Expanding the Field of Agriculture

By: Greg Tiller

What comes to your mind when someone mentions “Agriculture”? Is it livestock? Is it crops? Is it farmers? Most people would answer with one of those. We even published an article highlighting those aspects last year.  However, a new class is expanding the field of Agricultural Education. This year, the Jenks chapter of the FFA is launching a communications class.

Taylor Tillinghast has been one of three Agriculture Education teachers working here at Jenks. She started two years ago and has taught a variety of classes such as Intro to Ag, Intro to Horticulture, and Greenhouse Management. But this year she’s doing something totally different by teaching the new Agriculture Communications class.

“I felt like students needed to learn how to write press releases and business letters, create resumes, and learn how to talk to people,” Tillinghast said. “Not just within the Agricultural community, but in general.”

Students will be tasked with putting out a monthly newsletter for the FFA program that will highlight the actions and successes of the students involved. Along with the newsletter, students will be involved in taking photos, making videos, and traveling to different Agriculture-based areas in Oklahoma. And for this, the class is receiving brand new equipment, including fourteen new cameras and four desktop Macs.

Not only will this class help you by letting you learn and practice communication skills, but it could also play an important role in helping you graduate. Starting with the freshmen this year, the school will require all students to receive a fine arts credit in order to graduate. For people who have already taken the Intro to Agriculture class, the Agriculture Communications class can count as a fine arts credit.

Taylor Tillinghast and student-teacher Brynn Danker listen to a student’s question.

Eric VanZee an Assistant Principal here at Jenks, is very excited about the addition of this class. He oversees the high school’s Agriculture Education department and his son is also in the program.

“I think any communications class is important,” says VanZee. “Employers are looking for people with the ability to get up and express their thoughts, ideas, and feelings in a coherent, logical manner. People who get their ideas across so that other people can understand.”

Another major aspect of the new class is public speaking. For anyone majorly involved in FFA, giving speeches on Agriculture related issues is something you do often. But for anyone who takes the Agriculture Communications class, public speaking is something this class hopes to help you get used to.

Taylor Tillinghast helps sophomore Quincy Mason with her photo exhibit for the Tulsa State Fair.

“We’ve got a wide range of personalities in the class,” says Tillinghast. “We’ve got kids that are really outgoing versus kids that are really reserved. So the public speaking aspect is probably going to get a few kids.”

So what do students think of this new class? Keaton Cunnigham, a junior, is currently enrolled in the course. Cunningham is also Vice President of the Jenks FFA chapter.

“This class is giving me a lot of the foundation that you can build upon and use in college and your everyday life that I think most people look over nowadays,” Cunningham said. “Things like how to write a professional email, how to write a professional letter, and how to get a letter of recommendation. Those are things that a lot of people don’t think about or just don’t know how to do.”

Even if Agriculture isn’t your thing, there are many ways this class can benefit you and prepare you for life down the road. And if Agriculture is your this, this class can help you dive deeper into that world and even allow you to share your passion with a wider audience. No matter which camp you fall in, this is a class that has a lot of benefits.

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