Eye on Agricultural Education
I suspect that the school bus load of students always watched the drop-off at our driveway, just in case my kids successfully tackled me. Up until the gentler hugs of this school year, my kids initiated a full-bore sprint and embrace from the bus. To control their momentum, I hooked them under the arms and spun them with feet suspended. Occasionally, I would just turn and run from them to initiate a chorus of giggles.
I thank my husband for the opportunity to get our kids off the bus every day and thanked our school’s agriculture teacher for the conversations that followed the recent bus drops. Nearly every day of the second quarter, our fifth grader came home retelling her agriculture lesson without prompt. She told me about the characteristics of corn and differences in field corn, sweet corn and popcorn. She cracked open an egg to identify its parts, including the chalaza, air cell and germinal disc not referenced in recipes. She talked about free-range and conventional caged chickens. We watched videos on beekeeping and more than once listened to inspirational speakers from the National FFA Convention on YouTube.
At the end of each week’s lesson, the teacher introduced a food item related to the unit, such as hand-made ice cream for dairy and honeycomb for beekeeping. My daughter found a new favorite apple variety during their apple unit. The class even made pumpkin pie in a cup in honor of their lessons on Illinois’ pumpkin production. The teacher successfully reached their brains through their stomachs, and appropriately so. What better way to impress agriculture’s impact on their lives than through food.
People cannot live a day without agriculture, yet most students can spend their educational career with no mandate to learn about the industry that feeds them, provides their clothes and partially fuels their cars. Every high school should require students to take agriculture coursework, which teaches about the food, fiber and fuel industry that impacts their daily lives. Schools should more widely embrace the subject area to teach math and science concepts through an agriculture lens. They should mandate agriculture coursework to prepare educated consumers, similar to required consumer education courses. Along the way, students learn about the industry’s career opportunities, which extend far beyond farming. And FFA offers the chance to apply classroom agriculture lessons to develop life and leadership skills, spur personal growth and foster career success, whether in an agricultural field or not.
Agriculture ranks as our daughter’s favorite subject in school. Thankfully, she intends to choose agriculture coursework along her path to high school graduation and adulthood. If only our collective education system would run and embrace agricultural education, as our 11-year-old has.