Academic journal article The Agricultural Education Magazine

Using Guest Speakers & Internships to Prepare Students for Agricultural Careers

Academic journal article The Agricultural Education Magazine

Using Guest Speakers & Internships to Prepare Students for Agricultural Careers

Article excerpt

Early in my teaching career, I was surrounded fby a roomful of potential students and parents. I had just finished highlighting the agriscience curriculum, discussing the benefits of FFA, and describing the importance of SAE. At the conclusion of my presentation, a parent raised her hand and asked, "What kind of agriculture career could my child pursue?" At that moment, I realized the challenges of teaching in an urban setting. In my small, rural hometown in Ohio, the acres of farmland that surrounded our homes and school were evidence of the traditional careers in agriculture that my classmates and I might pursue upon graduation from high school or college. Off the top of my head, I couldn't think of any specific examples of agriculture careers in the community in which I taught north of Orlando beyond the landscapers responsible for maintaining the school grounds. When thinking about Orlando, I could identify a few careers in agriculture, such as the foliage industry and turfgrass industry, but I quickly realized that I needed to do my homework on the many agricultural careers that my students could pursue in Orange County, Florida.

I took the advice given to many novice agriculture teachers and began to acquaint myself with agricultural businesses around the county. Initially, I began by attending the meetings of agriculture organizations such as the local chapter of the Florida Nurseryman and Growers Association and the Orange County Farm Bureau. I used these opportunities to gain information for my curriculum and to identify guest speakers for my classes. Once the members of the organization learned more about my program offerings, they provided me with names of additional contacts that would be excellent sources of guest speakers and field trips.

My school district encouraged the inclusion of guest speakers in all classrooms by sponsoring an event called Teach-in. During this county-wide event, individuals from around the county served as guest teachers and provided students with information about their career fields. Guest teachers in my classroom had occupations in fields ranging from aquaculture to natural resources to agribusiness. Using this idea, a similar event could be planned specific to agricultural careers. After obtaining an agreement to participate from the curriculum teachers and setting a date, individuals can be contacted and invited to take part in this activity. The list below provides just a few suggestions of potential participants that could be invited for core curriculum classes:

Math - accountant, landscape architect, credit analyst

Science - food scientist, entomologist

Social Studies - regional planner, a local agriculturalist could share how agriculture in the area has changed over time

Language Arts - agriculture journalist, radio/television broadcaster

While my students and I learned a lot from the guest speakers who were invited to my classes, the details of the daily responsibilities of their respective careers often remained unclear. To provide the opportunity to gain firsthand knowledge of agricultural careers, teacher and student internships were developed.

Due to my students' interest in possible careers in the life sciences, my curriculum had a strong emphasis on agriscience. My classroom contained a sterile room with a fume hood so students could propagate plants using tissue culture. To learn more about how a commercial plant tissue culture facility operated, I was able to arrange for a two-day internship. I spent approximately 3 ½ hours in each of the four major areas of the company. I had the chance to learn how to mix growing media, perform tissue culture in the propagation area, shadow the director of research and development, and transplant 3-5 inch plants into cell packs while in the production area. Not only did this internship expose me to an agricultural industry with which I was unfamiliar, I was also able to incorporate what I had learned into my lessons on plant tissue culture. …

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