Agricultural Literacy Programs for Teachers K-12

Enhance Economic Opportunities for Agricultural Producers
Research Year: 
2005
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. Yet teachers need to understand agriculture themselves before they can integrate concepts about agriculture into their lesson plans.

Description of Action: 

Arizona Cooperative Extension has developed several programs for teachers K-12 who wish to incorporate agricultural literacy into their lesson plans. Teachers have the opportunity to participate in everything from an eight-hour workshop to the five-day Summer Agricultural Institute.

The University of Arizona Cooperative Extension, with funding from the Arizona Foundation for Agricultural Literacy, has conducted a five-day Summer Agricultural Institute (SAI) for teachers every summer for the past 15 years. The Institute educates participants about the Arizona agricultural industry and encourages them to incorporate this knowledge into their classroom activities. Hands-on learning about agriculture is combined with practical curriculum development. Participants receive lesson plans, videos, and other take-home materials. Since many of the teachers have little or no knowledge of the agricultural industry, they also visit agricultural operations, stay with farm families and interact with the owners and managers of these businesses. This helps them better understand the technical aspects of agriculture in Arizona—its wide range of operations and career opportunities. Eighty-three volunteers contributed 760 hours of service in 2005 to ensure the success of the Institute.

One hundred percent of the 26 SAI attendees in 2005 said they would recommend the Institute to other educators and 92 percent rated the Institute as “more valuable” than other in-service programs they have attended.

"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.

In addition, 30 Arizona Specialty Crop Lessons were written by 16 teachers and published in 1,100 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. They have been aligned to Arizona’s Academic Standards. These lessons received national recognition from the National Association of Extension 4-H Agents with the National Communicator Award—Individual Educational Piece.

A new program implemented in 2005 was Arizona Agricultural Literacy Day. Fifty-nine volunteers went into 260 classrooms I 86 schools and read the book “If it Weren’t for Farmers” to 5,037 third-grade students on March 29. Additionally, Maricopa County Farm Bureau has funded a portion of a staff position to train volunteers who go into classrooms to teach academically appropriate lessons to students. These volunteers conducted lessons in 51 classes with 1471 students.

Impact: 

One hundred thirty-one Arizona teachers participated in one of eight agricultural literacy programs in 2005 that lasted from eight hours to five days. These educators, who are currently using agricultural literacy lessons with 6,912 students in their classrooms and intend to continue them in the future, report that they will teach an average of 13 more years. The potential impact of these 131 teachers is thus almost 90,000 students during the remainder of their teaching careers.

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. Arizona is now conducting a study to examine AIMS (Arizona’s Instrument to Measure Standards) test scores of fifth grade students taught by SAI trained teachers and compare the scores of other fifth grade students taught by non-SAI trained teachers.

Funding Agencies: 

Arizona Foundation for Agricultural Literacy; Arizona Tech Prep; Arizona Department of Agriculture; Arizona Foundation for Resource Education; Western Growers Association; Agriculture Literacy Endowment; Maricopa County Farm Bureau

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

The University of Arizona

4341 E. Broadway

Phoenix, AZ 85040

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