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A Passion for Agricultural Education

Growing up on a dairy operation outside of Osseo, Wisconsin, freshman agricultural education student Kendra Goplin was exposed to agriculture at a very young age. She participated in 4-H, FFA and showed dairy cattle for nine years of her youth, and it was during those years that she discovered her passion for agricultural education. 
Goplin recalls being asked questions about her cattle that made her realize that not everyone understood the agricultural industry like she did.
“I remember someone asking me how long it would take for a steak to grow back after it was harvested from my dairy cow,” said Goplin. “After that conversation, I told myself that I had to do something about the knowledge gap surrounding agriculture.” 
With her mother as her agricultural education teacher, Goplin became a member of the Whitehall FFA Chapter in the seventh grade, and it was in the seventh grade when she started her Supervised Agricultural Experience (SAE) in agricultural education entrepreneurship and placement. In addition to her SAE, Goplin was also involved in quiz bowl, dairy judging, parliamentary procedure, creed speaking, employability skills and discussion meet throughout her middle school and high school FFA career.
An SAE is a work-based learning experience with a connection to the agriculture industry, and to be an FFA member, students are required to have an SAE and be enrolled in agricultural education classes. As students develop and expand their SAE, they can apply for and be recognized with proficiency awards at the state and national levels.
“Proficiency awards recognize students for their time and dedication to hands-on experiences and work-based learning projects outside of the classroom,” said Laura Hasselquist, Assistant Professor of Agricultural Education at SDSU.
Educating Early
Goplin started her SAE with what she called the “Potty Press” where she created informational fact sheets and hung them on the back of bathroom stall doors to teach others in her school about agriculture. She also helped teach agricultural safety to third graders and got involved with her school’s agricultural literacy program. Goplin eventually became the leader of the program and changed it to be held during the school day instead of after school, in order to reach more students.
As a sophomore in high school, she became the youngest person ever appointed as her county’s Farm Bureau Ag in the Classroom Coordinator where she taught fourth and fifth graders about agricultural topics.
“Usually, an adult served in that role,” said Goplin. “Hopefully, we can encourage other state Farm Bureaus to include students in their programs as well.”
Assisting During the Pandemic
At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, agricultural educators had to adapt many of their hands-on classroom activities and transform them into activities that could be done virtually or in a hybrid format. Goplin noticed the stress this was causing her mother and other teachers and wanted to step in and do her part to help.
“Virtual learning was so new, and I knew my mom needed help,” said Goplin. “I started by taking her lesson plan about dairy and reformatted it into a virtual lesson plan. It was very effective because students at home and students in the classroom were all learning and doing the exact same things and no one had to feel left out.”
After witnessing the effectiveness of her lesson plans in her mother’s classes and home FFA chapter, Goplin quickly realized that her plans could be beneficial to other teachers in the area as well.
“I created digital interactive notebooks and sent them out to over 200 ag teachers in Wisconsin for free,” said Goplin. “One teacher told me that I saved her almost three weeks of work.”
A Journey to the National Stage
Between educating her peers and youth in her school and assisting teachers with virtual lesson plans, Goplin logged over 1,000 service hours for her SAE project and was ready to apply for a proficiency award in the summer of 2021.
However, Goplin was no stranger to this process, as she had applied at the state level and received a gold rating as a freshman and was the state runner up in both her sophomore and junior years. As a senior, she placed first in Wisconsin, making her a candidate for the national award. In August of 2021, Goplin was notified that she was one of the top four finalists in the nation, among others from North Carolina, Missouri and Oklahoma. 
“I didn’t let COVID stop me,” said Goplin. “I think that is what set me apart – I still wanted to teach.”
She completed an initial interview with the selection committee via Zoom in September, before stepping onto the stage at the 94th National FFA Convention and Expo in October where she was announced as the national Agricultural Education – Entrepreneurship and Placement Proficiency Award winner. 
“It was a big goal for me,” said Goplin. “I went to my first National FFA Convention in the eighth grade and I told my mom, who was my FFA advisor, that it was a goal of mine to be on the national convention stage, so just being there on stage was a goal checked off for me. When they called my name, I was shocked. It was extra special for me because our state FFA advisor ended up passing away in June of 2021 and he was one of my biggest mentors and supporters – so, I was also on stage for him.”
Even though Goplin achieved her goal of being on the National FFA Convention stage, she doesn’t plan to end her FFA career there. This coming summer, she plans on running for a state officer position in Wisconsin and applying for her American FFA degree, the highest degree achievable in the National FFA Organization, that is given to members to demonstrate the effort applied toward their SAE and to recognize their premier leadership abilities and involvement in their communities throughout their time as FFA members.
Additionally, she plans to apply for another award within the National FFA Organization – the American Star Award. Four American Star Awards are given to members across the U.S. who have mastered skills in production, finance, management and/or research.  
Goplin’s work she put into her SAE project has led her to an internship with Vivayic, a learning design company, where she is working on national agricultural literacy efforts creating educator guides and small agricultural newspapers for children that teachers can purchase to use in their classrooms.
“It is really exciting because the work I am doing now is very similar to the resources I was creating when I was working toward my proficiency award,” said Goplin.
Although she has several years left of her undergraduate career, Goplin looks forward to her career after college when she hopes to continue creating supplemental resources for educators such as lesson plans and agricultural curriculum. 
“Kendra has a passion for educating youth about the agriculture industry, and we are very lucky to have her in our program,” said Hasselquist.
Image for College of Agriculture, Food & Environmental Sciences
Image for Agricultural Education, Communication & Leadership (B.S.) – Agricultural Education Specialization

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