Throughout this blog, I have made it clear that I believe agriculture is an incredibly important subject that should be taught in all schools. If agriculture is not taught in every school now, what makes me think the future for agriculture education is bright? Well, a number of perspective shifts throughout my research helped nudge my ideas about the future of agriculture education from the not-so-positive to expansive progress.
One perspective shift came from A Blessing or a Curse: An Environmental Decision Case for Secondary and Higher Education (Autrey, Simmons & Aikin 2006). This 2006 journal article explained how examining decisions of former court cases can help interest students in agriculture. Without exposure to the subject in school, many students may never have the opportunity to learn about agriculture. This new twist to traditional curriculum helps students who may not know much about agriculture approach the subject with many new, different perspectives: “Ninety-nine percent of the students ‘encountered some new viewpoints’ or ‘many new viewpoints’ through the use of this case” (Autrey, Simmons & Aikin 2006). This new curriculum also allows students to use problems that have actually occurred to further their education in agriculture (Autrey, Simmons & Aikin, 2006). The use of old court cases is one example of how agriculture educators are adjusting their curriculum for the future.
The biggest perspective shift, from my viewpoint, came from Fertile, Minnesota ag teacher, Whitney Rupphrecht. She explained to me that agriculture education teachers can teach chemistry and art along with agriculture. With the budget cuts that schools go through, ag teachers can find themselves as vital, versatile staff members. Before this interview, I had no idea agriculture education teachers could teach these other subjects! With the plethora of information ag teachers carry, I foresee a strong presence of agriculture permeating our public schools, especially as money becomes tighter.
With all the perspective changes I have gone through these last months with regards to agriculture education, I find myself very hopeful for the future. The hard work people are putting in to make sure the public becomes educated about a major aspect of life is inspiring. This hard work was definitely warranted as the 2013 study by Trexler, Hess, and Hayes showed that children from California are lacking adequate agricultural knowledge. I hope someday the story of the young girl from the 2013 study (Trexler, Hess & Hayes) who thought chocolate milk came from cows with “brown spots” is no longer a reality for children.
The future of agriculture education is definitely not secure; however, nothing in this world is a given. As this is my last blog post, I ask all of you to support your local agricultural education programs! If you don’t have one, try getting in touch with someone who could put on a school-wide program to get students interested in all the possibilities this field has to offer or simply support the closest agriculture education program! I also want to encourage you to keep learning about agriculture in any form that interests you. Keep expanding your mind!
Malala Yousafzai said, “One child, one teacher, one book, one pen can change the world.” Teachers play an important role in shaping the future for their students as Yousafzai so eloquently put it. A teacher in Fertile, Minnesota, named Whitney Rupprecht exemplifies this kind of teacher.
Rupprecht grew up in Thief River Falls, Minnesota not on a farm. She decided to join the ranks of ag teachers after she discovered that her previous dream of being a veterinarian was no longer her dream. Inspiration from one of her ag teachers spurred her on to pursue her ag education degree instead of becoming a vet. Rupprecht has now come full circle with a story of her own. Through Rupprecht’s required junior high ag classes, a now-high school senior became interested in agriculture and is now planning on pursuing her own degree in ag education.
The daily life of Rupprecht is packed full! She wakes up at 4:30 a.m. to get her kids ready and is out the door to be at school by 7:40. Rupprecht prides herself on being the kind of teacher where students feel comfortable asking questions or just hanging out in the room before school. Once the bell rings, classes start. First on the docket for the day is animal science, a college in the high school course. Next up is big service learning. After that she teaches ag science (chemistry credit). Her prep hour and lunch come after a full morning followed by study hall, small engines, intro to ag, and horticulture. She is also the Fertile Future Farmers of America (FFA) advisor. Rupprecht’s chapter of FFA has 67 members, including the student who plans on becoming an ag teacher.
Rupprecht’s role as both ag teacher and FFA advisor are intertwined. Her curriculum, as she describes it, is “intracurricular.” Instead of FFA being an extracurricular, FFA is incorporated into the classes she teaches. Examples of this melding include teaching contest writing in ag mechanics, having mock FFA competitions, and teaching parliamentary procedure in the required intro to ag classes.
