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Agricultural Literacy Agriculture-broadly defined is too important a topic to be taught only to the relatively small percent- age of students considering careers in agriculture and pursuing voca- tional agriculture studies. Students should come to appreciate that the species providing our food and fiber are part of a vast web of life that functions as an integrated whole. Every species of plant and animal depends not only on its physical environment but on the biological component of the environment as well. All living creatures are part of the same cycles of matter and energy. Thus, education will be in- complete unless students learn what is essential for the lives of our crops, animals, and plants. (Moore, 1987) Agriculture encompasses the study of economics, technology, politics, sociology, international relations and trade, and environmental prob- lems, in addition to biology (Moore, 19871. The committee concluded that at least some instruction about agri- culture should be offered to all students, regardless of their career goals or whether they are urban, suburban, or rural. With this in mind, the committee developed the idea of "agricultural literacy" the goal of education about agriculture. Education in agriculture refers to the vo- cational component of agricultural education. This component is cur- rently implemented at several levels-secondary, community college, university, and nondegree adult education programs in agriculture. The committee envisions that an agriculturally literate person's un- derstanding of the food and fiber system would include its history and its current economic, social, and environmental significance to all 8

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AGRICULTURAL LITERACY 9 Americans. This definition is purposely broad, and encompasses some knowledge of food and fiber production, processing, and domestic and international marketing. As a complement to instruction in other ac- ademic subjects, it also includes enough knowledge of nutrition to make informed personal choices about diet and health. Agriculturally liter- ate people would have the practical knowledge needed to care for their outdoor environments, which include lawns, gardens, recreational ar- eas, and parks. FINDINGS, CONCLUSIONS, AND RECOMMENDATIONS In its analysis of the status of agricultural literacy, the committee found a number of disturbing trends. The committee recommends that each school, school district, and state assess the status of its existing programs and implement the recommendations it considers appropriate. EDUCATION ABOUT AGRICULTURE Most Americans know very little about agriculture, its social and economic significance in the United States, and particu- larly, its links to human health and environmental quality. Few systematic educational efforts are made to teach or oth- erwise develop agricultural literacy in students of any age. Al- though children are taught something about agriculture, the material tends to be fragmented, frequently outdated, usually only farm oriented, and often negative or condescending in tone. Systematic surveys, anecdotal evidence, testimony presented to the committee, and the experiences of committee members strongly sup- port the finding that current levels of agricultural literacy are low. The majority of American children enter school knowing little about agri- culture and leave after high school graduation only slightly better informed. In a study of the agricultural knowledge of 2,000 elementary, junior, and senior high students in Kansas, which is a major agricultural state, fewer than 30 percent of the students gave correct answers to relatively basic questions (Horn and Vining, 19861. Only 27.3 percent of the ele- mentary school students knew that veal is the meat of young cattle; 25 percent of middle and junior high students knew that the sprouting of seeds is called germination; and 10 percent of senior high students

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10 UNDERSTANDING AGRICULTURE knew that beef cattle production was the primary industry in Kansas in terms of gross sales. In many cases, the majority of students chose to answer, "I don't know." In Virginia, students in 244 fourth-grade classrooms had only a ru- dimentary concept of where their food and fiber originate (Oliver, 19861. Nor are they curious to find out: teachers estimated that students asked questions about agriculture near the "almost never" end of a five-point scale of frequency. One parent summarized the situation well. "Agriculture is not stressed in the school systems whatsoever. This is easily seen in all three of my children, who get precious little in the way of discussion of agriculture or what it means to modern society from kindergarten to high school" (Heath, 1986~. But the teaching of agricultural literacy need not require major cur- riculum reform. It will require innovative, classroom-tested materials, however. Children can plant radishes in a science class one week, and harvest them a few weeks later. A biology course that already includes modules on genetics could readily be taught with some agricultural examples. Students could learn from examples dealing with production differences among major crops, such as wheat, soybeans, corn, and veg- etables. In a plant pathology module, students could learn about major crop diseases and the role of insects in disease transmission. Classroom discussion of topical issues, such as biotechnology, could greatly in- crease student interest in basic scientific concepts. The study of food and agriculture encompasses production, trade, processing, distribu- tion, and marketing. This offers an opportunity to teach social science topics such as economics, civics, governmental operations, sociology, and managerial science as well as issues that relate to nutrition, fam- ine, and obesity. In history class, students can study not only the ex- peditions, voyages, wars, and treaties through which new lands were acquired, but they can also read about how pioneer families grew their first crops, transforming the new lands into a nation. Mathematics courses, particularly computer exercises, could include many interest- ing examples from agriculture, foods, and nutrition. This approach can be flexible according to the varying needs and resources in individual schools across the country. A program in Mis- soula, Montana, that focuses on forestry, trout fishing, and the lives of grizzly bears may be less meaningful and less effective-when used with children in inner-city Boston. There, how the fishing industry operates might be of greater interest. All students should receive at least some systematic instruc- tion about agriculture beginning in kindergarten or first grade and continuing through twelfth grade. Much of the material

