An Evaluation of Attitude Change by Participation in an Elementary Educational Swine Curriculum
Wagler, Sarah E., Rusk, Clinton P., Blomeke, Christine R., Talbert, B. Allen, Richert, Brian T., Latour, Mickey A., NACTA Journal
The purpose of this study was to field-test an educational swine curriculum, "There's a Pig in My Classroom," and measure the effectiveness of the curriculum at changing fifth grade students' attitudes about the pork industry. The objectives of this study were to evaluate: the overall change in students' attitudes toward the pork industry and the effect of specific demographics on the change in students' attitude following participation in an educational swine curriculum. The effectiveness of the curriculum was measured through a pretest/post-test survey of fifth grade students (n=435), divided into treatment and control groups. The findings indicated that participation in the educational swine curriculum positively increased the students' attitudes towards the pork industry; and demographics such as 4-H experience, farm experience or prior experience with pigs had limited effect on the changes in students' attitude.
Townsend (1990) found that pre-secondary agricultural education programs can build positive attitudes towards agriculture within its students, thus allowing them to develop into positive and informed leaders. Holz-Clause and Jost (1995) found that middle-school children appear to have already shaped their perceptions of agriculture, making it important for agricultural education programs to start in elementary school (Nordstrom, Wilson, Kelsey, Maretzki, and Pitts, 2000). The earlier in life information is presented to kids, "the more receptive they are to accepting and applying wholesome concepts about the topic for the rest of their life (McReynolds, 1985)." These findings present a goal for us, to create educational curriculums geared toward upper elementary students that can result in a life-long impact. For centuries, educationalists such as Aristotle, Socrates, Pestalozzi, Comenius, and Benjamin Franklin believed that early in life, people should learn about plants, animals, and the ways humans utilize these resources (Snowden and Shoemake, 1971). Piaget suggested that between the ages of six and eleven, children develop opinions and ideas that last throughout their lives (Slavin, 1997). Thus, it would seem appropriate to introduce agriculture, with its many concrete examples, to children in the upper grades of elementary school (Terry, Herring, and Larke, 1992). Since the early 1900s, the importance of agricultural education at the elementary level has been advocated in the United States. In 1911, Garland Bricker stated: "Like the more popular sciences such as botany, physics, physiology, and chemistry, agriculture has its common, everyday, elementary facts with which everyone in country and village should be more or less acquainted..." (p. 1-2). Bricker (1911) also believed that elementary agricultural principles should be incorporated into elementary education.
Through the centuries, as the farm population has dwindled, so has the number of elementary agricultural education programs. In 1981, however, under the guidance of the United States Department of Agriculture, in coordination with a national task force of representatives from agriculture, business, education, and governmental agencies, Agriculture in the Classroom was born (Agriculture in the Classroom, n.d.). Since the introduction of Agriculture in the Classroom and several other agricultural education curriculums, research has revealed that students with some type of exposure to agriculture have a more positive view of agriculture than students with no experience (Nordstrom et al., 1999).
The research participants in this study were Indiana fifth grade students who were primarily 10 and 11 years-old. As noted by Wood (1994), students who are ten years-old are beginning to concentrate on tangible products that display their competence. They work well in groups, and are actively receptive learners of factual information and scientific principles. In addition, they are good listeners, voracious readers, expressive, talkative, and like to explain. …