As an ag teacher of six years, Rupprecht sees the future of ag education expanding. She explained that ag teachers can teach more than just ag. They can also teach art, economics, and chemistry! “I really see, especially smaller schools, that can’t afford, you know, all these extra classes that they can really utilize an ag teacher, because they can teach so many different things that are worthwhile to students.”
Whitney Rupprecht is an excited teacher willing to work hard for ag education. Her first year of teaching, she wrote a grant for her school to get a greenhouse. It’s still being utilized by the school! She now hopes to create a school garden to be staffed by a student all summer long! Her hope is to get people interested in gardening.
On overcoming preconceived notions students have on ag, Rupprecht states, “actions are the best way.” She demonstrated how actions are more powerful than words by explaining, “I can tell you how a chicken hatches, but it’s, I mean, if you’re watching it and you get to help with it, I feel like that’s more valuable um, and you remember it a lot more.”
Whitney Rupprecht exemplifies the kind of educator Malala Yousafzai was referring to in her quotation. One teacher truly can change the world, as Rupprecht has shown. I’m sure her students would agree.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Agriculture Supporters Create Initiative to Add Agriculture to STEM
FARGO, N.D. - A 2018 movement in Minnesota and Ohio is trying to incorporate agriculture into the STEM program. Students and teachers have acknowledged that agriculture education is lacking in the U.S., and new STEM curriculum and free online resources are helping to ensure that agriculture is taught.
The rise of the digital age brought forth a new need for more STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) careers. Mary Smallsreed said, in recent years, schools have started incorporating STEM classes into the curriculum to account for this popular movement. Agriculture is now in the process of being added as a qualifier of STEM curriculum.
Agriculture has not yet found a place under this umbrella of information, but students and teachers in Minnesota are trying to change that fact.
Jonathan Knutson explained that Haley Mouser, a teen from rural Minnesota, said to Inforum, “It’s so important to help the next generation learn more about science-based agricultural practices.”
Knutson also states that one of the ways a group of students from Minnesota is trying to add agriculture to STEM is by creating “curriculum for teaching pupils in grades three through five about the science and value of GMO crops.”
Ohio is making similar plans. Smallsreed explained how Ohio is working towards adding agricultural aspects into the STEM curriculum. Smallsreed lists two specific examples of free resources, GrowNextGen and Feed the World, that can help educate students.
Educational resources are not only becoming more prominent in Ohio and Minnesota; resources are becoming more accessible and available for educators in Canada. Maja Krzic and colleagues said, in recent years, a website entitled Soil 4 Youth has helped schools in Canada advance the teaching of soil science, an agriculture-related subject.
The addition of agriculture to STEM seems natural to those involved in the effort.
Krzic and colleagues state, “The soil science community in Canada (and elsewhere) needs to ensure that soil science finds a permanent place in the national science curriculum at the high school level and that teachers are given adequate training, resources, and support through initiatives such as the Soil 4 Youth program.”
Imagine if schools stopped teaching students how to read. How would our world change? There would be no more need for newspapers, books, road signs, advertisements, detailed history and science, and our communication methods would be greatly disadvantaged. It’s clear to most people why schools teach students how to read: reading is an integral part of everyday life. However, if schools stopped teaching students how to read, life would still go on. The human population would not stop functioning, albeit society would become closed-off.
Now, eating is an essential aspect of sustaining life. Without agriculture, the human population would not be able to sustain the massive number of inhabitants of the planet. If eating is such an important part of life, why aren’t schools requiring agricultural education to teach students about where food comes from and how this vital aspect of life is produced?
Answers to this question can range from budgetary restrictions to simply a lack of interest from the student body. When I was in high school, lack of interest in agriculture classes and the struggle of finding an agricultural ed teacher cost the school this flow of information.