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AGRICULTURAL LITERACY 11 could be incorporated into existing courses and would not have to be taught separately. State education leaders, school administrators, and school boards should develop and implement a plan to foster instruc- tion about the food and fiber system and its history, role in ad- vancing science and technology, and regional significance in se- lected areas of the curriculum. Teachers should be encouraged to modify lesson plans to in- corporate materials about scientific, economic, and public health aspects of agriculture and related topics in accordance with school policy. To accomplish the goal of agricultural liter- acy, teachers need resources and support. Representatives of agribusiness, particularly at the local and state levels, and community leaders should meet with school of- ficials to implement cooperative efforts to bring more agricul- ture into the curriculum. Senior government officials and political leaders in the U.S. Departments of Education and Agriculture must direct efforts to upgrade agricultural literacy to all state departments of edu- cation. These efforts should be reinforced by a commitment of resources that reach teachers. Curriculum development projects funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and U.S. Department of Education (USDE) should include the development of instructional mod- ules and material leading to agricultural literacy. Officials re- sponsible for ongoing project oversight should work toward this goal. National agricultural community and vocational education organizations should develop new links with national education, teacher, and environmental education organizations, with a goal of facilitating progress in the teaching of agricultural literacy. TEACHING SCIENCE THROUGH AGRICULTURE All students need an understanding of basic science concepts. Teach- ing science through agriculture would incorporate more agriculture into curricula, while more effectively teaching science. There are many opportunities to teach science through agriculture. A common way to capture student interest in science is often by refer- ence to examples in the real world. Teachers can illustrate these ex- amples by bringing an aspect of a living, natural system into the class- room for experimentation and observation. Many have noted the deficiencies in science education in the United States in terms of student preparation and performance (National

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12 UNDERSTANDING AGRICULTURE Academies of Sciences and Engineering, 19821. Inadequate science ed- ucation has been a cause of concern in the nation's efforts to sustain international competitiveness. As a result of this concern, high school students in thousands of schools are now required to take two science classes. Federal and state agencies have increased science curriculum development efforts and in-service education. Less progress has been made in elementary schools, however, be- cause teachers generally have little time left after covering the re- quired core curriculum. Introducing instruction about agriculture as a separate subject in the elementary school curriculum would worsen existing time pressures and would not be welcomed by teachers or . principals. Curriculum integration is a more reasonable approach to achieve the agricultural literacy goal. By incorporating agriculture into existing subjects in the core curriculum, such as science, time pressures need not be aggravated. The Life Lab Science Program is an example. Life Lab began in 1978 as one teacher's special project at Green Acres Ele- mentary School in Santa Cruz, California. More than 100 elementary . . ~ ~ . T. ~ ~ . ~ ~ . . . . ~ . . . . . Life Lab students display pride in their "Growing Class- room." More than 100 schools nationwide use the award- winning science/nutrition/gardening program, which was recently granted $2.1 million from the National Science Foundation.

