The future of farming is getting a push, thanks to education programs that inspire students to use problem solving skills and participate in real-world applications. New programs that are able to translate science and math concepts into exciting and applicable activities are proving key to engaging students.
Engagement is one of the FFA’s goals. Future Farmers of America (FFA, @nationalffa) is an organization with 629, 327 student members in grades 7-12 across the country. Contrary to popular belief, FFA isn’t just for kids who grew up on a farm or want to make a living growing produce. The FFA welcomes students who want to become teachers, doctors, scientists, engineers, entrepreneurs, and more.
Each year, the National FFA Organization holds a convention where FFA students gather to learn and celebrate their accomplishments. From this year’s convention highlights, it looks like a blast with live music, speakers, and even a rodeo! The event, held October 28-31, also includes competitions where students test their ability to solve real-world agricultural problems. From mechanics to livestock, the competition included learners with many different interests.
This year, four students from Santa Maria High School (@smhigschool) came out on top of the competition. They traveled all the way from California to the 88th convention in Louisville, Kentucky with agriculture teacher Mark Powell. In an email to IT’S ABOUT TIME®, Powell recounts the road to their victory:
“It is my pleasure to inform you that the Santa Maria Future Farmers of America’s Dairy Team won the “National Champions” Title this past Friday. The Team consisted of Mariana De Leon (Junior), Valentina Santos (Junior), Alondra Novoa (Senior), and Daisy Bernal (Senior). The team competed against the state champions from 39 other states. The contest was over the course of two days.
The first day was the team competition. The girls had to perform a series of lab test such as Aerobic Plate Count, Somatic Cell Count, and titratable acidity. In addition, the girls also had to interpret data from labs that were conducted by a professional lab. Finally the girls needed to deliver a 10 minute presentation on their findings and interpretation of the data and deem the results as compliant or non-compliant with current USDA Industry Standards. The girls not only won this portion of the contest, but made a huge impression on the professors from various major universities that were judging the event. Several comments from the judges during the awards ceremony were that this was not only the best team presentation they have seen or heard, but also one of the most passionate, sincere, and professional teams they have judged.
The following day’s competition included the tasting portion of the contest as well as another lab procedure that they must perform. Finally the girls had to take 3 exams, which included Marketing questions, Dairy Production Questions, and the very challenging Problem Solving exam. The Problem Solving exam required the girls to evaluate marketing figures such as per capita numbers and calculate market performances and outlooks. Essentially it is a very complex mathematical word problem exam. Mariana De Leon was the only student to get every calculation correct and ultimately was the high individual in that area of the contest.
The girls worked very hard to earn this national title devoting anywhere from 40-50 hours a week for the past few months. In addition to that translating into the national title, the girls also had personal achievements. Alondra Novoa was 3rd in the nation followed by Mariana De Leon (4th). Daisy Bernal ended up 7th and finally Valentina Santos was 15th.
If you happen to see these girls please congratulate them on winning the title of “National Champions”.
Mark H. Powell
Santa Maria High School
In this competition, the four students proved they have what it takes to be data scientists in the 21st century. This is huge, as data scientists and other new, creative STEM careers occupy some of the “hottest” careers of our time.
Agricultural careers have also experienced a wave of innovation, becoming more diverse and multi-disciplinary. Students who attended the FFA conference learned there are more career options in agriculture available beyond farming. This is especially important in states like Nebraska where “ag” is huge. Success in these “new” ag careers will rely on innovators like Mariana, Valentina, Alondra, and Daisy.
These four young women were given results from a professional lab and came to a conclusion about them, the same way scientists who work for the U.S. Department of Agriculture do. Teaching students these real-life skills will help inspire the next generation of learners choosing to pursue STEM careers.
Innovative, Problem-Solving Math Shines in Competition and Careers
The ability of these four students to awe the judges with their data interpretation is testament to their hard work (40-50 hours a week!) and the ability of their teachers to engage students in STEM learning.
One of the students who participated on the winning team, Mariana, is in the Interactive Mathematics Program® (IMP) at Santa Maria High School. Mariana shined in the Problem Solving exam, earning the highest score.
Chris Paulus, Mariana’s math teacher, mentions in an email response to the winning news, “It is not a surprise that she got all of her math calculations correct!” This, undoubtedly, is every math teacher’s dream come true!
Students like Mariana who are taught math by solving complex, realistic problems, like those tested in the Problem Solving portion of the competition, are more prepared than those who are taught to memorize equations and plug in numbers. She was able to answer every problem correct because she had already experienced similar problems before. And by being exposed to how professionals interact with and solve these problems in real life, she’s seeing first-hand what math-related professions require and that they’re far more creative than they were in the past.
Innovative math programs aren’t just helping to develop the future of agriculture, they are creating students that go on to succeed in many different careers. Former students like engineering entrepreneur Rex Moribe (Engineering Superheroes: How a Math Program Turned a Surfer Kid Into a 21st Century Problem-Solving Whiz), and business professional Jake Lyman (From High School Math to Real World Problem-Solving: Jake Lyman Thinks Outside the Box) credit their problem-solving prowess with their unconventional math background.
Megan Lewczyk (@MeganLewczyk), a certified public accountant who uses data to help companies make big decisions, is another example (Can an Unconventional Math Program Prepare Students for The NEW Accounting Profession? Megan Lewczyk Thinks So!). Megan stresses the importance of students being prepared properly for the new accounting industry that is far from the boring, number-crunching job of the past. Just like agriculture, accounting is undergoing a massive change and demand for creative thinking that should appeal to today’s students who want to solve the world’s problems.
Congratulations on your success Mariana, Valentina, Alondra, and Daisy! Your hard work paid off!
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