Eastern Upper Michigan Sustainable Agriculture Curriculum Initiative

Progress report for LNC19-430

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2019: $199,987.00
Projected End Date: 10/31/2022
Grant Recipient: Bay Mills Community College
Region: North Central
State: Michigan
Project Coordinator:
Dr. Steve Yanni
Bay Mills Community College
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Project Information

Summary:

As interest in sustainable agriculture is expanding, opportunities for young people to gain exposure to food production is often limited by lack of available educational opportunities. This is the case in Michigan’s Eastern Upper Peninsula (EUP), where Bay Mills Community College (BMCC) is located, and is even more lacking among Native American youth. One of the challenges facing agricultural today is, “The days when agriculture-related employers could expect to hire new employees with farm backgrounds are over. There are not enough “farm kids” available. Even the land grant institutions in farm states are largely and increasingly populated by students with urban and suburban backgrounds.” (National Research Council, 2009, pp. 17-18) This reality is of particular concern for Native American communities in Michigan as they: 1) do not have significant recent agricultural involvement; and 2) are the least represented ethnic minority group when looking at baccalaureate degrees awarded in agriculture and natural resources in the United States from 1995-2007. (National Center for Educational Statistics Completion Reports)

In Michigan’s EUP, there are no FFA programs or agriculture educators in the K-12 schools; local schools and the regional ISD currently lack the capacity to develop sustainable agriculture curriculum. Bay Mills Community College, and its partners, propose the development and implementation of a sustainable agriculture curriculum targeting middle school students that incorporates Native American values, and partners with local agriculture interests to provide regionally relevant, classroom, and hands-on learning opportunities. Additionally, we propose K-12 teacher professional development targeting sustainable agriculture concepts for their classrooms.

Project Objectives:

Objective 1

Establish a middle school sustainable agriculture curriculum/K-12 teacher professional development task force and develop a middle school curriculum and related K-12 teacher professional development experiences.

Objective 2

Introduce sustainable agriculture learning opportunities among middle school students (new curriculum) and K-12 teachers (professional development).

 

Student Outcomes

  1. Improved understanding of sustainable agriculture 
  2. Explore tools to make informed choices about the food they eat and purchase
  3. Improved knowledge of agricultural careers
  4. Improved awareness of current issues and challenges in agriculture

 

Teacher Outcomes

  1. Develop sustainable agriculture teaching modules 
  2. Improved access to agricultural experiential learning opportunities
  3. Connect math/science concepts to real problems farmers face
  4. Connect teachers with local farmers
Introduction:

As interest in sustainable agriculture is expanding, opportunities for young people to gain exposure to food production is often limited by lack of available educational opportunities. This is the case in Michigan’s Eastern Upper Peninsula (EUP), where Bay Mills Community College (BMCC) is located, and is even more lacking among Native American youth. One of the challenges facing agricultural today is, “The days when agriculture-related employers could expect to hire new employees with farm backgrounds are over. There are not enough “farm kids” available. Even the land grant institutions in farm states are largely and increasingly populated by students with urban and suburban backgrounds.” (National Research Council, 2009, pp. 17-18) This reality is of particular concern for Native American communities in Michigan as they: 1) do not have significant recent agricultural involvement; and 2) are the least represented ethnic minority group when looking at baccalaureate degrees awarded in agriculture and natural resources in the United States from 1995-2007. (National Center for Educational Statistics Completion Reports)

In Michigan’s EUP, there are no FFA programs or agriculture educators in the K-12 schools; local schools and the regional ISD currently lack the capacity to develop sustainable agriculture curriculum. Bay Mills Community College, and its partners, propose the development and implementation of a sustainable agriculture curriculum targeting middle school students that incorporates Native American values, and partners with local agriculture interests to provide regionally relevant, classroom, and hands-on learning opportunities. Additionally, we propose K-12 teacher professional development targeting sustainable agriculture concepts for their classrooms.

Cooperators

Click linked name(s) to expand
  • Abbey Palmer (Educator)
  • Erin Satchell (Educator)
  • Heather Purple (Educator)
  • Grey Cloud Sparks (Educator and Researcher)

Research

Hypothesis:

The Eastern Upper Michigan Sustainable Agriculture Curriculum Initiative proposes to use a variety of methods and approaches to improve the agriculture literacy of middle school students. This will allow flexibility for the educators to design lessons to meet local needs and desires, as well as integrate new content into existing educational programing. In year one, the Project Coordinator will create a Curriculum Development Taskforce, consisting of middle school science educators, at least six local farmers, the EUPISD STEM Director and Mathematics and Science Center Director, and MSU UPREC North Farm Education Coordinator. This Taskforce will provide critical feedback and guidance in developing the curriculum.