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AGRICULTURAL LITERACY 13 schools across the nation now use the program. The California School Boards Association and the National Science Teachers Association have named it a model program (Feltham, 19861. The National Science Foundation recently awarded Life Lab a $2.1 million grant to develop a comprehensive elementary science curriculum (Life Lab Science Pro- gram, 19881. Life Lab is designed to give elementary school children an awareness and understanding of science and nutrition through the process of growing and tending a garden. The material is divided into three vol- umes, The Growing Classroom (Jaffe et al., 1985), that teachers have developed and tested. Children learn about soil, photosynthesis, inter- dependency, energy, pest management, and recycling, among other top- ics. With the garden as the living laboratory, they learn to solve prob- lems, cooperate, observe, keep records, and think logically. The knowledge and skills children gain in Life Lab serve them long after they leave the elementary school garden. Life Lab has measurable effects on children's knowledge. Green Acres students showed continual growth in science achievement at every grade level on the science portion of the Standardized and Comprehen- sive Test of Basic Skills (Feltham, 19861. In many elementary schools, the most realistic way to teach science through agriculture is to introduce modules, or units of instruction, that supplement and eventually replace existing curricula and text- books. A number of school districts have implemented hands-on ele- mentary science programs using this approach; teachers are provided with four to six teaching modules per year. Each module focuses on a particular science topic and provides teachers with the instructional materials and apparatus needed to investigate the topic in the class- room, as well as lesson plans for 6 to 8 weeks of instruction. Many school districts that use this approach successfully do not rely on elementary science texts produced by commercial publishers. In- stead, they adapt a variety of nationally and locally produced materi- als to their needs. [One example of this is The Science Workbook of Student Research Projects in Food-Agriculture-Natural Resources, produced by faculty in the Ohio State University's College of Agricul- ture for secondary school students (Darrow, 19851. The projects are geared to give students hands-on experience.] These districts minimize the cost of materials by producing their own science apparatus kits for each module, refurbishing and recycling them so several teachers each year can use each kit (National Science Resources Center, 19864. The average elementary school teacher has a limited background in science. A recent survey found, however, that the majority of elemen- tary school teachers enjoy teaching science (Weiss, 19871. Elementary

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14 UNDERSTANDING AGRICULTURE science in-service education programs would benefit many teachers. In-service education in science can be most effectively structured around a series of workshops, each one addressing a particular science topic or instructional module (National Science Resources Center, 1986). The National Science Resources Center, a promising new effort jointly sponsored by the Smithsonian Institution and National Acad- emy of Sciences, is currently working to improve the teaching of sci- ence in the nation's elementary schools. The center's Science and Tech- nology for Children curriculum development project will produce a set of hands-on elementary science modules, develop improved models for in-service teacher education, and provide leadership training and tech- nical assistance to school systems. This project will place a special em- phasis on serving urban school districts with large minority popula- tions. Some of the Science and Technology for Children elementary science modules will focus on topics related to agriculture. Life and earth science courses in junior high include material about physiology, nutrition, plants and animals, taxonomic classification, soil formation, the hydrogeological cycle, and other topics that contribute to agricultural literacy. The most significant opportunity after junior high for teaching sci- ence through agriculture comes in biology. This course is usually taught in the ninth grade. It is the one high school science class nearly all students take. Biology courses and textbooks include many topics directly related to agriculture. A few major biology textbooks dominate the market- place. Hence, if instructional materials developed for use with these texts were well received by teachers and readily available, they could reach a high percentage of students. The committee reviewed one widely used biology textbook and identified the following units as suited to the teaching of science through agriculture (Otto and Towle, 1985~. Applied genetics: classical applied genetics, plant and ani- mal breeding, and molecular biology and recombinant DNA. Bacteria: the nitrogen cycle, beneficial uses of bacteria in food production, food spoilage, formation of genetic resistance to drugs or pesticides, and advice for the safe handling of food. Multicellular plants: plant structure and function and the bi- ology of trees. Invertebrates and vertebrates: insects and other arthro- pods, parasites, earthworms, fishes, birds, and mammals; and the relationships of these animals to humans.

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AGRICULTURAL LITERACY 15 Ecological relationships: ecosystems, populations, commu- nities, and the genesis of environmental problems. The committee believes it is unrealistic to expect school districts- with a few exceptions to redesign curricula at any grade level to make agriculture a major focus. But it also believes that many science edu- cators recognize merit in the use of well-designed, scientifically sound modules addressing real world problems and applications and their sci- entific and technological components. Agricultural and scientific lit- eracy are enhanced when closely related in school. The following steps should be taken to improve science education: Science teachers and specialists with a knowledge of agri- culture involved in curriculum development projects, including those funded by the NSF, should examine existing textbooks and curricula to identify opportunities to incorporate subject matter from the plant, animal, ecological, and nutritional sciences. In- structional material should be designed to give students an in- terest in and increasing understanding of human ecology and the agricultural food and fiber system. The National Science Teachers Association should help to identify and disseminate information on effective methods and materials that teach science through agriculture. School district, state department of education, and teacher education personnel should conduct and participate in profes- sional development activities with teachers. These activities would focus on the integration of agriculture into the curriculum. Curriculum design and in-service education opportunities need to evolve together. Special applied science courses on agricultural topics should be available as optional elective science courses for those stu- dents who wish to go beyond the traditional science course cur- riculum. Such courses, when designed and taught with an ac- ceptable level of scientifically relevant content, should earn full academic credit toward graduation and college entrance requirements. TEACHER EDUCATION AND TRAINING . Virtually no effort is made anywhere to educate teachers about agriculture, except for the teacher education programs designed for vocational agriculture teachers. Some instructional materials that address aspects of agri

