Bruning, Nebraska, school boosts ag education in farm country

Farm Forum

BRUNING, Neb. (AP) – The hallway leading into Siera Meyer’s classroom at the high school here is covered with posters depicting different aspects of agronomy and animal anatomy.

The posters represent the work that the seven Bruning-Davenport students have put into the district’s fledgling FFA and agriculture education programs. It is the first FFA program in Thayer County.

The Hastings Tribune reports that in a community that includes the headquarters for Norder Supply as well as many other agribusinesses, Superintendent Trudy Clark had been fielding questions about why the district didn’t already have a strong ag-based program.

Bruning-Davenport introduced ag education last year with a single course. When that teacher left the district, administrators sought out a teacher who could offer a wide range of ag courses and begin an FFA program.

They hired Meyer, a Blue Hill native who graduated from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with an ag education degree in May 2012. Her first two years of college were spent at the Nebraska College of Technical Agriculture in Curtis.

“It’s been extremely exciting,” Meyer said. “Agriculture is a huge part of our state, and I’ve enjoyed getting to grow as a teacher and grow the program.”

The district offers a wood shop class for seventh-graders; introduction to agriculture class for eighth-graders; and animal science, natural resources and welding classes for older high school students.

For the seven students in her high school classes, what they are learning at school is an extension of what they’re learning at home and what most of them plan to do as a career.

“I thought it was good because we’re all agriculture kids and we grew up on the farm,” said sophomore Gabrielle Joe of rural Bruning. “It’s going to be useful.”

“It’s something else we could relate to in school,” sophomore Kamron Ficken of rural Davenport added.

Joe, who has shown horses, cattle, chicken and sheep in 4-H competitions at the Thayer County Fair, said she is excited about how her involvement in the district’s agriculture program will improve her future performances at the fair.

In addition to studying for the statewide Leadership Skills Events competition in December and Career Development Events competition earlier this month, the students took on several ag projects throughout the school year.

Ficken is proud of the metal flower sculptures he created using horse shoes during welding class. Joe was able to learn more about the anatomy of a horse after building a skeleton using elbow macaroni.

The agriculture students played host to a barnyard day in March, during which they brought in a calf, rabbit, ponies and dogs to teach elementary students about animals.

“So then the kids were able to teach them about what we learned in animal science and had some animals there for the younger kids to interact with,” Meyer said.

Joe remembered telling the elementary students that a cow has four stomachs.

“They thought that was kind of weird, but it might stick with them because it’s an interesting fact,” she said.

The students learned about the new course offerings when they enrolled last spring.

“We were really excited that we got to actually learn about farming and agriculture at school instead of just learning about it on your own at home or work,” said senior Matthew Stengel of rural Carleton.

Stengel is president of the B-D FFA chapter. He plans to attend the Nebraska College of Technical Agriculture and major in agriculture production before returning to the farm. He is optimistic about the prospects for ag education at Bruning-Davenport.

“There’s a lot of support,” he said. “Just about everyone in town is in some way connected to agriculture. I know every person here who is connected to agriculture wants their kid to be involved with it.”

Tyler Anderson, Talmadge Krupicka, Colton Lowery and Grant Norder are the other B-D students involved in the agriculture program.

Just last week the district’s FFA program played host to its annual banquet in Bruning. More than 50 people attended the event, including families who don’t currently participate but are interested in having their children get involved in FFA and agriculture education.

“I’m hoping in the next couple years a lot more kids take agricultural classes and we get a lot more kids in FFA,” Ficken said. “Just by us having FFA and people being in it, more people will want to be involved.”

Although students must take ag classes to participate in FFA, Meyer pointed out that with the leadership components of the organization a student doesn’t need to come from the farm or be directly involved in agriculture to participate.”

There’s something for everybody in our organization,” she said.

With just seven students, Bruning-Davenport’s agriculture program might be small, she said, but it is becoming mighty.

“When I came, I had a group of seven kids who were excited about FFA and the ag program, not knowing a whole lot,” she said. “I’ve watched them grow as students over the past year. I’ve watched their excitement grow as they learn about all the opportunities. I heard, ‘Next year I want to do this, next year I plan to do this.’ As a teacher it makes me proud that they are so enthusiastic about next year. They want to grow with the program.”