Farm partners have a wide array of operations and experiences. This variety will allow for maximum exposure to the many facets of sustainable agriculture for teachers and students. The partners will be asked to sit on the taskforce with educators to develop and evaluate the curriculum. They will also be involved in classroom experiences as well as hosting field trips. Farm partners will work with students to problem solve farm challenges on their individual operations.

Materials and methods:

Project Evaluation and Reporting

 

A mixed-methods approach to evaluation will be utilized. The evaluation plan will use surveys and document analysis methods to understand (1) the impact and success of the curriculum; (2) changes in teachers’ self-efficacy toward agriculture instruction; and (3) changes in students’ self-efficacy toward agriculture careers and education. Annually, the evaluator will complete a list of outcomes, described below. These evaluation outcomes will be shared with the leadership team.

 

Year 1 Outcomes

1) Meet with project team about the evaluation questions, assessments and outcomes;

2) Develop surveys and Curriculum Effectiveness Rubric (CER);

3) Implement pre and post surveys for Curriculum Development Taskforce participants;

4) Implement CER to evaluate curriculum materials;

5) Analyze data gathered from taskforce participants and CER to produce an annual summary report about project impacts. 

 

Year 2 Outcomes

1) Implement pre and post surveys to measure changes in teachers’ self-efficacy toward agriculture instruction

2) Implement pre and post surveys to measure changes in students’ self-efficacy toward agriculture education and careers 

3) Analyze data gathered from teachers and students to produce an annual project impacts summary report.

 

Year 3 Outcomes

1) Implement pre and post surveys to measure changes in teachers’ self-efficacy toward agriculture instruction;

2) Implement pre and post surveys to measure changes in students’ self-efficacy toward agriculture education and careers;

3) Analyze all data gathered to produce a final program impact report.

 

The surveys and CER will be aligned with the objectives, tasks, and goals of the project. Due to the small sample size, quantitative data collected will be analyzed using descriptive statistics. The evaluator will administer the surveys, analyze the curriculum, and work with project leadership to obtain relevant access and documents. Evaluation questions and assessment tasks are described below.

 

Table 1. Curriculum Evaluation

Evaluation Question

Assessment

How do taskforce participants rate the curriculum materials? 

1) Pre-Survey of taskforce participants about expectations for the curriculum.

2) Post-Survey of taskforce participants reflecting on the curriculum produced.

How do teachers rate the curriculum materials? 

Survey participating teachers about (1) professional development for the curriculum, and (2) their perceptions of the curriculum.

Have all 9 of the proposed curriculum modules been developed?

Use CER 

Does the curriculum align with the NGSS?

Use CER.

Does the curriculum have experiential learning opportunities built into the curricular components?

Use CER.

 

Table 2. Teacher Self-Efficacy toward Agriculture Education and Instruction

Evaluation Question

Assessment

How have teachers’ self-efficacy toward agriculture instruction changed as a result of the professional development workshops and interactions with the curriculum?

1) Pre-Survey of teachers about (1) professional development workshops, and (2) curriculum.

2) Post-Survey of teachers about professional development workshops and curriculum.

3) Document analysis of teachers’ lesson plans resulting from professional development workshops.

 

Table 3. Student Self-Efficacy toward Agriculture Education and Careers 

Evaluation Question

Assessment

How have students’ self-efficacy toward agriculture education and careers changed after the summer experience and interactions with the curriculum?

1) Pre-Survey of students about experience with the curriculum and trained teachers.

2) Post-Survey of students about experience with the curriculum and trained teachers.

 

Research results and discussion:

First year results were severally limited due to COVID-19 restrictions.  The committee chose to delay the project until such a time that schools became open to outside visitors.

Participation Summary

Project Activities

2 Meetings of the curriulum taskforce

Educational & Outreach Activities

2 Taskforce meetings of farmers and educational professionals to develop and design the curriculum modules, and advise on grant progress.

Participation Summary

7 Farmers
7 Ag professionals participated
Education/outreach description:

02/17/20 First meeting of taskforce curriculum (farmers, educational professionals and grant employees).  Goal was to help the participants to understand the grant goals and their roll.  

03/20/20 Second meeting of taskforce curriculum.  

 

Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.