Emily Blevins joined the FFA and started taking agriculture classes at Seaman High School in Topeka, KS, as a freshman. She thought it would be fun, but never expected it to have such a big impact on her life. The introduction of the student-run chicken coop has only magnified that impact on her and other students.
Emily’s teacher, Megan VanGordon, wanted her students to get more first-hand experience with animals. That’s why she proposed the class build a chicken coop. The coop would be entirely student operated. VanGordon hoped it would be a way to make kids who haven’t necessarily grown up around these animals fall in love with agriculture. For Emily and many other students, it has done exactly that.
Emily says that she gets to care for the chickens on a daily basis. She and the other students are responsible for feeding them, tending to the coop, and they even have to vet the chickens if any fall ill. They’re getting exactly the type of hands-on experience that their teacher, Mrs. VanGordon, thought would be so beneficial.
Now that Emily is close to graduating, she’s made it clear that she wants to do something involving agriculture. Many of her classmates feel similarly. Emily says, “It kind of turned my whole world upside down — in a good way.”
Seaman High School FFA
The FFA program at Seaman High School provides a hands on experience that not every school can provide. They built a chicken coop on the school grounds. The idea came into being from the school’s FFA Instructor, Megan VanGordon. She’s passionate about agriculture and her students, and wants her students to understand how agriculture impacts their lives. She says, “It’s a huge passion and drive of mine for me to teach kids where their food comes from.” The chicken coop provides some of that first-hand knowledge.
Megan had another motive behind building the coop. She calls it a way of tricking her students into falling in love with agriculture. Her students are entirely responsible for it — they’re feeding and caring for the chickens. One of her students, Emily, even says they had to figure out how to make the watering system in the coop work themselves. Megan is proud to see the coop fuel a passion for agriculture among her students. It’s also helping them get more students involved in the school.
Before the coop’s construction, Megan reached out to the school’s special education teacher, Raquel Carlson. Megan had an idea to get the school’s special education program, the Viking Warriors, involved with the coop. She wants the coop to be a place where her FFA members can teach the Viking Warrior students, and it’s become just that. The Viking Warriors come out to the coop and learn how to feed and care for the birds, and the FFA members get a chance to interact with peers that they wouldn’t normally see in class. It’s become a learning experience for both groups of students, and a successful experience for both.
The chicken coop has been a huge success, and now more classes are reaching out to collaborate. Megan says, “We even have a creative writing class who wants to go out there one day and write a creative writing story about the chickens.” It’s been great to see how much of an impact the chickens have had on the school, and how supportive the school has been as a whole. Clearly a lot more classes will be held in the coop.
Crystal and The Chickens
Eggs are the obvious benefit of a chicken coop. There are also a lot of intangible things that Crystal, a blind student with Seaman High School’s Viking Warrior program, gets from the coop. It brings her a way to get to know her classmates. And it helps prepare her for a world after high school.
Seaman High School’s Viking Warrior program is made up of students, like Crystal, who need a specialized learning environment. Raquel Carlson, the special education teacher who heads up the Viking Warrior program, has a goal of making her students feel like they’re contributing to the community during high school and beyond. Unfortunately, the nature of their classes means that they don’t have as many opportunities to interact with other school students. Then Megan VanGordon, the school’s FFA Instructor, invited Raquel to get her class involved with the chicken coop that her FFA students were building.
Raquel loved the invitation. She saw it as an opportunity to get Crystal and the other Viking Warrior students more involved with their classmates. That idea was confirmed after the coop was completed and she got see her Viking Warrior students interact with their FFA peers and with the chickens. She says that Crystal and the other Viking Warriors were nervous at first, but they learned quickly from the FFA students. Crystal and the rest of Raquel’s class were opening up, and they were interacting with the birds and their fellow students. When asked about Crystal, one of the FFA members, Emily, says “Seeing how much she enjoyed it, I realized that it was all worth it.”
Learn more about the FFA coop at Seaman High School