The great outdoor learning experience
The earliest schools in America date back to the early 1600s.
Schools and curriculum have come a long way since that time. Simple writing and arithmetic has blossomed into essay competitions and advanced forms of math like calculus and number theory.
Other than some sports programs like baseball and football schooling has been taught inside a building mainly until an idea of having vocational agriculture courses came into play.
This movement to include agriculture courses paved the way for young students to take part in the great outdoor learning experience.
In 1917 the Smith-Hughes National Vocational Education Act (both Smith and Hughes were Georgia Congressmen) established vocational agriculture courses.
In 1925 the Virginia Tech agricultural education teachers organized the Future Farmers of Virginia for boys in agriculture classes.
The Future Farmers of Virginia would later serve as the model for the Future Farmers of America.
The National FFA Organization, originally called the Future Farmers of America, was founded in 1928 as a national organization for boys in rural, farming communities.
Its original purpose, the education of youth in agricultural fields of study, is still recognized through its current programs.
Today, the mission of the National FFA Organization is to make a positive difference in the lives of students by developing their potential for premier leadership, personal growth, and career success through agricultural education.
Through educational programs the FFA teaches students how to become active in their communities and successful in their occupation.
There’s more to FFA than just farming. FFA classes touch on a broad spectrum of courses such as welding and fabrication, land judging, community involvement, animal showcases and trap shooting.
There are also councils within the school, state and national stages.
Welding can be traced back to 310 AD and is an essential trade to have for those willing to learn.
Land judging is where members of land evaluation teams judge sites based on characteristics of the soil and observations of landscape conditions, then recommend land treatments considering factors such as soil characteristics, vegetative conditions and planned use for the site.
Animal showcases range from showing rabbits and hens to cattle and pigs. Members have an opportunity to auction off the animals they have possibly raised since birth.
The motto of FFA is Learning to Do, Doing to Learn, Earning to Live and Living to Serve. FFA members rise to the challenge of service embracing members of all walks of life united through FFA.
Members are challenged to be direct, in-direct or advocate for the community.
Direct approaches would be to serve homeless people food or teach low income families how to garden.
The in-direct approach would be like holding a canned food drive or developing school gardens who will donate their harvests to an organization who will deliver them to home-bound seniors.
Advocating is hosting an Ag day to teach people where their food comes from or working with city councils to change laws to accommodate certain animals within city limits.
Trap shooting has really taken off in Cass County the past few years.
Trap shooting helps with fast hand-eye coordination needed to hit moving targets such as clay birds, which could translate well into the hunting of a moving target in the woods during hunting season.
In trap shooting, the clay birds—bright orange discs about the size of your palm—are launched away from the shooter from a small block house at the center of the field. There are five positions in an arc from one side of the house to the other, and the shooter takes five shots from each position for a total of 25 shots. The shooter does not know in which direction each bird will be launched, and there is a good degree of unpredictability.
All of these things listed can lead to other possibilities in the lifetime of FFA members.
Another class that can be indoor or outdoor that has taken the area by storm recently is bow hunting.
As of now bow hunting is taught at Queen City ISD and Atlanta ISD in Cass County, but is separate from FFA.
Bow hunting and bow fishing take an incredible amount of precision and accuracy, but once mastered the hunter becomes a top notch predator.
Just this past school year Queen City ISD adopted the brain child of Queen City High School Principal Mike Dillinger and Texarkana Fire Captain Michael Benson by allowing students at the middle and high school levels to make up a bass fishing team.
When asked how the bass fishing program was received by students and parents, Dillinger had this to say.
“The Queen City Bass Fishing Association has been well received by students, parents, and community members alike. The support for the program has been great. Many community members have made the comment, ‘I wish that there was something like this when I was in school’. The sponsors that choose to support the QC BFA are greatly appreciated.”
Dillinger has also seen a spike in interests concerning the club.
“The participation has steadily increased from 20 students in February to more than 40 students in October,” Dillinger stated. “Each month the QC BFA chooses a lake to fish. There are anywhere from seven to 17 boats with two student anglers per boat fishing in these events.”
“The interest in the QC BFA has continued to grow in the nine months that the organization has been functioning. Any QC ISD student in grades 5-12 is eligible to join the organization. Each student is required to join the Student Angler Federation (SAF),” Dillinger continued. “These students are eligible to fish in any of the local QC BFA events free of charge all year long. These students are also eligible to fish in the SAF Open Tournaments and the SAF Texas State Tournament free of charge. There are several QC BFA students that participate in other various fishing tournaments such as the Weekender High School Fishing Tournaments.”
Dillinger pointed out the benefits taught through QC BFA and what it promotes.
“This is an after school student organization that promotes school pride, sportsmanship, stewardship of the environment, academics and good citizenship,” Dillinger remarked. “We want to teach our students to encourage and help each other in the sport and also in life. QC BFA is a student organization that will instill the skill of fishing to the youth of Queen City ISD. Fishing is a life-long activity that people can participate in regardless of age or ability.”
Bass fishing, along with hunting and farming, is huge in the state of Texas.
The bass fishing program is very popular. In just the first tournament the school was able to enter, two students brought in enough points to make the national fishing tournament in Alabama.
Outdoor programs such as these teach students about the environment, how to be responsible and independent while outdoors in certain situations and helps teach life lessons one may use for a lifetime.