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16 UNDERSTANDING AGRICULTURE cultural literacy are available in each state to augment several required academic courses. This material is uneven in quality and rarely used to full advantage, however. Teachers are gener- ally unaware of how to secure better materials or receive help in the use of available instructional materials. Participants in public meetings told the committee that teachers have little opportunity to learn about agriculture in their professional preparation or in-service education. Courses imparting the concepts and knowledge integral to agricultural literacy are not available for those preparing to teach, other than courses for individuals entering vocational careers. In some states, teachers of vocational agriculture are trained in a program within a college of agriculture; in other states, these teachers are trained within a college of education. In either case, there should be interaction between educators and agriculturists on the same campus. It is rare for high school vocational agriculture teachers to help their colleagues incorporate instruction about agriculture into history, sci- ence, languages, and other courses. The reverse is also true. The com- mittee was impressed with the positive response of teachers and stu- dents in some schools where vocational and academic teachers did work together in this way. The coordination of overlapping classes between vo- cational agriculture and other teachers should involve joint registration whenever possible. In a school in a midwestern state, for example, stu- dents who enroll in a trigonometry class also sign up for farm mechanics. Teachers may also cooperate in common projects as well as in-class teaching activities. The greenhouse energy conservation project at An- derson Valley High School, Boonville, California, is an example. Math- ematics, science, computer, fine arts, and agriculture classes are in- volved in this project. Students are often in more than one of the classes, which helps them to understand each subject's applications more clearly. One way to help teachers incorporate instruction about agriculture is to make sure they know about existing programs and materials. Practical examples and exercises that teachers can use to make ab- stract concepts and principles come alive for students should be em- phasized. By taking advantage of what is already available, costs to bring new materials into more classrooms could be kept to a minimum. Cooperative ventures and partnerships among schools, businesses, co- operative extension, and colleges of agriculture might also reduce costs. Administrators of teacher education programs and schools of education should offer units of instruction or courses about agriculture.

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AGRICULTURAL LITERACY 17 In-service education or special summer programs for teach- ers should be offered focusing on how to use new instructional material and take advantage of students' interest in agricultural subjects. Agribusinesses and teacher organizations should sponsor public service announcements in education journals or com- puter networks advising teachers where exemplary materials to teach agriculture can be obtained. Through letters to education journals, teachers should share with their colleagues ideas they have developed and curriculum materials on agriculture and related topics they have found helpful. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA); the USDE; teacher organizations; agricultural organizations, such as the American Farm Bureau Federation and the National Grange; and state departments of agriculture and education should pub- lish and disseminate curriculum materials on agriculture and related topics. Agricultural educators should serve on mathematics and sci- ence textbook preparation and selection committees; mathemat- ics and science educators should likewise participate in choosing and revising agricultural texts and other instructional materials. A private national foundation, partially supported with pub- lic funds, should be established to produce and disseminate in- structional materials on agricultural topics. Teachers in colleges of education should meet regularly with their counterparts in colleges of agriculture to explore setting up links between various programs. Private sector and legisla- tive leaders should facilitate these interactions. Cooperative extension in each state needs to develop better networks between classroom teachers and active researchers and extension scientists knowledgeable about local agricultural production activities and the sciences basic to agriculture. Vocational agriculture directors should consider working with cooperative extension to develop local applied research. Teachers, school administrators, and curriculum specialists will need technical and financial support to develop and ac- quire new instructional materials. MODEL PROGRAMS The Ag in the Classroom program and other efforts have produced useful materials and approaches at the elementary

