SAE Ideas for Uninspired Students and Their Ag Teachers

August 04, 2015

"But I can't think of anything to do for my SAE."  I am sure you've never heard that before.  When you start wracking your brain for ideas the first thing to remember is that these students need Experience.  They don't always need the ultimate project to propel them to the stratosphere and not all SAE's have to be proficiency winners.  Most likely they need to improve their jobs skills, people skills, and acquire some personal growth.  Knowing that, now go look at your livestock area, greenhouse, shop, or lab area.  How often do you have time to clean it?  When's the last time all the drawers or bins were organized and labeled?  Do you really have time to keep up with all the supplies and order them?  When it comes down to day to day management, the work in these areas you need to complete can really be handled by your students for their SAE.  Here are some examples:

Barn manager - keeps up with the feeding schedule, feed levels, fencing, farm supplies, creates orders for you to submit as a purchase order, stall configuration, grazing rotation, keeps up with all the tools, services the equipment or schedules it for repair and many other activities that any barn manager at a riding arena, university farm, or major production farm would do. 

Greenhouse manager - keeps up the watering schedule, arranges plants by type and sun/shade requirements based on time of year, keeps supplies organized, plans semester use of the house and supply needs, creates supply orders for you to submit, organizes and inspects tools, and cleans.  You can even have them run the plant sale or have that as a second SAE.  Prepares house for weekly use.

Shop manager & Lab Manager too, but you get the idea.  Have you always wanted to do some unique projects with your classes but don't have the spare time to get them going?  Sounds like you need a student manager to help.  Here are some examples of what you can expand your program to include:

  • Beekeeping
  • Aquaculture tanks
  • Sod farm
  • Plant nursery
  • Farm plots
  • School forest
  • Roadkill lab - I know one Ag teacher who even has a student run the roadkill lab.  As they find roadkill wildlife, students bring in viable specimens for processing.  Generally they keep the pelts and the skulls for use in their wildlife management class.  But the Ag teacher needs someone to keep up with what comes in, what is being processed, and organizing the finished pieces.
If you have multiple greenhouses, labs, shops, or any combination you can even have a facilities manager.  This is preferably an upperclassmen who has worked in one or more of these areas and is mature enough to manage younger students as well as oversee this group of facilities.

Now here's the key.  You have to grow as a teacher and hand over some control to the students, so both the student and you can grow.  As an Ag teacher it's time to take over the supervisory role and allow the students to do the work.  However, the student must learn to do the work to the correct standard of cleanliness, organization, or safety.  That's all a part of learning to have a job where someone else makes the rules.  In addition, this work is for after school hours and not during the class day.  The students still have their school responsibilities and SAE work is for after the school day. 

As a part of the Ag teacher supervisory role you'll need to:

  • Learn to communicate what needs to be completed and when 
  • Decide the level of organization you want for the area
  • How often the student worker should check in and update you on the project
  • Remember to review their work and make sure it is appropriate.  "Inspect what you expect"
  • Take on a mentoring role and guide them 
  • Provide constructive criticism they might not receive at the first job

You really have a tremendous opportunity to help your students grow while improving the learning environment for the whole chapter.  Expand your reach as an Ag teacher while expanding the skills of your students.  Hopefully, this solution will take some work off of your plate and allow your chapter to reach the level of success you want to achieve.

We need your feedback! What did we miss or need to include on this blog?  Tell us because this blog is all about improving your job as an Ag teacher however possible and your experiences makes us all better.  We'd love to see your results. Post some pictures on how yours turned out on Pinterest and Twitter. Send us your Twitter and Pinterest handles and we'll be glad to follow. You can also contact me at

Good luck!

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