, this year to the great "hospitality state" of Mississippi! A week long adventure exploring school-based agriculture education in states outside of Pennsylvania, attending students participate in powerful professional development, engaging conversation and unforgettable experiences!

On Monday, May 11th, 15 Penn State Agricultural & Extension Education students and faculty boarded a plane to depart for the third annual Penn State Teach Ag! Domestic Study Away to the great “Hospitality State” of Mississippi. This year with a unique focus on financial literacy in the Appalachia; particularly in the area of Supervised Agricultural Experiences, or SAE.

To hear more about the jam-packed, exciting days during the Domestic Study Away, check out our blog at teachagpsu.blogspot.com! Upon the completion of an end-of-trip reflection activity, there seemed to be several common themes between team members. The impact of the Domestic Study Away stretched much further then simply the opportunity to experience a state, culture and agriculture much different then our own. You can read more about our adventures in the blog posts that came before this one but for now let me quickly simplify things to help you understand the power of this year’s Domestic Study Away. Here’s three big take-aways...

  1. Community in Agricultural Education is powerful.

We had the privilege to visit six, really wonderful agricultural education programs while in Mississippi. During every single visit, the teachers and students shared with us the impact that partnerships with their community had on their program. For some, it was alumni and parents preparing a meal for us all to enjoy together, for others it was financial and resource support, it was recruitment, innovation, tradition and passion. Continually in reflection conversations, team members discussed the beauty of the examples of community in the agriculture education programs we engaged with. It was inspiring, knowing that together - teacher, parent, neighbor and student, powerful things were happening both inside and outside those walls.

  1. The influence of the components of the Three-Circle Model, in all its forms.

Classroom Instruction, FFA and Supervised Agriculture Experience. These are three key components, such that with one missing an agricultural education program arguably cannot function to its fullest potential. While in Mississippi, we witnessed a wide range of programs; programs that have similar strengths and weaknesses of Pennsylvania programs work alongside of. The Domestic Study Away is a powerful tool that allows pre-service teachers to experience the diversity, trials and victories of agricultural programs across the nation and use that to better our own future programs. Facilities can be a factor to success, but they are also not a sole reason a program is great. The same goes for funding, access to resources, location, etc. It seems as though the success of a program is best measured by the implementation of Classroom Instruction, FFA and Supervised Agricultural Experience Model. No matter the format, each of those three pieces seems to be a secret ingredient to a recipe to success.

  1. We chose the right profession.

Agricultural Education is not for the faint of heart; but, it is for the passionate, the fun-loving, the adventurous, the innovative and the curious. It is for individuals who are driven to meet student’s needs, wherever they are. Regardless of age, location or ability. Agricultural Education is for those who are zealous about seeing their students and communities develop into the best versions of themselves. These people make up an incredible, wild family; a nation-wide network of professionals passionately pursuing the future of agriculture. I think I can speak for all Penn State students who embarked on this Mississippi adventure; the agricultural education profession was displayed for us in true authenticity. Though the road to get there may not be easy, it most surely will be worth it.

The third annual Domestic Study Away was surely one for the books. Undoubtedly, the team returned with a refueled passion, ready to enter another school year and even more prepared to one day enter our own classrooms. However, there are many appropriate thanks that are due. Our experience would not have been possible without the generous and continued support of five pivotal partners: Mississippi State University, the CHS Foundation, PSU Center for Professional and Personnel Development in Agricultural Education, Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences and University Park Allocation Committee. We are forever grateful for your contribution to the furthering of preparing dedicated school-based agriculture educators.

Submitted by Janae Herr (kjh5370@psu.edu)