Thursday, June 26, 2014

Variety is the Spice of Education

One bonsai tree present in the greenhouses

Baskin-Robbins is famous for the variety of flavors that they offer their customers.  You can show up at a Baskin-Robbins and sample dozens of flavors before you reach the perfect one for you.  Take any group of people out for ice cream one day and really pay attention to what each of them ends up ordering, chances are they will not all get the same thing.  Take that same group out to an ice cream place which only offers chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry and you'll see that, while they may all get something, they may not all be completely satisfied with what they received.  

Suwon High School is amazing at offering students whatever flavor they want.  The school's facilities are impressive to say the least, they have multiple greenhouse, workshops, garages, and open student workplaces.  These are all then utilized by the students in their project based learning experience.  

This area is used by students to repair farm machinery
The most impressive part about these facilities is how they are utilized to enhance student engagement.  At the end of every school day (at 4:00 PM) students are required to participate in a structured activity until 6:00 PM, almost like an afterschool club in the US. 

We had an opportunity to tour and explore the product of many of these student projects and the results spoke for themselves.  I saw entire landscapes, beautifully grown bonsai trees, and entire restored tractors.  Not only that but there was also plenty of evidence of student learning going on; there was a cleared out area used to practice safe tractor driving, an area where transplanting was obviously taking place, and a workshop filled with welding rooms and evidence of practice welding.  Practical application of student knowledge was ever-present in our tour of the school.  

A product of the student run greenhouse gardens
The other amazing part of these student projects is that they mostly occur in groups.  Back home, we have student run projects (Supervised Agriculture Experience projects) but they occur almost entirely on an individual basis.  However, the culture that is present in Korea is such that the success of the group is always emphasized over the success of the individual.  I would absolutely love to see what would happen if a concept such as this were adopted in the US; what sort of projects would come out of the labor of multiple FFA members rather than just the work of one?

It's when we view things like this that really resonate with me.  We have a great system in the United States for Agriculture Education but it can always be better.  We all need to be on the constant lookout for tricks, tips, and tactics we can incorporate to encourage further growth in our industry. 

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