Fish Sticks and Concrete: An Update from the Ag Shop

I’ve discovered that even though I can stay engaged at an all-day seminar full of talking and presentations as long as I have a notebook and pen, I hate teaching like that. I just don’t like talking all day. I’ve had a few days where I talk in all four of my morning classes, and I’m zapped by noon. So I’ve started planning better so I do less of that.

This morning, after presentations given by the high school students, I was asking how things went for them. As they were discussing, I gathered they did not enjoy presenting. One student asked, “How do you teach? How do you stand up there all the time?”

I appreciated the question and was, in a way, touched the student asked me. I thought, “I have no idea some days.” 

What I said was, “A lot of practice. I’ve presented a lot and worked with students before.”

The nice thing about teaching agriculture is that the majority of my students would much rather work on hands-on projects than sit and listen to a lecture or experience what is commonly called “Death by PowerPoint.” Agriculture classes give them a chance to get up and moving during the school day.


Currently, there are a couple of big projects going on in the ag shop. First, as part of an aquaponics experiment, we procured a fish tank (a.k.a a broken plastic cattle tank), using a 55-gallon drum filled with sand and gravel for a filter.


The fish, tilapia, came in not too long ago.

The kids love them. They have named them and check on them every day to make sure they are still alive.

And I don’t know if this is a “You know you’re an ag teacher when” moment or simply a sign of a macabre sense of humor, but on Sunday morning, I came in to feed the fish. (Usually, I do this on Saturdays, but I had been pretty zapped this time.) Then, we met family for lunch at Applebee’s. I couldn’t think of what in the world I wanted to eat.

Then, on the menu, I saw “Blackened Grilled Tilapia.”

And all of a sudden, I didn’t want anything else.

Tonight, I’m eating fish sticks.

But I digress.

The other project involves the eighth graders making concrete patio blocks. The students all have been very enthusiastic on this project.

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We made the box molds first, which was great because they practiced their woodworking skills. The next day, we mixed the concrete. It was an extremely hectic couple of days with questions coming from every which way and concrete mixes to check on, but they also were rewarding days as everyone is excited about having a project they can take home. They were pretty proud of the blocks, too. We’ll paint on Monday.

So there’s an update from the shop. In the classroom, we are working on marketing projects with the animal science students pretending that they will be going on Shark Tank and making a sales pitch. We did this already in horticulture, where, after much initial complaining, the students really dived into the project (one of the greatest complainers turned out to be one of the most enthusiastic workers).

It’s been interesting to learn about my teaching style, as it’s so different from my learning style when I was a student. It has been a lot of fun, though, and I enjoy seeing the students have fun and come alive with what they are doing.

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