Ag.-Ed. students demonstrate special project knowledge

By Steve Smith - Staff Writer
Vernon - posted Thu., Feb. 7, 2013
RHS junior Dan Dzen explains how tying branches together helps a tree grow straighter to Ag.-Ed. teacher Tera Harlow at the RHS Agriscience Department's SAEP fair on Feb 6.
RHS junior Dan Dzen explains how tying branches together helps a tree grow straighter to Ag.-Ed. teacher Tera Harlow at the RHS Agriscience Department's SAEP fair on Feb 6.

Students in Rockville High School's Agricultural Department had the chance to show off their knowledge at the Supervised Agricultural Experience Education Program (SAEP) fair on Feb. 6. Sophomores, juniors and seniors in the program had to create a tri-fold display and then demonstrate a task or skill that has to do with their out-of-school study.

“What we did was have them pick a skill that they could demonstrate or teach to somebody else,” said Ag.-Ed. Department Chair Karen Fitzpatrick.

The students had several work days during school to work on their presentations with their faculty advisors, and were graded on several aspects of what they presented in the cafeteria, including their public speaking. Among the approximately 50 projects were landscaping, plant-growing and animal care demonstrations, including alpaca-shearing, chick-rearing and a how-to on creating agricultural PowerPoint presentations.

Senior Olivia Francoline performed water testing demonstrations, which she routinely does in her aquaculture project. People guided by Francoline were asked to fill a test tube with a specific amount of water, add 10 drops of a chemical, and then compare the color to a chart, in order to determine the acidity levels.

“It's closest to 7.4, which means it’s perfect, because the right pH is between 7 and 8,” she said, “so, that tank water would be perfect for fish.” Francoline said she tests the water in the schools' tanks about once per week. “Just to make sure the tanks have fresh enough waters for the fish to live in,” she said, adding that the many varieties of aquatic life at the school (including tilapia, oscars, angelfish, fresh-water sharks, piranha and a blue lobster) generally require the same pH level.

Senior Jessica Petrius, who works at a cat shelter, demonstrated the proper method to pick up a cat, which she said surprisingly few people know how to do. “Some people think that scruffing a cat is an okay way to pick them up, but it's not,” she said. “It's okay when they are kittens because they are small and they don't weigh as much, but when they are bigger, their weight pulls on them the wrong way and hurts them.”

Junior Taylor Lajeunesse works at a veterinary clinic and demonstrated how to collect a fecal sample, as well as how to remove latex gloves. Connor Albaugh showed how to notch a tree – which determines the direction it will fall when cut down. Senior Paul Andrulot demonstrated how to use hydrostatic pressure to move water from one container to another.

Dan Dzen showed how tying a primary and secondary leader branch on the top of a pine tree makes the tree grow straighter and faster. “It trains the primary leader to grow straight up and down,” he said. “The branches will also compete against each other, so they grow faster to reach the sunlight as fast as possible.”

Simultaneously with the SAEP fair, the Ag.-Ed. department was also holding a cake, pie and fruit fundraising auction, for which many students provided creatively-decorated desserts.

Freshmen in the program received their "FFA Green Hand Degrees" at a ceremony after the fair. The degrees are given to students who demonstrate their knowledge about the FFA's history and code of ethics.

Fitzpatrick said the SAEP fair is a big test of the students' knowledge, but also of how they represent themselves, and the agriculture teachers have a four-page rubric on how to grade the projects. “They get graded on the physical part of their presentation, but also their attitude, behavior and ability to answer questions,” she said. “Part of what we teach is leadership and public speaking, as well as content knowledge.”

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