This week is American Education Week and for me, education means Agriculture Education. I am currently a junior at the University of Illinois majoring in Agricultural Education so it’s easy for me to see the importance of ag education in schools. Unfortunately this is not the case for most people. When people hear “ag education” they either have no idea what you’re talking about, or they think of blue corduroy jackets. Although agriculture education can be college and continuing education through different programs it is most commonly known as a high school program. Agriculture education is extremely beneficial to students and is about more than just sows, cows and plows.
Agriculture education is broken down into three different overlapping categories, the first of which is classroom instruction. Ag classes are extremely varied from small engines, to horticulture, to ag business. It’s easy for students to find a class that suits their interests and gives them many hands on activities. Unfortunately many ag programs are cut from schools because administrators do not see the importance of the content taught in ag classes. Classes teach important content and life skills that pertain to agriculture, an industry that employs 35% of the workforce in the United States. Ag classes also teach science and math skills applied to real life situations. In horticulture, animal science, or vet tech classes students can learn biology through hands on experiences. Math can be learned through ag business and management classes using real life scenarios. Ag classes can be very beneficial, even for students who don’t think they will have a future on the farm.
The second component of Agriculture Education is Supervised Agricultural Experiences or SAE’s. If you are familiar with SAE’s you are probably groaning right now thinking about hours spent keeping and recording diligent records on a project. That is basically what an SAE is, a project, job or experiment that the student conducts with minimal guidance from their teacher. SAE’s can be almost anything, from building a lawn tractor, to hatching eggs, to working in a vet’s office. Students must then keep records on their experience and have the opportunity to compete with their record book for section, state and national awards. By selecting their own projects students get to gain knowledge in subjects they are interested in and expand on the content they learn in the classroom. SAE’s also teach the responsibility of record keeping and allow students to learn from personal experiences.
The final aspect of Agriculture Education is, of course, FFA. What used to be known as Future Farmers of America is now the National FFA Organization. The FFA is the largest national high school organization and provides endless opportunities to its members. Being involved in FFA gives high schoolers the chance to meet students from a school in the next town over, to a school across the country. Students can be learn how to become great leaders from their peers. They can also compete as teams at Career Development Events or CDE’s that pinpoint their interests. CDE’s can range from the very agricultural livestock judging or dairy foods to the very universal and beneficial public speaking, job interview and parliamentary procedure. These CDE’s allow for friendly competition and a chance for students to hone in their skills in the areas that interest them the most. FFA provides students with priceless opportunities that prepare them for the future with leadership skills, career development and working with peers.
Agriculture education can be a vital part any school curriculum and greatly benefits high school students. Whether a student comes from an agricultural background or not, or plans to go into agriculture or not, they can greatly benefit from the opportunities available through agriculture education. Throughout American Education Week keep in mind how important it is to educate youth about agriculture. Agriculture education represents a wide range of subjects and skills that can be learned in and out of a classroom from teachers, peers and the students themselves. It is important to support Ag programs in our schools to give students the opportunity to be the future of the agriculture industry.
University of Illinois student
majoring in Ag Education
If you liked this, check out:
WHY ARE FARMERS SO LAZY?
CITY PRODUCE PROGRAM PROVIDES NUTRITION, EDUCATION, UNDERSTANDING