The decline of Supervised Agricultural Experience (SAE) has been well documented. Research has identified several factors responsible for this decline including a decrease in extended contracts and elimination of SAE supervision periods (Steele, 1997), lack of student motivation, limited student opportunities, lack of teacher time, inadequate financial resources and facilities, and low parent interest (Osborne, 1988 as cited in Dyer & Osborne, 1996). Additionally, Whaley and Lucero (1993) identified several barriers to SAE in urban schools: program completers, support at home/role models, crime, overcrowding, and community safety.
Dyer and Osborne (1995) concluded that "while teachers claim to support the concept of SAE, many fail to implement the programs fully, resulting in decreased participation by students" (p. 10). As a teacher in an urban school, I reflected on this statement. I faced several of the same challenges that were mentioned above. Most of my students lived in apartment complexes or subdivisions, so they had limited space at home for SAE projects. Also, many of my students were first generation Agricultural Education students and their parents did not express a lot of interest in their SAE projects or did not have extra time available to assist with projects at home. Community safety was a problem. Once, my students' chicken projects were killed by a pack of dogs that roamed the neighborhood. There were other times when people in the neighborhood would throw items in the sheep pens...resulting in the construction of a large fence around the animal area. Almost all of my students rode the bus one to two hours each way to school and either held after-school jobs or participated in sports and other extracurricular activities, so the idea of staying after school to work on an SAE project was unrealistic. As my school expanded, valuable land was being taken up by portable classrooms. So, how was I supposed to implement the SAE program fully? While focusing on the challenges of requiring each student to complete an SAE, I re-discovered some of the things that I did have in my program. I had a shade house and a greenhouse that were underutilized. This would be an excellent place for my students to get involved with horticulture projects. Promoting such projects can help efforts to engage each and every one of our students in an SAE project. The following steps can help sell agriculture students on the idea of horticulture SAEs, which can take place in almost any agriculture program.
1. Emphasize students' investments in their futures. Many of my students were from a low socioeconomic background, so they had to earn and save their own money to purchase the typical teenager things. My students were eager to share with me all the material things that they desired, such as new sneakers, a cell phone, or a car. To capitalize on this opportunity, have students sit down and identify the actual cost of some of these items and then have them calculate an estimated amount of money that they could earn through horticulture SAEs. Examples like this help students understand that SAE is not just for a grade in their agriculture class, but serves as an investment in their futures! For instance, students can asexually propagate plants using division. Students make an initial investment of approximately $3.00 in September to purchase a 4 inch potted plant. They can then divide this plant into four equal parts each month. By February, they will have 256 plants that can be sold at $3.00 each. Using this strategy, a student could earn almost $600 in five months. Such a project is great for students because it requires limited financial and time investment. Students can get started on their project with an investment of only $3.00 and could care for their plants prior to the start of school, at lunch, or a designated SAE day every other week.
Plants that can be easily propagated through division
Irish Moss (Sagina subulata)
Stonecrop (Sedum sp. …