Sunday, April 30, 2017

Second Reflection: AFE 576

Reflections on Building Supervised Agricultural Experiences

Supervised Agricultural Experience (SAE) is an opportunity for students to participate in learning outside of regular classroom hours, with a focus in one of the agricultural systems. This focus is more meaningful, and time well spent, if it is an interest area of the student. SAEs requires time, and possibly money, outside of the normal school day, along with regular journal entries to document the experience. The overall goal of any SAE is for students to gain real-world knowledge and skills to help them choose a career pathway for post-secondary success.
            Agriculture is a broad field that supports our world. Within public schools, we identify those in different systems. These systems are:  Agribusiness; Animal Sciences; Biotechnology; Leadership/Business; Environmental Services; Food Products and Processing; Natural Resources; Plants; and Power, Structural and Technical systems.
            Students interested in an Agribusiness focused SAEs have a wide range of opportunities. These opportunities can directly relate to businesses and industry within a school district, and crosses into all facets of agriculture. These SAEs focus on, “business principles, including management, marking and finance, and their application to enterprises.” An example SAE within agribusiness is agri-tourism. This SAE not only supports the agribusiness system, but also helps the student learn more about cultural, environmental, and economical aspects of the region. Here is a link to a lesson, from the National Association of Agricultural Educators (NAAE) online communities of practice, to further development an SAE in agri-tourism.
            Animal systems SAEs are probably the most practiced SAEs. The focus is on, “including life processes, health, nutrition, genetics, management and processing, through the study of small animals, aquaculture, livestock, dairy, horses and/or poultry.” These are also very reflective of the type of industry in the area and within the school district. Many rural schools may not support small animal projects, but within urban areas, these may be more practical due to space and city restrictions. An example of an SAE in animal systems is a guide-dog program, where students care for and train puppies to be guide-dogs. Just like many animal projects within an ag department, this would be a program the school district, campus and ag teacher would support and manage annually for the benefit of multiple student projects. For more information on a successful program, learn more from Byron Nelson High School:
            Biotechnology system SAEs focus on, “The study of data and techniques of applied science for the solution of problems concerning living organisms.” This type of SAE would be most beneficial to students within an area with a biotechnology industry, or a larger district that has this pathway. Students academically advanced in math and sciences would benefit from a research or placement SAE in this system. A unique opportunity would be with pharmaceuticals or genetically modified organisms in plant sciences or pest management. The US Food & Drug Administration offers a Veterinary Medicine Student Program for a variety of internships. For students interested in plant sciences, a coveted internship with the Noble Foundation would be a great placement and research SAE:
            An SAE in the Cluster/Leadership/Business skills system focuses on, “Leadership, personal growth and career success skills necessary for a chosen profession that may relate to several of the other areas of interest.” This type of SAE would benefit students who have completed a SAE and want to explore other options within that system. This would give students additional experiences to increase their knowledge, skills and attitudes of career choices within that system.  For example, business management of beef production to leading policy changes in cattle production or agricultural literacy to know where your food comes from.
Students interested in an Environmental Service system SAE focus on, “The study of systems, instruments and technology used in waste management and their influence on the environment.” This SAE could be done in conjunction of another student’s animal systems SAE and the waste involved with animal production. Another example could be a placement or research SAE with a dairy or poultry operation, or even a feedlot. Some responsibilities a student would grow from in a wastewater operator internship with a beef processing plant is:  lab testing for process control, biological nutrient removal studies, collect samples, work collaboratively and more.
A Food Products and Processing Systems SAE involves, “The study of product development, quality assurance, food safety, production, sales and service, regulation and compliance, and food service within the food science industry.” These SAEs provide students a look into processed meats and plants for consumption. This provides a whole other look at agriculture as it goes from farm to table. Opportunities for SAEs in this system could be dependent on the processing plants, grocers and other food services in the area. Even access to universities and their processing labs would be a great exploratory SAE. Texas Tech has research facilities in food microbiology, pathogen processing laboratory, and even a mobile laboratory.
An SAE in the Natural Resources Systems focuses on, “The study of the management of soil, water, wildlife, forests and air as natural resources.” There is a wide range of SAEs in this system. This SAE would be reflective of the resources and environment within the community and school district. A project that could be beneficial to the school, as well as the student leading the SAE, is a schoolyard habitat. This SAE would support the design, building and use of a garden, or wildlife habitat, at t school. This would be a long-term SAE, with a way to attract students for future ag enrollment and show diversity in agriculture. It would also could be a collaborative project with other systems to support many students in the chapter. To learn more:  
The Plant Systems SAE is, “The study of plant life cycles, classifications, functions, practices, through the study of crops, turf grass, trees and shrubs and/or ornamental plants.” This SAE also offers a variety of opportunities depending on the needs of the student. An example is working with the natural resources system student and their schoolyard habitat. The student could lead an exploratory SAE to identify plants, insects and wildlife for the school, or even research the impact the habitat has at school for biodiversity. Another SAE that could grow from the schoolyard habitat is a community interest in backyard habitats with native plants used in the schoolyard habitat. Therefore, a student could lead entrepreneurship SAE by growing and selling native plants.
The last type of SAE is within the Power, Structural and Technical Systems were students learn more about, “The study of agricultural equipment, power systems, alternative fuel sources and precision technology, as well as woodworking, metalworking, welding and project planning for agricultural structures.” This is probably the next most common SAE supporting many experiences within CDE, shows and leadership events. Students could build structures to support animal or plant production at home, or school. They could maintain machinery or repair it, as well as restore antique tractors. Any of these experiences could range from exploratory to research to entrepreneurship. An example for a tractor restoration contest, with a monetary prize of $10,000:

Overall, SAEs should focus on the interest, time commitment and budget of the student. To help students explore what type of SAE they should be involved with, a great first step is the SAE explorer:   

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