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Published November 18, 2020
Brooke Wright got a taste of what it would be like to teach, albeit to avatar students in a virtual classroom. Her virtual efforts resulted in a real-world, first-place finish in the inaugural Agricultural Education Teaching Contest.
The event was put on by the University of Wyoming College of Education’s Agricultural Education Program and Lindsey Freeman, a UW assistant lecturer in the School of Teacher Education. The contest was held virtually Sept. 23 in celebration of National Teach Ag Day Sept. 17. Ag Day is designed to encourage others to teach school-based agriculture and recognize the important role that agriculture teachers play in our schools and communities.
“I am interested in teaching, so it was fun seeing what that career could be like for me,” says Wright, a sophomore at Worland High School. “It made it seem like I was a real teacher and helped me see what our teachers have to go through. I liked it a lot, so it is a career I can see myself doing.”
Four finalists, including Wright, were selected from 18 Wyoming and Colorado high school students who submitted lesson plans on agriculture mechanics. Lessons submitted covered subjects from home appliance repair and livestock equipment maintenance to welding and woodworking techniques.
The other finalists were Emma Daly, a senior at West Grand High School in Kremmling, Colo., who placed second; Luke Voss, a junior at Worland High School who earned third place; and Efrain Deniz, a senior at Worland High School, placed fourth in the competition.
During the teaching contest, students -- using Mursion augmented reality software from the ag shops at their respective high schools via a live video stream -- connected to a virtual classroom. Each student presented a 15-minute teaching segment based on one of the learning activities from their submitted lesson plans to the Mursion avatars. During the annual Cowboy Classic Contest, Freeman originally envisioned the competition taking place in person, but switched to digital delivery because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
A panel of three judges scored the presenters on how engaging their respective lesson was and whether the students covered the learning objectives stated in their plans. Judges also looked for ways that the high school students developed an inclusive lesson to accommodate students of all abilities and backgrounds. After the teaching segment, finalists were scored on their answers to questions that posed scenarios they might encounter as future ag teachers or FFA advisers.
“The feedback from the judges helped give me a better idea of what I need to improve on for next time,” Wright says. “I asked an all-around animal question, and the judge suggested I could ask a livestock-related question to better relate it to my project, which was really helpful.”
The expert panel of judges who scored and provided supportive feedback to the young students were Wyoming FFA State Adviser Stacy Broda; Wyoming FFA Foundation Executive Director Oaklee Anderson; and Rindy West, development director for Wyoming Agriculture in the Classroom.
When she developed the contest, Freeman was inspired by the FFA Career and Leadership Development Events program. These events are aligned with industry standards and best practices for specific careers in the agriculture industry. Freeman wanted to create a competition that would give students a preview of what it is really like to become a teacher and to inspire them to become a future agricultural education teacher.
The goal is to continue with the competition next year and help it grow. Freeman hopes to expose more agricultural education teachers from across the state to the Mursion system and the competition during a demonstration during their statewide meeting this fall. Her aim is to work with ag teachers and FFA leaders across the region to grow this into a nationally recognized FFA-sanctioned competition.
The finalists had a positive experience during the competition and shared some advice for students who might be interested in participating next year.
“Do the research. Get familiar with it. Don’t stress over it, and bring some fun into it,” Deniz says. “I think it will help you the best if you plan it all out and do something that you really like to do.”
“Be prepared. Make sure you get your lesson plan straight and ready to go, but also be prepared to go off it a little bit. You might get sidetracked, and that’s OK,” Voss adds. “It is a fun experience, and you should really do it.”
Rocky Mountain Power Foundation awarded a grant to support the Agricultural Education Program at UW and inspire the future leaders in the agriculture industry. The use of the Mursion system was supported by the UW College of Education. This innovation was first introduced to the college by the UW Trustees Education Initiative.