Badger Agriculture Program Named Top in Nation

Badger Agriculture Program Named Top in Nation
Posted on 08/24/2020
Badger Agriculture Program Named Top in Nation

The already highly acclaimed Agriscience program at Badger High School has now been recognized as one of the best in the nation as they were named the Outstanding Secondary Agriculture Education program by the National Association of Agriculture Educators (NAAE) for Region III which encompasses the states of Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Nebraska.  A goal of NAAE is to promote outstanding programs in agricultural education and effectively communicate success stories naming programs in each of six national regions.

After being nominated by their peers in the Wisconsin Association of Agriculture Educators (WAAE), Badger Agriscience instructors Larry Plapp and Candice Franks completed a lengthy application process documenting and providing artifacts to support the standards and quality of the program they teach which encompasses all aspects of agriculture: animals, plants/greenhouse/urban agriculture, environmental science, food science, biotechnology and veterinary science. Offering 17 different courses, their program also includes internships, seven courses that offer extended science credit and four transcripted college credit classes with Gateway Technical College and Blackhawk Technical College, as well as an active and large FFA chapter.

 Reviewers looked at the overview of the program, teaching philosophies, commitment for Supervised Agriculture Experience, FFA program and Awards, professional development in the industry and serving on committees in the community and state, partnering with business/industry.

 Plapp and Franks, both previously honored as NAAE Educators of the Year, say they are humbled to have the Badger Agriscience program receive this prestigious award. “Showing our program is above and beyond a traditional program is very humbling as ag educators,” stated Franks. “That being said, this award would be nothing without our students, parents, school board, administration, and community who have backed us for years.”

 Factors which Franks believes influenced Badger’s selection included Badger’s outstanding facilities, curriculum accomplishments, community service including greenhouse produce production for food pantries and the school lunch program, evidence of a strong FFA and strong ties to community and business partners. 

 “The Badger Agriculture Department was one of the first 5 schools in the state to have curriculum crosswalked with science, so students taking selected agricultural classes could also receive science credit,” said Plapp.  “This allows students alternative ways to achieve science credit through our animal, plant, and food science classes.” This type of innovation and forward thinking puts Badger’s program at the forefront.

 Program growth is also evidence of the quality of the agriscience department at Badger. When Plapp first came to Badger 28 years ago, the FFA chapter had just 30 members. FFA membership now averages near 100 students. The integration of technology into agriscience education is also a factor in Badger’s program strength. From offering state-of-the-art lab opportunities to 1:1 technology for students, Badger agriscience students leave the program with hands-on experiences that have been identified as valuable to local and national employers. In addition, students have opportunities to earn college credit toward 2-year and 4-year college degrees. 

 And while technology is important, Plapp and Franks still keep classes educationally grounded to be sure students are able to problem-solve and work in teams, employability skills that have been identified as essential to future success.

 Both Franks and Plapp have been active in professional development. Both are very involved in WAAE. Franks has frequently provided new teacher development and Plapp has served on the WAAE Board of Directors. They regularly present workshops and bring in new ideas to their peers as well as sharing their successes and expertise with educators, locally and nationally.

 And though it seems the program may have reached its peak, Franks said they will continue their commitment to work with industry leaders to keep the Badger program current in replicating what is happening in careers.

 Badger Principal Jenny Straus tauts Plapp and Franks as having created one of the finest Agricultural Science programs she has ever seen. “They have made an enormous difference in the lives of our students,” she said. In her letter of support of the application she stated, “Their desire for experiential learning makes their classrooms exciting places for students to learn and grow.”

 The award was to be officially presented in Nashville in December but the conference has been moved to a virtual environment.

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