Agricultural Literacy Programs for Teachers K-12

Society-Ready Graduates
Research Year: 
2004
Issue: 

The earth's human population topped six billion in the year 2000. All those people depend on agriculture to provide them with food, clothing, and a variety of other products to enhance their lives. As more homes are built on prime farmland across the U.S., a smaller number of farms are providing for the basic needs of many more people. Less than two percent of the U.S. population is engaged in production agriculture. There aren't enough sons and daughters of current farm families available to carry on this essential industry. To interest K-12 students in finding out more about where their food comes from, and how they can pursue various careers in agriculture, agricultural literacy programs have been launched nationwide. Teachers need to understand agriculture themselves before they can integrate concepts about agriculture into their lesson plans.

Description of Action: 

The University of Arizona Cooperative Extension, with funding from the Arizona Foundation for Agricultural Literacy, has conducted a five-day Summer Agricultural Institute for Teachers every summer for 14 years. The Institute educates participants about the Arizona agricultural industry and encourages them to incorporate this knowledge into their classroom activities. The Institute combines hands-on learning about agriculture with practical curriculum development. Participants receive lesson plans, videos, and other take-home materials. Eighty-three volunteers contributed 600 hours of service in 2004 to ensure the success of the Institute. Many of the teachers have little or no knowledge of the agriculture industry. They visit agricultural operations, stay with farm families and interact with the owners and managers of these businesses, to better understand the technical aspects of agriculture in Arizona, and the wide range of agricultural operations and career opportunities.

"Project Food, Land & People Resources for Learning" is another opportunity to extend the agricultural literacy message into schools. Teachers participate in six-hour workshops and receive 55 lessons that incorporate agriculture into any subject they teach. These nationally designed lessons have been aligned with Arizona's Academic Standards, and have been recognized as outstanding by the Arizona Department of Commerce.

Joint workshops with other educational providers is the third opportunity for teachers to learn how to incorporate agriculture into their classroom curriculum. Teacher participants in these workshops receive an intensive two-day training, where they are given the curricula of Project Food, Land & People, Project Learning Tree and Project WET (Water Education for Teachers). All three of these curricula are delivered by employees of the University of Arizona.

In addition, 30 Arizona Specialty Crop Lessons were written by 16 teachers and published in 1100 notebooks that are provided to teachers participating in workshops and the SAI. The lessons were published through a $33,000 grant provided by the Arizona Department of Agriculture and are the first lessons to focus specifically on Arizona agriculture. They have been aligned to Arizona’s Academic Standards.

Impact: 

From 1990-2004 a total of 319 educators have attended the Summer Agricultural Institute. Seventeen percent have earned graduate level credit through the UA for completing the Institute program. The 29 participants in the 2004 Institute are currently teaching 2784 students, and say they would teach an average of 13 more years. Thus the potential impact from these 29 teachers would be their contact with almost 37,000 students for agricultural literacy lessons over the next 13 years.

As for Project Food, Land and People, 1,000 teachers have participated in this program. Assuming an average of 30 students per class for these teachers, 30,000 students are learning about agriculture during the 2004-2005 school year.

Results of a four-state study (Arizona, Montana, Oklahoma and Utah) conducted with about 2,000 kindergarten-6th grade students, through the national Agriculture in the Classroom (AITC) program in 2002, showed that across all grade levels, students who were taught by AITC-trained teachers demonstrated more knowledge about agriculture compared to students in classrooms with teachers who had no AITC training.

Funding Agencies: 

Arizona Foundation for Agricultural Literacy; Arizona Tech Prep; Arizona Department of Agriculture; Arizona Foundation for Resource Education; Western Growers Association

Conact Name: 
Monica Pastor
Contact E-mail: 
Contact Address: 

Maricopa County Cooperative Extension

The University of Arizona

4341 E. Broadway, Phoenix, AZ 85040

Tel: (602) 470-8086 ext. 317, FAX: (602) 470-8092