Best Practices for Today and the Future: Motivating Students through an Agricultural Mechanics Project Auction

Article excerpt

In 1996, the Templeton High School Agriculture Department (Templeton, CA) began a project auction to promote Supervised Agricultural Experiences (SAE) that were focused on metal and/or wood construction projects. Even though there has been recent turnover in the departmental faculty, the project auction has become a mainstay. Other programs in California have adopted the project auction or elements of it to promote student projects in the agriculture mechanics area. The Templeton Project Auction has received some attention recently in the FFA New Horizons (December 2009, p. 4). The goal of this article is to describe how this project auction was conceived, how it functions/ operates, and the benefits to the students, the program, the community, and the industry.

Agriculture mechanics has been described as the utilization of materials and processes to increase efficiency in all areas of production agriculture. The content within agriculture mechanics is closely connected with many industries outside of agriculture, essentially preparing agricultural mechanics students for career entry into a broad spectrum of industries. For example, welding and metal fabrication are popular emphasis areas within agriculture programs. These skills readily transfer into a variety of construction and fabrication industries allowing students to have several options when choosing a career pathway.

The welding industry expected a shortfall of 200,000 skilled welders in 2010 (Uttrachi, 2007). Although this shortfall has not yet been validated, the demand for trained welders is very strong, even with current economic challenges. Agriculture mechanics courses that emphasize welding within their curriculum have an opportunity to prepare their graduates for the welding industry, whether within the agriculture industry or beyond. Providing our students with an outlet for their projects allows them to take advantage of the SAE component of the curriculum and stay connected to the FFA. This in turn provides motivation to the students to enter our agriculture mechanics courses and connects them to industry. As a result, we can better supply industry with more graduates.

Total Program Participation

Students enrolled in Agricultural Construction and Fabrication courses are eligible to build a project for the auction. Other courses prepare flower arrangements for the dinner/auc - tion which are used as door prizes for the attendee s . Students volunteer to set-up, serve, and clean-up. As a result, student volunteers can benefit from the proceeds of the evening through scholarships used to support all SAE endeavors in the chapter. Scholarship money is generated through the Ag Booster's silent raffle and dinner ticket sales.

Teachers, students, parents, and program supporters help with advertising, event set up, clean up to ensure the entire evening runs smoothly. They also gather items for the Ag Booster's silent raffle. Silent raffle tickets are purchased at the door and deposited into collection cans next to each raffle item. Dinner tickets for the evening event are sold as another source of revenue for the Ag Boosters. Students can take advantage of financial support through an application process that includes: completed record books, descriptions of the SAE, and an explanation of the student's efforts to market their SAE project(s). The "Project Auction" has become a major social event in the community.

Project Choice and Completion

Students become motivated when they can choose their own projects and use their creative talents to design and build their creations. This has led to students taking full ownership of their SAE. The auction is held in the spring of the year which allows the students to develop skills throughout the year that they will use to build their projects. Here we see a direct connection from classroom instruction and application of skills to the SAE Each student that chooses to participate in the "Project Auction" is given an outline of the rules and guidelines for developing a project. …