Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Where do we go from here....

As our time in The Republic of Korea comes to a close in the next few days, I find myself getting into that reflective mode that we find ourselves in after long trips like these. I continue to find that every time I think I can't be more surprised - and at the same time educated - I find another reason to be kept in awe of this place.

Sometimes it's in the culture.

Whether it's the different kinds of foods ate over here, or whether it's walking into the dairy barn at Yeoju High School and finding a robotic milker, I continue to find inspiration and be awe-struck by the people and the landscape that I see around me.

Robotic Milker found at Yeoju High School.

Even the students can shock you.

It might sound corny, and like something you'd hear in a commercial, but I continue to be amazed by these students, who while coming from no agricultural background, still become so involved with their classes and clubs. Students choose the path they want to take in school, which leads to students taking control of their learning, which in the end is what we want.   These students are more passionate about agriculture education than many students I find back home, and like I said before, many don't even come from an agricultural background.

Students learning about tractor maintenance in Ag Machinery.
Because of this student-driven education, students are more excited to go to class, and will even continue their learning outside of the classroom. Many of these students are involved in clubs outside of school, whether its in the FFK (Future Farmers of Korea) or they are in the excavating club (yes, you read that right, their is an excavating club at Yeoju High School), these students are getting the opportunities to not only expand their knowledge on a topic, but to also have fun while doing so.
  After school clubs are completely optional, but yet we found that many of the students are involved in some way or another.

Many students also have projects that they work with inside and outside of the classroom. Students are involved in a multitude of projects including: small animal/companion animal care, dairy production, crop/vegetable production, agri-business, nursery landscaping, or mechanics. These projects are giving students the opportunity to become self-sufficient, as students are given the profits from all projects that they work on. Using these hands-on educational opportunities that the schools provide, students are growing their own love and passion for agricultural education.

Maybe its even me just shocking myself.

When I first got to Korea, I was extremely nervous about teaching in the high schools. Between the language barrier, the shock of being in a completely different place, and constantly wondering if my micro-lesson would be relevant, I often wondered if I would make even the slightest impact. I was blessed to be paired with my teaching partner Chris Wilder, who teaches at Williston High School in Williston, FL, and my SNU (Seoul National University) student partner Yuna.

Chris is an amazing teacher who worked with me and Yuna to develop a lesson plan that we believed the students would be interested in and would gain real-life skills from. Yuna served as my teaching partner and as a translator. Her passion for plant science and here skills with translating made the transition to teaching in a Korean High School that much easier.

Our lesson plan involved teaching asexual propagation to students, specifically teaching students to take a cutting from a parent plant, and plant it in a new container to grow a genetically identical, but completely separate, plant.

Like I said, going into the classroom, I was completely nervous about teaching, but, I was amazed at the end of class, when we were reviewing, to hear the questions that students had. One student asked what plants at home she could reproduce through cuttings, another asked if all plants could be propagated through cuttings, one even asked us about the history of cuttings and who was the first to use it in cultivation, to which none of us could answer off hand (we told her while we were not sure, we made an educated guess). It gave me great pride to hear and see these students taking interest in the subject and want to know more about it.

But what really inspired me was that by the third time Yuna helped teach the class, she went from not knowing much about the topic of asexual propagation, to answering students questions on her own, and teaching segments without our help. I hope she can use this knowledge to continue her studies and develop the passion she has.

To be completely honest, I'm not sure where I'll go from here. All I know is that using the knowledge and skills I learned here in Korea, I will do everything possible to inspire and educate students back home about the wonders of global agricultural education.

Chris, Yuna and I after teaching

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