Motivating Students to Learn from the Student's Perspective

Article excerpt

We believe there is virtually no other Agriculture Department quite like Conrad Weiser's. This is due in part because our teachers do not run the entire list of department functions. Rather, the students operate and direct the department through leadership, professionalism, and dedication. This makes the Conrad Weiser Agriculture Department a unique learning environment. Each fall, a new generation of students is welcomed into the Conrad Weiser High School Agriculture Department. Seventy-seven eager freshmen fill the seats in the classroom and a dedicated team of "Aggies" is prepared for their arrival.

One-of-a-Kind Experience

In the case of our department, it is difficult to explain why students are motivated. The answer seems to simply be, "they just are." It is the atmosphere of the classroom and the area surrounding it that makes the experience one-of-a-kind. The students' motivation to delve into agriculture stems from the wry, humorous cajoling from our teachers, Mr. Raymond Edwards and Mr. Stephen Miller, and the dedication of our upperclassmen. For weeks, upperclassmen anxiously organize the department. They commit summer hours to writing lesson plans, assembling bulletin boards, updating record books, and typing agendas. They greet the incoming students with a sense of pride. Their enthusiasm is contagious.

Student Engagement

Early on, freshmen are eager to explore the opportunities available in the department. New students are introduced to 'crews,' which are small committees that are dedicated to specific projects in the department, such as beekeeping. Each crew is advertised and organized by older students. The success of the group completely depends on the ability of individual students to lead their team and the dedication of the new students eager to learn new tasks and perform them with competence. Students also have the opportunity to join competitive FFA teams devoted to subjects ranging from horse judging to public speaking.

Student Leadership

As new students mingle with upperclassmen, they develop a desire to discover their own niche in the department. Mr. Miller has a knack for seeking out the capabilities of almost every student that walks into the Agriculture Department. Students enter the department with little to no preconceived purpose, but they come out the other side with knowledge in areas of expertise that they thought they would never have developed. Students are encouraged to explore their own interests and ideas. It is a genuine leadership experience. Students are responsible for organizing each part of the process. They develop a strong sense of ownership of the department, and are willing to commit extra time and hard work.

Of course, students make mistakes-they miss deadlines, and plans fall through. The ability to fail is just as important as the ability to succeed. Students are responsible for their mistakes. Every Aggie can recall a tragic error that resulted in "scrub duty" or an afternoon spent cleaning the cockroach cage. …