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cH`9PrER 18 Integrating Agriculture into Precollege Education: Opportunities from Kinclergarten to Grade 12 Harder 0. Kunkel Janis W. Lariviere, Rapporteur Food, agriculture, and natural resources are factors that affect all people. The understanding of these factors, however, is not well integrated into general education in the United States. Their role in the economy, their vital function in the health and quality of life of people, and their importance in global interrelationships are scarcely recognized in general education. Moreover, the vitality of the progress of students from precollege to colleges of agriculture and life sci- ences is a key factor in the vitality of the professional missions of these colleges. it is important in discussing curriculum reform and revitalization that the precollege education also be reviewed. In the interest of focusing the discussion, look at three aspects of the precollege education. The first and most obvious aspect is the traditional integration of agriculture in precollege education, namely, the program in voca- tional agriculture. Companions to that are the 4-H Club and youth programs, which have a close association with the land-grant uni- versities through the Cooperative Extension Service. The second aspect, one of increasing importance, is the articula- tion of colleges of agriculture to students in science programs in secondary schools. This would provide a greater opportunity to bring so-called nontraditional students (for example, nonfarm, ur- ban, and minority students) into agricultural education. The third feature is the integration of agriculture into the elemen- tary school curriculum. This may be the best means for very young people to relate food systems and natural resources to human life and well-being. 148

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I~EG~TING AGRICULTURE 1~0 PRECOLLEGE EDUCATION There are few studies that can give definitive answers to the persistent problems of trying to interest students in studies of agri- culture in precollege and college settings. The information is more often anecdotal than empirical. One exception is the study of high school students' perceptions of colleges of agriculture and agricul- tural careers carried out by the American College Testing Program (ACT) (1989) for the Farm Foundation. That study reaffirmed suspi- cions that high school students have many misperceptions about agriculture-related careers and majors. The study also suggested that the student population interested in obtaining a mayor in agri- culture in college is fluid: many students changed their objective away from a major in agriculture between the time they took the ACT test and the time they entered college. The implications are that education in and about agriculture can be translated into agri- culture-related career goals at early ages, but competing interests have an impact as students make plans for their higher education. Agricultural Education A seminal study aimed both at vocational agriculture and agricul- tural literacy was a report by the National Research Council (NRC) (1988), Understanding Agriculture: New Directions for Education. That report found that agricultural education in secondary schools usually does not extend beyond the offering of a vocational agricul- ture program. Vocational agriculture has had a positive effect on thousands of people students, families, and residents of the com- munity but until recently, enrollments were largely made up of white nestles; the program contents may be outdated and uneven in quality; and as a result of funding patterns, the education may be largely restricted to vocational education. The NRC report con- cluded that the focus of agricultural education should change, many revisions are needed, the quality of the program should be en- hanced, high-technology instructional materials and media should be available, and all students should be enrolled in supervised experiences. The report also implied that agricultural education should contribute to general agricultural literacy. Led by forward-thinking groups in vocational agriculture, state education agencies and individual schools across the nation are changing their programs in ways that reflect the recommendations of the NRC report. Flexibility is being introduced into the program. In Texas, courses are now offered in a semester-length format rather than as year-long courses set in rigid sequence. The program designation has been changed from Vocational Agriculture" to UAg- ricultural Science and Technology." Supervised agricultural experi- ences are acceptable in a much wider range than the show animal or garden and are no longer called supervised "occupational" expe 149

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AGRICULTURE AND THE UNDERGRADUATE riences. Any high school student can take a semester course as an elective, but only if the high school offers the program in agricul- ture. In Texas, honors courses that parallel first-year college-level offerings in animal science, agricultural economics, and agronomy and an experimental course on rangeland management are being offered. The inventory is 23 semester-length courses in such top- ics as food technology, agribusiness, management, wildlife, leader- ship, and agricultural production; three honors courses; and one experimental course. in such a context, there is substantial transition. The emphasis is turning more to the education of students who are college bound or who seek employment other than farming. Vocational empha- ses are changing from skills with plants and livestock to skills of leadership, decision making, and technology. The content of the courses can become more rigorous and useful. Agricultural sci- ence and technology, stripped of its inflexible cloak, can open agri- cultural education to a much larger number of students. Enroll- ments in the agricultural science and agricultural business programs that were once vocational agriculture grew from 47,073 in the fall of 1986 to 64,681 in the spring of logo. The directive for the transformation at the national level is now the Strategic Plan for Agricultural Education, adopted by the several national interest groups and associations related to vocational agri- culture education. The plan calls for updating instruction in and about agriculture, serving all people and groups, amplifying the "whole-person" concept to include leadership and interpersonal skills, fostering entrepreneurship, elevating standards of instruction, and developing educational programs that respond to changes in the market for students. The essential key to driving these trends is the development of instructional materials. The closer that such development can be to the colleges of agriculture, food, and natural resources, the bet- ter the interaction will be. Someday, too, it may be possible for colleges of agriculture to couple with secondary school agricultural science by way of a satellite-mediated Distant education," with the home base being a land-grant university, for example. I,inkage With Science Teachers anti Courses Colleges of agriculture are also recognizing broader mandates. This is reflected in their names: college of agriculture and life sciences; college of agricultural and environmental sciences; col- lege of agriculture, food, and natural resources; and so on. A number of colleges of agriculture are apparently making a strong move to capture the environmental bent. As that thrust continues, 150

