Ag Mechanics Woodworking doesn't have to be all duck boxes, step stools, and coat racks. Commerce Middle FFA went with the seasonal theme and allow their students to get creative with a simple board design.
Don't feel the pressure to constantly one up yourself in the shop. While academic rigor is important, you know there are sometimes when some paint and stain on 1x4 lumber is just what your class needs to do. But we both know any lesson is never that simple and this one does require some planning too. So take a few minutes to make a list of what you need before diving right in.
Obviously wood stain, paint, lumber, and brushes are key. However, you can also stain the wood with old rages if you have them and even old t-shirts if you have a collection in your room. Or the school lost and found may have what you need...if you are brave enough for that. Bulletin board paper, plastic leftover banquet table cloths, and even stray trash bags can cover your desk space. They call it stain for a reason. Aprons are always good to have handy unless your students are super careful.
Stencils are pretty cheap to find if you need them. I wouldn't recommend letting the students freehand letters or the design. We aren't Ag because we are artists. If you are friends with the art teacher they may have some templates to use or if you have a Cricut machine that's just the ticket to get really creative. Definitely pick 3 or 4 designs for the students to choose from or they'll spend all their work time looking up ideas. Free choice turns into a time vacuum, so limit their choices to speed things up.
Once you have the materials and the design, then set them to work. Staining doesn't take much stain or time. A small can of stain can go a long way. As that dries the students can pick out the paint colors and design they want to use. As the stain wraps up drying they can even test their design in a few spots on the board without taking off the stencil backing. When the board is ready, stick down the stencil, make it is completely down and paint away. It can all dry overnight and they can see the result at the next class.
The next level project will require multiple boards, a drill, wood screws, small eye screws, and picture hanging wire. Just place the three or four boards together and place two boards perpendicular on the back side. Fasten the two perpendicular boards to the main boards with wood screws. You'll obviously need more letters or a larger design for a the larger board arrangement. This may be the time to ask for a Cricut of your own.
You can use this same method to add design elements for the FFA banquet, show team displays, and room signs. Whatever you do make sure you add come creativity to the activity so that students can really get in to it.
If you are struggling with where to start with your student then check out Basic Ag Mechanics Skills that Middle Schoolers Should Know. While you might not teach middle school your students still need to know these skills. We do have a great lesson on woodworking in our Basic Ag Curriculum on Measuring and Woodworking so click over and take a look.