Traditionally, students have been strongly encouraged at the high school level to consider careers and choose courses that would fortify occupations of interest. Today, administrators and educators across the nation realize that developing students' interest must be addressed earlier--at the middle school level. Agriculture educators believe this to be true and are working to grow middle school agriculture education.
There is a lack of agricultural literacy in America. The majority of the U.S. population does not live on farms and does not engage in production agriculture. This has contributed to the diminishment of agricultural knowledge that has taken place over the decades but supports the need for agriculture education in today's schools. Middle school agriculture educators enlighten students both in the classroom and the laboratory. And, with the growing world of biotechnology, a "new agriculture" has emerged, offering students exciting new career paths to consider before reaching high school where, customarily, the groundwork has been laid.
In 1997, Susan Fritz and Linda Moody of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln asked the question, "Why should we expand agricultural education into our junior high/middle (grades 6-8) schools?" in their abstract titled "Assessment of Junior High/Middle School Agricultural Education Programs in Nebraska," found in the Journal of Agriculture Education, Vol. 38, No. 1. Their answer to the question was "to teach agricultural education to adolescents including: the issues of agricultural literacy; exploration of agricultural career interests; and utilizing experiential learning theory during adolescence."
One of the strong points Fritz and Moody make is that, even if students do not pursue careers in agriculture after having completed such an exploratory program, they should have a working knowledge of the important role of agriculture in society as the future policy and decision makers of the nation.
The idea to root agriculture education below the high school level has been growing nationwide. Professor Roland L. Peterson, University of Minnesota, has focused his efforts over the years to teaching methods, student teacher supervising, student advising, and developing various courses and programs in agriculture education.
"In my understanding of the philosophy of middle-level education," says Peterson, "those years serve as a time for students to explore many aspects of life and future career possibilities. The reality of having educational experiences around real …