Since the publication of Understanding Agriculture: New Directions for Education in 1988, there has been a push for more agricultural literacy education at all levels of instruction. In 2000, this same need was again identified by A New Era in Agriculture: Reinventing Agricultural Education for the year 2020. Over a decade has passed and the need for agricultural literacy is still here. So what can we, as agricultural educators, do to help with this need? First, we need a direction for agricultural literacy. It is obvious that most people will never be involved in producing food and fiber.
However, our citizens make decisions daily as consumers that can have a great effect on the agricultural industry. They also have a direct impact when they step into a voting booth. Therefore, our agricultural literacy efforts should focus on educating future consumers on where food comes from, how to select food and fiber products, and the importance of a strong agricultural industry. Programs such as Agriculture in the Classroom have done a commendable job, but more is obviously needed.
One solution to this need is an innovative curriculum taught to sixth grade students in a Florida middle school. These students are rotated through eight subjects, spending eleven days in each. One of these subjects is agriculture, where this curriculum is taught. During an eighteen-week semester, over 600 sixth grade students in the school are taught this curriculum. These eleven days could be easily spent trying to recruit future agriculture students.
However, there is a golden opportunity to develop agricultural literacy, as most of these students would otherwise never receive any formal instruction about agriculture and will never be in another agriculture class. No other person is better suited for developing agricultural literacy then an agricultural teacher. For eleven days, we tour the "Wonderful World of Agriculture". Our itinerary is as follows:
Day 1: Class Orientation & Overview of the Agriculture Industry
Students are oriented to classroom procedures, requirements, and policies. A pre-test is given to determine prior knowledge. The content focuses on the importance of agriculture to our county, state, and then to the country. Current facts and figures are used to emphasize the economic impact that agriculture has.
Day 2: Horticulture Industry & Plant Propagation Lab
Landscaping and lawn maintenance are included because homeowners need basic knowledge in these areas. The fact that there are plenty of urban career opportunities in horticulture is also emphasized. In the plant propagation lab, students propagate a plant by using softwood cuttings, which they will later take home.
Day 3: Self Improvement & Goal Setting Activity
Thinking about making yourself better is not specific to agriculture, but it is included to help make better citizens out of these students. The goal setting activity starts with selfassessment and then concludes with setting specific goals to address their future plans.
Day 4: Large Animal Industry & Butter Lab
The importance of large animals, the role of ruminants, and the animal rights/animal welfare issue are discussed. In the lab, students make butter from cream and then have the opportunity to taste it.
Day 5: Leadership Development & FFA Activity
A brief history of the leaders that have ties to American agriculture is covered including many of our founding fathers. In the FFA activity, …