Coalition aims to expand agriculture education

By Rae Wagoner
Kentucky Soybean Board

250,000. That is the number of students the Kentucky Agriculture and Environment in the Classroom hopes to reach with food and farm-based lessons in the next two years.

That goal will be made possible with the support of agriculture community partners, such as the Kentucky Soybean Promotion Board. The board recently provided $10,000 to KAEC for agriculture education program development, which will include teaching resources about soybeans for educators.
“The Kentucky Soybean Board has been a long-term partner in helping us provide agriculture education to Kentucky’s students,” said KAEC Executive Director Jennifer Elwell. “In addition to general agriculture education, we want to address specific goals of Kentucky’s soybean industry.”
The soybean promotion board and KAEC have begun work on resource development, making sure information about the production and use of soybeans are packaged in a way that will be easy for teachers to utilize.
“With consumers being three generations removed from the farm these days, children are no longer working and learning alongside their parents and grandparents on the farm. If today’s youth don’t learn about agriculture in the classroom, the only resource they’ll have available may be the Internet,” said Kentucky Soybean Promotion Board Chair Keith Tapp, who farms in Sebree. “There’s a lot of great information on food and farming on the Web, but there’s also a whole lot of misinformation and baseless claims being made. It all comes down to this: We want consumers to learn the truth about agriculture and the food, feed, fuel and fiber that farmers are growing for the world’s ever-increasing population,” Tapp said. “If we want them to learn the truth, it’s up to us to fund programs like this.”
Another impending project to encourage a deeper understanding of Kentucky agriculture in schools is to develop a comprehensive agriculture and food-issues website. Filled with questions from students, answers from industry experts and curriculum, this resource will challenge students to consider technologies and careers that make food and renewable resource production possible.
Elwell said careers in agriculture will be a primary focus of the website and other KAEC programs.
“Even as early as kindergarten, vocational studies and career readiness has become a major component of the Kentucky Core Academic Standards, and I want to make sure that we are developing and revamping programs to assist teachers,” Elwell said. “I also hope that learning the why and how of the many agriculture careers available will spark some interest in students at an earlier age.”
KSPB has also provided funding and support for Mobile Science Activity Centers, which gives agriscience lessons at elementary and middle schools across the commonwealth. The activity centers are operated by the Kentucky Department of Agriculture and reach about 24,000 students and 800 teachers each year. The department will soon put a third center into operation, thanks to the many KAEC sponsors and the Kentucky Agricultural Development Fund.
Additional KAEC programs supported by KSPB include the school assembly show “Agriculture Adventures” and the Agriculture Literacy Network, which equips educators with the resources, materials and training to provide quality, standards-based lessons.
KAEC was recently approved to market a special agricultural literacy license plate for non-farm vehicles in Kentucky. Once the minimum number of plates are reserved and manufactured, additional income will be available for programs.

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