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i~EG~TiNG AGRICULTURE I~O PRECOLLEGE EDUCATION high school science, particularly biology, and teachers of science can become key factors in an articulation of the precollege educa- tion in agriculture and the natural resources. This connection be- comes increasingly important as agricultural education in high schools and colleges reaches for diversity in the student "pipeline." Science can be taught in the context of agriculture. For example, molecular genetics can be directed toward the conservation or im- provement of food supplies. Agriculture and related subjects must be taught within the context of biology, chemistry, and the social sciences. Some colleges of agriculture have managed National Science Foundation-sponsored young scholar programs to demon- strate career opportunities in science. Some have provided spe- cific courses, such as Ecology for Teachers. Some have provided teaching materials to teachers of biology and chemistry. Through interested teachers of biology biology is a particularly appropriate subject because it is usually taught in the tenth grade capable, interested students have been identified early and Adopted" by departments in the college of agriculture. The trend probably will be to integrate the sciences from kindergarten through grade 12, and colleges of agriculture, being multidisciplinary, should be in league with that spirit. AS relevance, quality of education, and interest among teachers and students in secondary schools are directed toward agriculture and natural resources, word will spread and new linkages can be opened. The Changing Student Pipeline In the past three decades there have been unprecedented changes in the undergraduates who flow through colleges of agriculture, food, and natural resources. Student interests and attitudes have varied. Some patterns appear to be cyclical. The late 1960S and early l970S saw large influxes of students with concerns about U.S. society. At the time, they were considered nontraditional stu- dents. We may now be seeing a return of large numbers of stu- dents with societal concerns that may override the preoccupation with jobs that was evident in the 1980s. The students who are coming to colleges of agriculture through the science course route are different kinds of students and may have different philosophical bents. Many are interested in conser- vation issues, environmental law, and helping people. They will have practically no interest in operating a farm. Many appear to be looking for multidisciplinary outlets- which should fit colleges of agriculture and they understand networking better than ever be- fore. Many will come with the intent to obtain more than one degree, including the master of business administration, doctor of medicine, master of agriculture, and other professional degrees. 151

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AGRICULTURE AND THE UNDERGRADUATE As the pool of prospective students changes, we are in a con- tinuing search for words. The recruiting words now (again?) seem to be environment, conservation, science, Job satisfaction, molecu- lar genetics, health, and animals. Some students as well as some of the faculty-who come to natural resource and other agriculture- related courses for traditional reasons may regard those students interested in conservation and the environment as espousing phi- losophies inconsistent with agricultural thought. But, it is a di- chotomy that we should exploit, not fear. All prospective students may now be beginning to focus more on gratification derived from technical work than on job pay. AS a colleague in animal science, Gary Potter, notes, what is not "in" is trying to sell, Justify, or defend an industry. Teenagers are not very interested in the reasons why it is important to grow food to feed the world. Many students take up agriculture-related majors in the university for reasons that make little professional sense: they like to ride horses, they like hunting and fishing, or some day they would like to operate a farm in addition to their primary employ- ment. It is the environment outside the schoolrooms that may provide the greater influence toward interest in agricultural courses. Once in college, however, students can be taught both what they want to learn and what we would like them to learn. Agricultural Literacy The NRC report (1988) also recommended that, beginning in kin- dergarten and continuing through the twelfth grade, all students should receive some systematic instruction in agriculture. A per- sisting belief among those concerned about agriculture is that we not only teach skills and technology but that a body of education about agriculture should be provided to larger numbers of precollege students. This envisions value in general knowledge about the history and current economic, social, and environmental significance of the food and fiber system (National Research Council, 1988). Such understanding would include some knowledge of food and fiber processing, distribution, and domestic and international mar- keting. Such education might also include the practical knowledge needed to care for the environment lawns, gardens, recreational areas, parks, and communities that touches individual lives. Most importantly, the individual knowledge base should include enough knowledge of nutrition and food safety so that people can make informed personal choices about diet and health. Historically, agricultural literacy for many has come through the national Future Farmers of America organization integrated with vocational agriculture education and the 4-H Club program, both of which have the basic infrastructures to support such activities. The 152