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18 UNDERSTANDING AGRICULTURE and high school levels that could be used as models to improve education about contemporary agriculture. Students who have opportunities to join organizations like the National FFA (Future Farmers of America) Organization and 4-H can gain experience and knowledge by participating in spe- cial projects. Incorporating agricultural literacy initiatives into the already full high school agenda is a difficult task. Neither educators nor parents universally agree that there is a need for agricultural literacy initia- tives. School system administrators and teachers face many other pri- orities. Time is the most limiting resource time to learn and prepare to teach a new subject area and to incorporate agricultural education into the curriculum. For these reasons, it is important to build on and replicate in other schools successful agricultural education initiatives that are now in place. One such successful program centered principally in elementary school is the Ag in the Classroom program. The USDA began the pro- gram in 1981 through state departments of agriculture or state Farm Bureau organizations. Ag in the Classroom has already demonstrated the potential benefits from properly structured initiatives. It is the most extensive effort under way to make elementary school students more knowledgeable about the food and fiber system. It works by in- corporating agricultural instructional material and subject matter into classroom activities. The USDA acts as an information clearinghouse and resource to encourage states and school districts to adopt the pro- gram. Districts in the program provide in-service training opportuni- ties and special instructional material to teachers, who then pursue a variety of options for incorporating new subject matter into the curriculum. The variety of materials produced for the Ag in the Classroom pro- gram reflects diverse efforts. In Oregon, an elementary school text- book was developed to teach the history and geography of the state through descriptions of its agriculture, timber, water, and wildlife. A companion textbook for high school students was developed that ex- amines Oregon's role in the global economy, emphasizing the market- ing process of the state's agricultural commodities (USDA, 19881. In Massachusetts, the Ag in the Classroom program has produced curric- ulum modules about the state's agriculture for integration into eco- nomics, nutrition, science, and social science classes in grades four through six (Garner-Koech, 19851. Arkansas and Illinois have cooper- ated on the development of curriculum modules for all grade levels that focus on the economics of the American and international agricultural systems (USDA, 19881.

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AGRICULTURAL LITERACY 19 Forty-seven states have developed materials as part of the Ag in the Classroom program. In most cases, the materials span several school grades. In 38 states, a combined total of 21,000 teachers have been prepared in the use of Ag in the Classroom materials. As a conserva- tive estimate, these teachers have reached more than 1.2 million stu- dents (USDA, 19881. The FFA is a successful student organization integrated with most vocational agriculture programs. Food for America, an FFA program, provides opportunities for students not enrolled in vocational agricul- ture to receive agriculture-related instruction. This program encour- ages FFA members to visit elementary schools to discuss with children the importance of food and agribusiness. And a private association of scientific societies and individual agricultural scientists, the Council for Agricultural Science and Technology, distributes to about 16,000 high school science departments a free quarterly newsletter, Science of Food and Agriculture. Beginning in the fall of 1988, teachers will be surveyed on their use of this newsletter. The Cooperative Extension System (CES), a consortium of USDA's Extension Service and land-grant universities, oversees the 4-H youth education program. This program contributes to agricultural literacy through informal educational program activities. During 1986, about 8.5 million young people were involved with individual 4-H projects. Of these projects, 88 percent were scientific in content; 55 percent of the total were based in the biological sciences (USDA, 19871. An individual or group CES 4-H project usually entails making or growing something. Projects in the biological sciences can supplement classroom instruction. Members enrolled in gardening projects learn about plant and soil science, tool selection and use, ecological cycles, and how humans can alter the landscape. A CES 4-H dairy foods proj- ect designed for 4-H members in their early teens incorporates infor- mation about nutrition, health and fitness, and consumer skills needed to buy and prepare food. The CES also makes instructional materials designed to enrich school curricula available as part of 4-H activities. These materials reach a surprisingly large number of students. About 2.1 million 4-H partici- pants are involved in 51,000 class instructional units (USDA, 19871. While information on measurable benefits is limited, a recent USDA report cites some significant results (USDA, 19871. Third-, fourth-, and fifth-grade students in 4-H were tested before and after an urban for- estry program. On a quantitative scale representing level of knowl- edge, the average increase in understanding about forestry among the 400 participating pupils was estimated to be 65 percent. Like other programs, the value of a student's 4-H experience depends on a number

