A Course to Develop Agriscience Teachers

By Dormody, Thomas; Skelton, Peter et al. | The Agricultural Education Magazine, May/June 2011 | Go to article overview

A Course to Develop Agriscience Teachers


Dormody, Thomas, Skelton, Peter, Pint, Amy, O'Byrne, Kim, The Agricultural Education Magazine


As in other states, New Mexico's public education department places great emphasis on academic achievement, going so far as to tie students' academic achievement to school-level accreditation. The state's agricultural education teachers are expected to enhance academic performance in their students. With this in mind, we wanted to ensure that our agricultural education graduates from New Mexico State University were adept at teaching the science in agriculture when they take a teaching position.

Facilities and Resources

When a new agricultural science building (Skeen Hall) was constructed on New Mexico State University's campus, laboratory space became available next to the Department of Agricultural and Extension Education in Gerald Thomas Hall. We approached our dean and he agreed to remodel the laboratory space into an agriscience methods laboratory.

The definition of agriscience: "the application of scientific principles and new technologies to agriculture" (Cooper & Burton, 2002, p. 6), suggests to teachers what agriscience students should learn. The primary source of scientific principles to be covered in agriscience classes is the same for agriscience and science teachers: the state's science content standards and benchmarks. Technologies are chosen to teach these scientific principles, while solving problems tied to the state's agriculture, food, and natural resources (ANFR) content standards and benchmarks. With these rules in mind, we identified the units we needed to teach in the laboratory and the equipment and supplies we needed to purchase for these units using college and Carl D. Perkins funds. Attention then turned to designing and teaching an agriscience methods course.

"Agriscience Laboratory Applications"

We first taught AXED 485 "Agriscience Laboratory Applications," in 2003. The course was designed to cover the following methods-related content:

* Scientific principles and technologies applied to ANFR problems,

* How to crosswalk the state science and ANFR content standards and benchmarks covered in agriscience lessons,

* Types of agriscience student projects, such as experiments, demonstrations of scientific principles, descriptions of scientific phenomena, and classifications of observations,

* FFA opportunities for agriscience students and teachers such as the FFA Agriscience Fair and Agriscience Teacher of t h e Year, Wholeclass and modular agriscience teaching methods,

* Sources of agriscience curriculum and instructional resources, and

* Agriscience laboratory safety.

The content above and units representing animal, plant, technical, and natural resource/environmental systems career pathways (Office of Vocational and Adult Education, USDE, 2002) were integrated into the following course outline:

* Course Overview: Basics of agriscience, conducting an experiment, other agriscience projects, agriscience award and recognition programs, and agriscience curriculum and instructional resources,

* Hydroponic, Aquaculture, Aquaponies, and Indoor Gardening Systems,

* Teaching with Wisconsin Fast Pl ants,

* Tissue Culturing of African Violets,

* Teaching with Bottle Biology,

* Soil, Water, and Plant Tissue Testing,

* Insect Collecting and Identification,

* Animal Anatomy and Physiology: Fetal Pig Dissection,

* DNA Extraction from Plant Material and Electrophoresis of Fish Proteins,

* Light and Electron Microscopy,

* Field Trip to Observe an Agriscience Class at Mayfield High School, Las Cruces,

* Teaching Agriscience Lessons to Mayfield High School Students in Our Lab,

* Memorial Middle School Agriscience Field Day (MMSAFD), and

* MMSAFD Debriefing, Laboratory Clean-Up, and Course Evaluation.

Since the course's inception, scientists with backgrounds in aquaculture; plant genetic engineering; tissue culturing; soil, water, and plant tissue testing; entomology; animal science; and microscopy have served as eager and exceptional resource people in many of the labs. …

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