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INTEGRATING AGRICULTURE INTO PRECOLLEGE EDUCATION 4-H Club program touches millions of students, and its value to the development of the individual young person is unquestioned. However, agricultural literacy, per se, seems to be a diminishing goal of the 4- H Club program, although many of the projects are related to bio- logical phenomena and consumer skills, and they do contribute to students' understanding of the food and fiber system. Programs have been devised that attempt to fill the void with the larger student population from kindergarten to grade 12. The Agri- culture in the Classroom program of the U.S. Department of Agricul- ture, which is supported by state departments of agriculture and the farm bureaus, has developed some very good materials and reflects diverse efforts, particularly at the lower grade levels. The California-based Life Lab program, which incorporates agriculture into core subjects such as science, has demonstrated a possible mechanism of positive intervention in the elementary school cur- riculum. Projects Wild (for students from kindergarten through grade 12 sponsored by the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agen- cies and the Western Regional Environmental Education council) and Learning Tree (for students from kindergarten through grade 6 sponsored by the Western Regional Environmental Education Coun- cil and the American Forestry Institute) are designed to enhance awareness of wildlife and forests in the school setting. Many teach- ers have plants and small animals in the classroom to aid the learning process. Children have a love of nature, which sets the stage for a closer connection to agriculture. These programs also have their limitations, not the least of which is the fact that there can be too little incentive for elementary and secondary school teachers to use the materials. Teachers receive a lot of material; much of it is very good, but they have limited time to go through it all. Therefore, widespread use of agricultural lit- eracy materials is not likely to occur unless these materials receive approval from state education agencies. Even though there is offi- cial acceptance, however, the focus must still be on teaching the essential elements, not agriculture. Many symbols of agriculture that we have used in the past the fluffy and cute (chicks, calves, or baby lambs)' the grotesque (cock- roaches), the beautiful (waving fields of grain, valleys of flowers, bucolic farm scenes)- to attract young people to the marvels of living things and the countryside may tell little of the real meaning of food and agriculture. It is imperative that we rethink the ap- proaches. But tying a commodity, for example, corn, to the essen- tial elements of education may work: teach addition and subtrac- tion with tropism as the visual example, count corn kernels instead of other things, teach social sciences and history while asking why the Midwest became the Corn Belt or how certain cultures came to depend on corn as the staple food. At another juncture, one can teach students that everyone is dependent on the food system, that 153

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AGRICULTURE AND THE UNDERGRADUATE is, that the food system exists because it provides for the needs of people by maintaining health and well-being. One can teach his- tory in the context of wars that have been fought over agriculture and the denials of food to people. One can teach students about microorganisms related to food safety and that bread, cheese, and pepperoni are fermented products. Conclusion We do not know whether any particular approach will work. How- ever, education in and about agriculture from kindergarten through grade 12 is worth rethinking. At the outset 1 noted that it is impor- tant that people know that food, agriculture, and natural resources affect them. In order to gain acceptance of the principle, we may well need to put aside our parochial world views of agriculture, the desire to create a populace that thinks about agriculture as we want them to, and even the wish to rescue the traditional agricul- tural majors in college by turning around their decreasing enroll- ments. The growth of agricultural education in secondary schools, the movement toward integrating agricultural examples into the es- sential elements of education, and the enrollment of the diversity of students in colleges of agriculture may depend on colleges of agri- culture also viewing themselves in truly flexible and confident- ways. References American College Testing Program. 1989. High School Student Percep- tions of Agricultural College Majors and Careers. Oak Brook, 111.: Farm Foundation. National Research Council. 1988. Understanding Agriculture: New Direc- tions for Education. Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press. ElAPPORTEUR9S SUMMARY Harry O. Kunkel began the discussion with an excellent overview of the problem. He stressed two goals for integrating agriculture into the precollege curriculum. People need to know about food, agriculture, and natural resources; and colleges of agriculture are dependent on the continued flow of precollege students into their programs. The discussion continued with a series of insights from many participants about how these goals can be accomplished. AS a high school teacher representative, I felt that colleges of agriculture 154