When there are so many subjects in the world that are not required in public schools, people may wonder why agriculture should be introduced as a required aspect of general education. They may even argue that other subjects, for example music or sociology, are more important than agricultural and should be implemented instead. To these naysayers, I wish to express that all subjects have value, but agriculture has an edge over these worthwhile subjects. According to a 2007 article by Knobloch, Ball and Allen, the implementation of agricultural education helps students better understand other subjects in school: “Teachers in this study acknowledged that agriculture provided the contexts to discuss and apply the content they taught to their students.” If incorporating agriculture helps students accomplish and learn more within the current required curriculum, I have a hard time seeing a downfall.
Sadly, another commonly used argument is that it costs too much money to implement and train teachers in agriculture. I’m not arguing that it won’t cost money to change the public education standards, because it will. My argument is that agriculture is so important that it should be taught despite money shortages. Agricultural education doesn’t have to start off as an hour class every day. In fact, I think it would be better to start off slow learning the basics, say once a week, in elementary school and expounding off that as students travel through middle and high school. The serious need of agricultural education is exemplified by the 2013 study conducted by Trexler, Hess and Hayes. When responding to a question about the differences between cows, a young girl explained that chocolate milk comes from cows with “brown spots.” There is no reason nine to eleven-year-olds should truly believe this myth. With a small amount of agricultural education, stories mirroring this example would not be as common.
It’s easy to say we need to implement agricultural education in public schools as a required subject. The hard part is the actual incorporation.
How do we accomplish this task when faced with all the real-world obstacles? On the national level, we need to introduce new legislature that makes agriculture a required subject/standard in public schools. We also need to allocate more resources and funding for materials and training. On a local level, many opportunities exist for the furthering of agricultural education. Outreach with the local farmers is a place to start. Farmers have so much information tucked away that it would be a shame not to utilize it. Simply having a farmer come into the school for an assembly or classroom visit to talk about what they do and what the struggles of farming are could make a huge impact on the future generation of agriculture. Teachers could also add in small doses of agriculture throughout the school year with basic lectures, videos, and online learning components. Online agricultural education sites are becoming more visible as is explained in the 2014 article “Soil 4 Youth: Charting New Territory in Canadian High School Soil Science Education” by Krzic and colleagues. By using the resources already out there, teachers will not have to go back to school to learn about agriculture, and students can have access to information they previously wouldn’t have had. Ultimately, to implement agriculture into required curriculum, society must consciously acknowledge the importance of this subject.
Reading is an important part of daily life that is taught in schools. Agriculture is an even more important aspect of life that must follow suit and become a universal standard of education. Imagine if the knowledge of agriculture was lost? How would our world change?
If you’ve found yourself on this newly published blog, congratulations! You’ve shown that you have a thirst for knowledge, not only for yourself, but for others. Agucation’s purpose is to explain agricultural education’s role and practice in public schools nationwide.
I firmly believe that agricultural (ag) education does not get the credit it deserves. According to Pannoni of U.S. News (2014), there are approximately 54,000 jobs available in the agriculture industry. As someone whose student body didn’t have access to ag education in school, I often forget that the ag industry is constantly expanding and adapting. Without early understanding of agriculture, I wonder how students are going to learn about these jobs and all that the ag field has to offer.
As students travel through the education system, they are exposed to the core subjects of math, science, English, and social studies. Agriculture does not often fit into this list of essential subjects. How can we remedy this situation? I’m glad you asked! In my blog, I will also be incorporating some aspects of how ag is being implemented in schools in ways such as evaluating old court cases (Autrey, Simmons, Aikin, 2006).
Agricultural education is not simply learning about fields and crops; there are many subjects that fall under and are impacted by the vast umbrella of “agriculture.” Some examples include food production, nutrition, and conservation (Knobloch, Ball, Allen, 2007). I didn’t even realize that ag education encompasses these fields of study, and I’m the daughter of a farmer! If I didn’t understand all these aspects of ag as someone constantly surrounded by agriculture, chances are there are many other students that aren’t aware of all the opportunities that this vastly expanding field offers.
As a farmer’s daughter, I see and know the value of agriculture, and I want everyone to share in this valuable fountain of knowledge! Agriculture truly impacts everyone. I hope this blog stirs your passion for agriculture and for educating the world!