Basic Ag Mechanics Skills that Middle Schoolers Should Know

September 14, 2015

As teachers we seem to be in a hurry to get to the fun stuff with our students.  Often, the fun stuff requires a lot of prep work, costs money, and devotes a lot of our attention for a single lesson.  Remember we aren't producing master welders or foresters.  We are producing educated students who have an understanding of the basic components of agriculture related subjects.  To prepare middle school students for the rigors of high school, they should get their hands on basic tools and have a lot of trial and error.  Bent nails and split boards can provide teachable moments that you can not generate from a PowerPoint or video.  Devote time to hands-on skills that your students should know, but likely won't get outside your classroom.  Here is a list of simple Ag Mechanics skills that you can cover.

Properly hammering a nail -- several hammers, scrap lumber, and a box of nails will take you a long way.  You can cover:
        1. Nail size and how that changes with the size of the wood (lumber versus trim). 
        2. Why did my wood split?!
        3. How to control bouncing wood when nailing
        4. How to properly pry a bent nail from wood

              Drilling and fasteners -- rechargeable drills, wood screws, and scrap wood will frustrate them for hours.

                1. Stripping screw heads
                2. When to pre-drill holes
                3. How drill all the way through lumber without tearing wood on the bottom
                4. When is a screw too long or too short
                5. Screws and sheetrock

                  Finishing wood -- have students construct a scrap wood farm tractor and then finish it off

                    1. Sanding - grits, when to sand and when to saw
                    2. Painting - what causes runs, drips, and errors
                    3. Staining - stains don't get on just the wood, patience, and how many coats?
                    4. Filling holes - wood putty, wood filler, and dowels/pegs

                       Electrical wiring -- it's harder for middle schoolers than you think

                        1. stripping wire - proper removal, what happens when you remove too much, and tool use
                        2. bending wire - which direction?, tool use, and practice
                        3. securing terminals

                          Starting a small engine -- they don't always start on the first 5 tries.  What do you do then?

                            1. proper technique
                            2. regular maintenance - strings/blades/chains, fuel level, oil level, and air pressure
                            3. It won't start?  Usually because of two main problems: fuel or fire (ignition).  Go through each system from start to finish to discover the problem
                            4. Safety - moving parts, safety equipment, proper clothing, and chemical/fuel dangers

                              I chose 5 basic Ag Mechanics activities that your students not only should see but also practice, practice, practice.  The sooner they learn how to use these skills correctly, then the less likely they will develop unsafe techniques the pick up on their own.  I am sure each of you know more.  Please let us know what we overlooked and we'll update the blog so that all middle school ag teachers can benefit from your knowledge.  Please follow us on FacebookPinterest, and Twitter. Send us your Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest handles and we'll be glad to follow as well. You can also contact me at


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