The three circle model of Agricultural Education has become a model of excellence that other areas of education are looking to for future growth. Those three circles represent classroom/lab instruction, the National FFA Organization, and Supervised Agricultural Experience (SAE). Through this comprehensive approach, students are able to gain a variety of skills that will help them in future careers. What does all of this look like at Olympia High School?
The ag classroom has always been a great place to learn about ag science, business, horticulture (dual credit through Heartland Community College), ag mechanics and leadership. Recent upgrades to the classroom include a laptop cart so that each student has a computer to use for research, recording data, and producing reports. The Olympia Ag shop has also seen upgrades as eight welding stations have been added. Now 10 students can work on their welding skills at any given time. The new drone project is due to be in the ag shop by April 2018. Students will have the opportunity to learn about the latest in ag technology with a hands-on approach. There is also the greenhouse and land lab (12.5 acres) on campus that offer even more hands-on experience in plant science. These areas not only allow for great skill development and research, but also provide fundraising opportunities for the ag program through the spring plant sale and crop sales in the fall. The ag department has also used the ag shop and greenhouse to raise rabbits and chickens. A future goal is to have a more permanent animal facility. The Olympia Ag program has qualified for more than $30,000 in grants over the past three years alone. These exciting new opportunities would not be possible without the support of our community. The following organizations and businesses have been directly responsible for these grants: IL State Board of Education (Ag Ed Line Item), Monsanto, Olympia FFA Alumni, McLean County Farm Bureau, Olympia Foundation for Education and many others.
Circle number two is the National FFA Organization. The 100 members of the Olympia FFA Chapter are striving to reach the mission of premier leadership, personal growth and career success through agricultural education on a daily basis. The opportunities for leadership development through FFA are incredible. Students are able to attend local, state, and national conferences and conventions where leadership, teamwork, and community service are a priority. These students are able to demonstrate the skills that they have learned in the classroom or in the lab at many career development events sponsored by the FFA. Olympia members compete in public speaking, horse and livestock judging, horticulture, and parliamentary procedure just to name a few. They have competed at the section, district, state and even national levels. Members earn various degrees including the prestigious State FFA Degree. At the local level FFA members are dedicated to serving the community in a number of ways from working at local food banks to raising money for disaster relief. Finally, with the help of our local Olympia FFA Alumni, students earn scholarships to help pay for college. This year the alumni will award about $5,000 to OHS FFA seniors.
SAE is the final circle in the model. The experiential learning that happens through a well planned SAE is priceless. Olympia ag students participate in many different types of programs. Some are like State Winner, Josh Kindred, who owns and operates his own business selling hunting blinds, tree stands, and other hunting equipment. Others have gone the more traditional route and work on family farms growing crops and raising and showing livestock. Still others have obtained jobs and internships within the ag industry that will help them gain valuable career skills. The Olympia ag program has recently started its own internship program that includes greenhouse managers, FFA plot managers, marketing/media specialists, and small animal care specialists. Students are working on school based projects and jobs. This real-world experience will set these students apart from their peers.
Olympia Ag students are truly living the FFA motto: Learning to do, Doing to learn, Earning to live, Living to serve. Growing leaders is the business of agricultural education. If you are a student and would like to be a part of this outstanding program see your school counselor to sign up for an ag class. A final thank you is in order for our great community support! Without the support of school administration, our school board, parents, alumni, farmers, businesses and other individuals the Olympia Ag Ed program would not be able to find success.