Agriculture has been a formal class taught in high school classrooms across America since the Smith Hughes Act of 1917. The National FFA Organization was born in 1928 due to the act’s requirement for a Career Technical Student Organization (CTSO) as part of the curriculum. In 1988, middle school FFA chapters were established.
Now, schools across the country are shifting their focus to making school more real and applicable with career and technical education-based courses – something the National FFA Organization has been doing for years.
FFA prepares students to pursue careers in all areas of agriculture, including science, technology, and business. Through the three-ring model of agricultural education, students learn through classroom or laboratory instruction, a supervised agricultural experience, and career or leadership development events.
The middle school model of FFA programs provides the benefit of a jumpstart for students in a unique phase of growth and development and a boost for programs that may benefit from stronger member retention and numbers.
Here are nine reasons middle school FFA may be a good choice for your school and students:
- Agriscience programs provide hands-on, experiential learning opportunities for students that make science more real, setting them up for a more robust understanding of sciences as they move into high school programs.
- CTE-directed classes provide personalized learning opportunities for students to explore careers in agriculture, preparing them for a more directed course load in high school.
- Middle school FFA students get a jump start figuring out what contests excite them. Middle school members can compete in various contests such as CREED, illustrated talk, quiz, judging, and more.
- Involvement in middle school FFA boosts student experience in math. Middle school students complete digital record books, including journal keeping and creating and managing budgets. Some contests, such as horticulture production, have specialized math sections for students to complete during competition.
- Middle school contests and FFA membership push students to improve their public speaking skills. While some contests are modified for middle school, middle schoolers’ oral reasons are judged similarly to high school oral reasons.
- Students in middle school programs are exposed to more leadership opportunities. With club meetings, record books, coursework, and contests, middle school students can significantly improve their leadership skills before entering high school.
- Part of membership in FFA is community service. Students in middle school FFA programs learn about civic engagement and giving back to their communities sooner.
- Middle school programs boost FFA membership. With more students actively involved in FFA, schools that incorporate middle schoolers into high school membership will boost students. Schools with separate middle and high school chapters should see involvement continue from middle school to high school from interested students.
- Middle school FFA gives students and programs a boost in the potential for students with American degrees. The American FFA Degree is the highest degree achievable in the National FFA Organization, showing a member’s dedication to their chapter, state association, community, SAE project, and FFA career. Because the American FFA Degree requires a combination of money earned, invested, or hours (up to 10,000), a jumpstart in middle school can help students to achieve this prestigious award.
If your school or student has an opportunity to participate in middle school FFA programs, the coursework and involvement could be just the ticket to boost a successful FFA career. Whether at the middle or high school level, FFA members are becoming the leaders of tomorrow. Programs increase retention and provide an inclusive environment to learn, develop critical skills, and become a more substantial part of the community.
Heidi Crnkovic, is the Associate Editor for AGDAILY. She is a New Mexico native with deep-seated roots in the Southwest and a passion for all things agriculture.