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20 UNDERSTANDING AGRICULl,URE .. . ~. . ~ '.'.'.'.'. . .~.'.'.'.'.'.'~-'- - 5'.'.'.'.'.'.'.'.'.'.'.'.'.'.'.='.'.~'.'.'.'.'.'.'.'.'.'.'.'.'.'.'.'.'.'.'.'.'.~.'.'.'.'.'.'~'~'~:'.'.'.'.'.'.'.'.'~.:'.'.'.'.'.'.'.'.'.'.'.'.'.'.'.'.'.'.'.'.'.'.'.'.'.'.'.'.'.'.'.'.'.'.'.'.'.'.'.'~.'.'.'.'.'.'. At the Wisconsin State Extension Service's Farm Progress Days, 4-H'ers demonstrate food preparation. Members of 4-H may choose projects from many program areas, in- cluding food and nutrition; natural resources; economics; jobs and careers; arid communications arts and sciences. Of factors commitment of teachers, relevance and integration in the academic curriculum, parental involvement, and community support. . . .. Ag in the Classroom state coordinators should build new linkages with science, mathematics, and vocational agriculture teachers; state departments and colleges of agriculture and ed- ucation; agribusiness; farm groups; and 4-H and other CES per- sonnel. The program needs more support at the national and state levels to accomplish these goals. State vocational agriculture supervisors, other education leaders, and state agriculture and education department offi- cials should encourage use of proven instructional programs like 4-H and Ag in the Classroom for students in grades kindergar- ten through 12. COMMUNITY INVOLVEMENT The integration of agriculture in the curricula of school dis- tricts reflects a broad base of community interest and support.

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AGRICULTURAL LITERACY 21 Formal and informal cooperation is needed among all organizations within a community to contribute to education in and about agricul- ture. One example of cooperation is Building Our American Commu- nities (BOAC), a community development program involving more than 4,406 local FFA chapters. In BOAC, FFA members and advisers work in cooperation with local leaders to identify special community needs. The cooperative effort allows FFA members to apply the competencies and skills learned in the vocational agriculture classroom. New BOAC priorities include marketing, agricultural technology, international re- lations, and economic development. In attempting to discover why some communities and schools give agriculture much more emphasis than other communities, the commit- tee identified several possible variables: availability of good instruc- tional materials, teacher initiative and interest, and leadership and cooperation among teachers, school administrators, CES personnel, and volunteers. In the manner of agricultural extension agents, education agents may be needed to work with communities. At the annual National 4-H Invitational Conference, 4-H members participate in activities designed to broaden their knowledge of conservation practices and forestry management. Here, participants study tree measure- ments to estimate the amount of various products that might be cut from the tree.

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22 UNDERSTANDING AGRICULTURE Teachers and school officials need to know the views of par- ents and local leaders regarding the adequacy of instruction in and about agriculture. Teachers and school officials are more likely to act on expressed concerns backed by offers of help in developing or obtaining special instructional material. AGRICULTURAL CAREER EXPLORATION PROGRAMS In junior high school, career exploration programs in agri- culture are rare. The Hereford Middle School in Monkton, Mary- land, offers one such program. Neither students nor Americans in general have a realistic view of agriculture's scope, career possibilities, or involvement with scientific progress and the use of sophisticated biological, chemical, mechanical, and electronic technologies. In early stages of their education, students need to be aware of career possibilities. Many students make their first decisions about career options in middle school or junior high school, when they choose courses that will help prepare them for a cluster of career choices. In some subjects, such as foreign languages and home economics, students are given an idea of job possibilities through short career exploration programs. The first step in career exploration is making students aware of the diversity of possible careers within broad fields of endeavor. Few schools have agriculture and food industry exploration programs, perhaps be- cause most Americans associate agriculture exclusively with farming. A recent Gallup poll showed that Americans esteem agriculture and farming, but would not choose farming as a career for themselves or their children (AGFOCUS: A Project of America's Governors, Inc., 1986~. They perceive it as hard, risky work with little economic return. Students hold similar opinions. A study for the University of Califor- nia at Davis of high school juniors' and seniors' college preparatory curricula found that students identified agriculture solely with farm- ing (Mallory and Sommer, 1986a,b). Synonymous with farming were the words outdoor, hard work, male, boring, and insecure. They rated a career in agriculture high for the opportunity to contribute to society and to be one's own boss, but very low to provide for a secure future and in terms of earning potential. Many people are unaware of how rapidly the food and agricultural sciences are progressing. Because of this progress, many different pro- fessional careers have evolved in support of the less than 3 percent of the nation's labor force that are farmers working in production agri

