December 19, 2018
By Debra Davis
From left are Drew Middle School students Olivia Jones, Mallory Tigue, Payden Hopson and Gracelyn Tidwell, winners of the Purple Plow Contest sponsored by the American Farm Bureau Foundation for Agriculture.
A team of Alabama middle school students is one of four national winners in an American Farm Bureau Foundation for Agriculture contest that engages students in creating solutions for real-world agricultural issues.
Four seventh-graders in Hannah McBurnett’s agriscience class at Drew Middle School won the Purple Plow Contest. The STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) challenge ran from Aug. 15 to Nov.1 and provided curriculum to students and teachers.
Olivia Jones, Mallory Tigue, Payden Hopson and Gracelyn Tidwell built a 3-D model of a cattle ranch to address production, environmental, economical and societal needs. As national winners, they received a 3-D printer and a $100 gift card for classroom use.
“My students love the opportunity to physically create things and animals,” said McBurnett, who learned of the contest through an American Farm Bureau Federation Twitter post. “I knew this competition would allow my students to shine by having them create projects based on their interests.”
McBurnett said programs like Purple Plow help prepare students for future jobs through technology and collaboration. Students created digital model drawings and followed the engineering design process to create and improve their farm.
“These real-world concepts can only be taught as students experience them through real-world, project-based learning,” McBurnett said. “I want my students, even though they are in the seventh grade, to learn skills they’ll need to be successful in the workforce.”
All of McBurnett’s 122 students participated in the contest — about 30 groups with four or five students each. The project helped students learn collaboration, communication and cooperation, McBurnett said. They created drawings and 3-D farm models, produced a grazing and health plan, and made presentations about their work.
Students created special features for their farms such as compost areas, silos, solar-powered lights and windmills. McBurnett chose the top five groups from her class to enter the national contest.
“As an educator, it was helpful to have ideas and lessons to teach about beef cattle in a fun, interactive way,” she said. “I love agriculture and learned so much about it during my educational career at Auburn University. Using innovative ways to teach students about agriculture made it easier for me to share information. If making model farms from recycled materials makes beef production more memorable and interesting for them, then I feel like the project was a success.”
Visit PurplePlow.org for more information on Purple Plow Challenges and other free resources. Follow along on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook @ThePurplePlow.