Middle school students in Fort Bragg, California have been fortunate enough to receive new agriculture classes as part of their available electives. Fresno State graduate and new agriculture teacher, Becca Duran, has used the new program to provide middle school students with agricultural leadership experiences that relate to those of the high school students in the community.
Agriculture programs in middle schools are a relatively new concept and take a different form than their high school counterparts. Students of these “junior” Future Farmer of America (FFA) programs are called Discovery FFA members, and have access to a small selection of the activities offered to high school FFA members.
“It’s a Discovery program, so these students in my ag classes are Discovery FFA members,” Duran said. “My eighth graders are actually the only FFA members because they’re in a full year ag class, which is a requirement, but hopefully, and this is just the first year, but maybe my seventh graders can get in a full year class.”
Fort Bragg decided to extend its high school agriculture program to the middle school level, putting Becca Duran in charge of the whole operation. This new position gave her the freedom to teach middle school students basic agricultural lessons, and expose them to a variety of leadership experiences.
While Discovery FFA members are limited in the activities they can participate in compared to high school FFA members, the experiences these middle school students have access to are just as valuable for their developing minds.
Activities that Discovery FFA members can participate in include leadership activities, such as public speaking teams or conferences, as well as agricultural activities such as a small number of judging teams and the ability to show at county fairs.
“They are welcome to show, and many of them have shown interest to do that now, so we’re going to have an increase of kids that show at our county fair, so that’s really exciting,” Duran said. “They can travel to conferences, like State Conference and National Convention. That probably won’t happen as much this year, as this is our first year, but we’re wanting to do a middle school conference for just them to do.”
As Discovery FFA programs become more common throughout California and the rest of the country, more opportunities for these students will continue to present themselves. For the time being, teachers, such as Duran, will continue to find new ways to engage and challenge their students in preparation for their future as FFA members.