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AGRICULTURAL LITERACY 23 culture. Nearly 20 percent of the labor force works for the agricultural industry in some capacity. The food retailing industry, restaurants, and cafeterias in private and public institutions employ around 12 percent of these workers (Petrulis et al., 19871. Others are employed in occu- pations related to the management of natural and human environ- ments. Some examples of these occupations are landscape architecture, urban erosion control, care of parks and golf courses, microbiology, and nutrition. Those who work in these fields have generally received their professional and technical training in agricultural sciences and technology. Another myth that career exploration programs need to dismiss is that everyone involved with agriculture is suffering economic stress and faces bleak prospects for future growth. Several food, fiber, and agricultural industries are profitable and growing. Examples of growth are in food processing and agricultural service industries. Economic opportunities await companies that can take advantage of new and growing markets, such as the market for nonfood uses of agricultural products. A wide range of job opportunities for individuals with some education in agriculture from high school diplomas to Ph.D. degrees- exist in research, agribusiness management and marketing, educa- tion, foreign service, and civil service professions and occupations. (For a more detailed review of these professions, see Coulter et al., 1986.) Located in an almost entirely rural school district north of Balti- more, the Hereford Middle School has developed the Agribusiness- Technology Studies Program for seventh- and eighth-grade students. The school has also developed a related course in biotechnology for ad- vanced eighth-grade students. These mandatory courses are designed to inform students about careers, instill agricultural and environmen- tal literacy, improve academic skills, and promote responsibility and public service. All seventh-grade students are required to complete the 19-week course, which meets three times a week. During that time, they learn about the historical development of agribusiness and technology and their effect on the evolution of society. The applied part of the course covers plant and animal science; garden tractor safety and operation; resource conservation, measurement, and planning; woodworking; public speaking; and parliamentary procedures. Computers are used in various parts of the course. The course for eighth-grade students, which is also 19 weeks, focuses on current and future agricultural practices. The applied part of the course covers career research and exploration, entrepreneurship and occupational studies, plastic working, floral design, gardening, com- ~uter programming as a basic language, landscaping, and landscape

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24 UNDERSTANDING AGRICULTURE design. The biotechnology course covers many of these subjects. It also examines hydroponics, tissue culture, genetic engineering, and com- puter applications (F. H. Doepkens, Hereford Middle School, personal communication, 19881. The Hereford school program is suited to the needs of its district. But a city school might want to emphasize careers more common in urban areas, such as food science, nutrition and dietary planning and coun- seling, marketing, and the like. In rural areas, where students may have grown up on farms, program planners and counselors face differ- ent challenges in broadening students' perceptions of agricultural ca- reer opportunities. The committee was impressed with the opportunities to use ad- vanced telecommunication and video equipment to provide students information on careers in agriculture. Many schools effectively use video discs, cassettes, and other audiovisual materials in structured and unstructured career counseling sessions. Schools can supplement use of these materials at little or no cost by inviting guest speakers representing various parts of the agricultural industry to visit classes. Audiovisual material can bring students into the laboratories, facto- ries, and fields where agricultural and food science technology is under development. Audiovisual material can also show students practical problems such as dry stream beds, blowing soil, or a field of lettuce destroyed by insects. Students can then be challenged to think what solutions they might help to discover if trained as an engineer, micro- biologist, or public policy specialist. In career exploration program initiatives, educators should tailor program content to the needs and circumstances of different segments within the school population. Educators should be particularly alert to the interests of girls and minority students because both groups are underrepresented in most agricultural careers. Urban students are of- ten overlooked by agricultural educators. All of these students need new materials and nontraditional role models to help to generate their interest in agricultural and food industry careers. Last, teachers and counselors in rural and urban schools should collaborate to combine aspects of career exploration programs with other initiatives to ad- vance agricultural literacy. The unique needs and career prospects of students at each school in different regions should be considered when develop- ing agricultural exploration programs. Career exploration programs need to emphasize profes- sional agricultural careers to a greater degree, showing the con- nection between college preparation and agricultural leader- ship, business, and scientific occupations.