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INTEGRATING AGRICULTURE 1~0 PRECOLLEGE EDUCATION must reach out to precollege teachers in a "hands-on" way if they really wished to have an impact. Mailings of information or even activities are rarely used unless the teacher has been to a work- shop where they have done the activity. I also encouraged col- leges of agriculture to have the teachers help to design the activi- ties. I cited the Woodrow Wilson summer institutes at Princeton University as excellent models. They bring in secondary school teachers from around the country and present them with enough information so that they can design student investigations and dis- seminate them in their home states. Teachers have excellent net- works for passing on information by presenting workshops at local, state, and national science teacher conventions. There were more than lo,OOO science teachers at the most recent National Science Teachers Association convention in Houston, Texas. Richard Reid, from the Society of American Foresters, mentioned two successful projects for teaching young students about natural resources that also directly involve teachers. These are Project Learning Tree and Project Wild. Project Learning Tree is for stu- dents from kindergarten through grade 6, while Project Wild has activities for students from kindergarten through grade 12. Paul Williams, from the University of Wisconsin, encouraged the participants to bring their exciting agricultural discoveries into precollege classrooms. Williams has developed a strain of cabbages, Fast Plants, that allows students to investigate a plants entire life cycle in one semester. He has set up a team partnership with teachers that encourages them to use these plants. These plants and activities with them are presented at teachers' conventions around the country. Williams stressed that it is imperative to get agriculture into the curriculum of conscience majors at the college level, because these people will be teaching the students in kindergarten through grade 6. Williams also encouraged colleges of agriculture to seek corpo- rate support for teaching teachers. He has an ongoing project funded by the Kellogg Company that teams a science teacher with a vocational agriculture teacher for a 2-week immersion course on campus. Dwayne Suter, of Texas A&M University, also advised session participants to seek corporate sponsorship. He mentioned the Con- sortium of Math and Science Teachers in Texas, which is partially funded by International Business Machines and other corporate sponsors. Suter encouraged the groups quest for ways to inform teachers about opportunities in agriculture by describing a study that showed that high school teachers are one of the three most important fac- tors in a students decision-making process regarding a career (par- ents and a person in the field being the other two). J. Leising, of the University of California, Davis, felt that a cohe- sive framework of learning outcomes for each grade level would be helpful. 155

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AGRICULTURE AND THE UNDERGRADUATE Recruitment of minority students is an important issue in this drive to interest more students in agriculture. Marquita Jones, of Indiana University of Pennsylvania, urged colleges of agriculture to have this as a focus. Urban and inner-city youth must be reached early. They need mentors at the precollege and college levels. The next topic of discussion was the need for precollege teach- ers to do science themselves. Science can be deadly as a specta- tor activity. Paul Williams believes that there should be more teacher internships. G. Carlson, of Western lllinois University, stated that his institution has had many successful internships. He advised giving some college credit for the experience so that the teacher can work toward a higher degree. The session continued with a number of helpful comments and suggestions. M. Hoppe, of South Dakota State University, praised an activity she had recently participated in the Expanding Hori- zons Conference for Young Women. G. Sharma, of Alabama A&M University, suggested that colleges of agriculture need to help vo- cational agriculture teachers expand their horizons so that they can better prepare students for agriculture in the twenty-first century. S. Katie, of Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, asked whether there was a clearinghouse for information about all the excellent programs that were mentioned. Paul Williams suggested joining the National Science Teachers Association and the National Association of Biology Teachers. Their journals, The Science Teacher and The American Biology Teacher, are good sources for informa- tion about programs that are already available. The groupts discussion then turned to career education. High school students have a very limited knowledge of careers in gen- eral and even less of careers in agriculture. Colleges of agriculture need to get their message to these students. They can send speakers to science classrooms; bring teachers, counselors, and students to campus; or send materials with career information to biology teach- ers. 1 stated my opinion that although teachers would not do activi- ties without hands-on experience, teachers would distribute career information. G. Carlson showed a brochure that Western Illinois University has produced to recruit people to agriculture. I sug- gested that brochures similar to this example should be given to biology teachers at high schools that would be likely sources of students for a particular university. A. Jones, of the University of Nebraska, stated that his institution had success with inviting teach- ers, counselors, and principals onto campus to visit the College of Agriculture. D. Hersey, of the University of Maryland, suggested that preservice courses for teachers should be an important target for agricultural career information and for information on agriculture in general. B. Hooper, the director of the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges, reminded the participants that high school is too 156

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INTEGRATING AGRICULTURE INTO PRECOLLEGE EDUCATION late for many students to hear about career opportunities. Many students have already denied themselves entry into a career be- cause of their reading and math skills. Career education must start at a young age. Paul Williams suggested that agricultural science would fit very well into the new math literacy programs for middle- school students. The session concluded with S. Maurice, of Clemson University, suggesting that we reduce the use of the term agriculture because of its negative image. I responded that many urban and suburban precollege students have no image of agriculture. If these are the areas from which colleges of agriculture hope to draw new stu- dents, the colleges need to decide what agriculture is today and bring that message to these students in a meaningful way. 157