The Rigby Middle School has become the first middle school in the state of Idaho to introduce its own Future Farmers of America (FFA) Chapter.

Rigby Middle School FFA teacher Maddy Hall said numerous middle schools across the country have their own chapter, whereas schools in Idaho feature only a couple introductory classes. By developing its own chapter, Rigby is expanding its opportunities offered to aspiring students.

The process of bringing the program to the middle school began roughly two years ago when Rigby High School teacher Robert Hale indicated a need for the program.

“He put the idea into her (Rigby Middle School Principal Sherry Simmons) head that we really needed to get a middle school program started as a way to get kids involved at an earlier age,” she said.

After introducing the idea to Simmons, they began contacting other middles schools throughout the state that offer a couple classes to start developing a curriculum that could be presented for future approval. Hall said she also contacted middles school teachers in Florida and Georgia that have had middle school programs for the past few years.

“In the west it’s a pretty new concept,” she said.

Hall added they she personally thinks Idaho hasn’t had a middle school chapter due to its size and that there hasn’t really been a need for one. She said Georgia has 342 chapters while Idaho only has 95.

Originally they considered expanding the high school chapter to the middle school, however after much deliberation it was decided that the middle school needed its own chapter.

“The more we started thinking about it, the more we realized how many opportunities for students we were limiting,” Hall said. “There’s no way a 7th grader could compete with a senior.”

The program was officially approved in early October, 2018. Hall said they will sign the charter in April at the state convention in Twin Falls.

The middle school program now has its own officer team and offers five classes, all of which are taught by Hall. They include, exploring agriculture, introduction to agriculture, introduction to livestock, introduction to natural resources and introduction to plants.

“It helps them prepare for high school in ways that we weren’t expecting to see happen,” she said.

Not only does the program help students prepare for high school level classes, it also allows them to take more classes since the introductory classes that they would usually take in 9th and 10th grade are now completed.

“Before they even get to high school, they’re done with those intro-level classes and can now dive head-first into the area that they want to focus on,” Hall said.

Because the middle school students also work with the high school officers, they are now building relationships at a younger age. Hall said she has already had over 200 students take her introduction to agriculture class.

“There’s not even 200 students at the high school right now that have taken that class,” she said.

Hall indicated that having these introductory classes at the middle school may make many of them at the high school obsolete, allowing teachers to develop other classes.

“We’re not sure how many intro classes were going to have to teach next year (at the high school),” she said. “It’s one of those good problems, bad problems that we didn’t see coming.”

As the Jefferson School District continues to grow, Hall said they need to start looking at how the program will transition as Farnsworth Elementary reverts back to a Middle School. She said as of now they have no idea how they will maintain the program in two schools.

“Overall we just want to provide opportunities for kids,” she said.

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