The school year has turned into anything but routine across the nation, but that’s not stopping Bruce High School FFA advisor from creatively continuing the work with his students.
That advisor, Sam Behrends, is among the thousands of school teachers across the nation to find those creative ways to reach students while the coronavirus pandemic keeps classrooms empty. Behrends described some of that work while featuring his Bruce FFA chapter in a recent WAXX FFA on the Air program.
“The first big shift is shifting to distance-learning, and that can mean a lot of things,” Behrends said.
Most of his contacts with students has been through the Google Classroom, a classroom-management software. Students can see Behrends’ courses and doing work on it.
He’s also sent hands-on agri-science classes home with students. That includes plants from the school’s greenhouse, which are sent home to be cared for by students.
“The fun part about this is, you get to try things out and see how they work,” Behrends said.
His programs include maple-syrup production, using sap students intended to gather from trees in the school’s forest. Students haven’t been able to work on that, and Behrends is cooking some syrup.
Some new things with the district’s agriscience program includes changing the FFA chapter from a dues-paying membership to affiliated membership. That means any grades 7-12 students participating in ag-education classes automatically become FFA chapter members. Students not participating in those classes also can become members by requesting it.
Behrends said the affiliated membership removes the barriers of dues and having to enroll.
The switch to affiliated membership boosted the chapter from 35 members to about 100 members. That represents about 40 percent of the Bruce 7-12 students. Removes the barriers of dues and
Behrends said a goal was to create an atmosphere that would bring greater participation for members, and that goal has been achieved.
“We’ve seen significantly increased involvement this year,” he said.
The school also went transitioned from semesters to trimesters this year, and Behrends said the few extra minutes of extra class time provided also has been beneficial.
While the coronavirus closing has brought about some disappointments and challenges, Behrends said it’s also given him and other teachers a chance to step back and re-evaluate curriculum.
— Scott Schultz