The University of Arizona
College of Agriculture and Life Sciences
What has been done?
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.
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.