Thursday, September 27, 2012

Ag. Education at the Clarke-Oconee Cattlemen’s Association Livestock Show


Saturday found me surrounded by chickens, rabbits, goats, lambs, ewes, cattle, and hogs. No, I was not at an exotic petting zoo, but right here in Oconee County. At the invitation of our 4-H and FFA program coordinators, my daughter and I spent Saturday morning at the Clarke-Oconee Cattlemen’s Association Livestock Show. This event, held annually at Heritage Park, provides a great opportunity for the students of Oconee County and surrounding areas to gather hands-on experience in the areas of biology, genetics, and environmental issues through the study of animal life.

Nearly seventy students participated Saturday, but their work and study began long before the day of the show. Through cooperative partnerships with many local livestock producers, large animals such as dairy and beef cattle are loaned to students for the show season, which is approximately six months. Animals immediately become the responsibility of the students and the students must provide daily feeding and care to ensure proper growth and development. Smaller animals, such as chickens and rabbits, are often maintained at some of our local schools through our FFA program coordinators. Yet, the responsibility remains that of our students to ensure the animals are properly cared for and developed. This process is clearly a “learn through doing” model, which research shows has a tremendous impact.

The importance of agribusiness in Oconee County spans hundreds of years. According to the Oconee County Chamber of Commerce website, agricultural pursuits now result in a total economic impact of $67 million annually. These businesses and families span many areas and have deep ties in our community. Thus, the tradition of agriculture is rich, lasting, and important as it remains a leading industry in our county and state.

Oconee County Schools recognizes the impact of hands-on learning and the demand for agribusiness education in our schools. Through our Career Technology and Agricultural Education program, known as CTAE, we offer agribusiness classes in both our middle schools and agricultural pathways of study in both high schools. These classes see students develop skills in many areas of agribusiness and expose them to a variety of related occupations. Partnerships with the University of Georgia, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and a variety of local business owners further enhance these educational opportunities.

As the state of Georgia continues to develop career pathways and our focus becomes that of preparing students for college and career readiness, the importance of programs in CTAE are highlighted. Currently, nearly 70 percent of our students are enrolled in a CTAE program of study. Between our two high schools, we offer pathways in agriculture, architecture, broadcast video, business and computer science, early childhood education, family and consumer sciences, graphic design, healthcare science technology, and marketing education. For a school system our size, the number of offerings for our students is exceptional and the opportunities vast.

What are your thoughts about CTAE programs? What programs would you like to see expanded or created? I look forward to reading your comments at jbranch@oconeeschools.org.

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