Animal Fiber Production for the Fashion Supply Chain: Developing Sustainable Agriculture Curriculum for High School Young Women

Progress report for LNC19-431

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2019: $148,700.00
Projected End Date: 10/31/2022
Grant Recipient: Kansas State University
Region: North Central
State: Kansas
Project Coordinator:
Dr. Kim Hiller
Kansas State University
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Project Information

Summary:

The fashion supply chain is a major contributor to global trade, but it is also environmentally and socially damaging because manufacturing of fibers, textiles, and clothing carries high demands for natural resources – while also outputting air, water, and land pollution. In response, some professionals within the fashion industry are focused on transforming supply chains towards sustainability – including the development of regional fiber systems that nourish people and the planet. Coinciding, there is a growing market opportunity in the North Central region of the US for fiber animal production – including wool sheep; and there are unique opportunities for fiber animal production that are highly sustainable. However, a profitable and environmentally sustainable fiber animal industry that can enhance quality of life for farmers, communities, and society is dependent on various factors, including younger generations of sheep farmers, shearers, and wool handlers. It also requires fashion designers knowledgeable about the qualities of wool textiles and their adaptability to a range of fashion applications, as well as increased consumer demand for wool clothing.

The purpose of the project, “Animal Fiber Production for the Fashion Supply Chain: Developing Sustainable Agriculture Curriculum for High School Young Women,” is to utilize high school girls’ interest in fashion to develop knowledge of sustainable agricultural practices and careers—with the long-term goal of stimulating a North Central regional fiber system.

The project will create a series of modules developed around four topic clusters: the fashion supply chain, sustainable fiber and fashion processes, sustainable sheep husbandry, and engagement with farm professionals. The curriculum will target high school aged young women and will employ active learning strategies, allowing participants to interact directly with sheep and sheep farmers, as well as have hands-on experiences with activities such as spinning, dyeing, and weaving.

Project outcomes include: 1) increased knowledge of economic, social, and environmental aspects of sustainable agricultural production of animal fibers; 2) enhanced basic fiber-producing animal husbandry skills and fiber/yarn/textile production skills of young women; 3) expanded awareness of agricultural-based career opportunities in the fashion supply chain; and 4) improved consumer perceptions about purchasing and wearing wool clothing.

The approach of this project is unique because it harnesses the interest in fashion of many young women to educate about a sustainable fashion supply chain while utilizing Next Generation Science Standards to build their confidence in pursuing STEM and agricultural related careers.

Project Objectives:

The purpose of this project is to utilize young women’s interest in fashion to develop knowledge of sustainable agriculture practices, and careers -- focusing primarily on the sheep and wool industries.

Specifically, the objectives are to develop curriculum modules for high school students that: 1) increase knowledge of economic, social, and environmental aspects of sustainable agricultural production of animal fiber; 2) enhance basic fiber-producing animal husbandry skills and fiber/yarn/textiles production skills of young women, through experiential learning; 3) expand awareness of agricultural-based career opportunities in the fashion supply chain; and 4) improve consumer perceptions about purchasing and wearing wool clothing.

Introduction:

No additional information to include at this time.

Cooperators

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Research

Hypothesis:

There are no hypothesis to report at this time.

Materials and methods:

The method of this project is to create curriculum modules for high-school students to learn about the fashion supply chain, sustainable fiber processes, and sustainable sheep husbandry. The framework for the curriculum modules is McDonough and Braungart’s (2002) Cradle-to-Cradle principles – a holistic approach to designing economically, socially, and environmentally sustainable systems.

As previously described, farmers will be involved in the development and delivery of the modules. We also intend to include high school educators. To recruit a high school teacher, we will utilize a database of Kansas Family and Consumer Sciences teachers compiled by the department of the project coordinator. Additionally, we will utilize the resources of the American Wool Council, a division of the American Sheep Industry Association, to development the modules - including their Wool 101 resources and fact sheets.

The project approach includes developing modules around four topic clusters:

  1. Fashion Supply Chain: structure of the supply chain; sustainability impacts of fashion production; Cradle-to-Cradle; sustainable practices within the industry
  2. Sustainable Fiber and Fashion: sustainable practices for processing fibers, yarns, textiles, and coloration; basic textile science of wool; exposure to versatility of wool; fashion applications
  3. Sustainable Sheep Husbandry: basic sheep breeds; animal care and health; fiber characteristics of different breeds; shearing; wool handling and classification
  4. Interacting with Sheep Farmers: exploring sustainable supply chain processes and benefits of entrepreneurship in an agricultural enterprise; interactive activities for the students to engage with animals and fiber while utilizing the principles of Cradle-to-Cradle

The curriculum modules will be piloted through a summer EXCITE camp on the team members’ university campus. EXCITE is designed to encourage females in grades 9-12 to purse STEM and agriculture careers.

We are proposing a three-year project. In Year 1 and Year 2, utilizing the participants of the EXCITE program, the modules will be pilot tested in segments. For example, Year 1 may concentrate on piloting modules focused on sustainable sheep husbandry and interactions with sheep farmers and Year 2, the fashion related modules. This strategy permits assessment of effectiveness of activities and revisions in manageable stages. In the summer of the final year of funding, all modules will be implemented through a week long EXCITE camp entirely focused on sheep and wool production.

Throughout the three-year project we will also film the workshops using 360° and standard video documentation. Using 360° video cameras, participants’ interactions with the sheep and farmers will be recorded. 360° video is recorded in all directions, allowing viewers to use smart phones and computers to pan-around within a film while it is playing, creating an immersive virtual reality world for the viewer. Standard filming will also be used to generate a short documentary for later dissemination.

 

The Curriculum Modules

Curriculum module development will utilize active learning strategies. An active learning approach is based upon constructivism, a cognitive development and information processing theory (Swiderski, 2011). The young women participating in the project will come to the experience with pre-existing knowledge and attitudes. The learning experienced in this project will enhance and build on their previous understanding of the world, helping them process new knowledge. Throughout the curriculum modules, a variety of educational strategies will foster student learning. Many of the activities will be hands-on and experiential, but all will be developed to incorporate active learning strategies with the goal of activating students’ prior knowledge; grouping related information into larger, interrelated chunks to ease processing; allowing students to make connections between their prior knowledge and new understanding; and creating a schema that can be applied to a range of situations (Swiderski).

In addition, the curriculum will incorporate the following three NGSS performance expectations to emphasize STEM related outcomes:

  • HS-ETS1-1 Engineering Design: Analyze a major global challenge to specify qualitative and quantitative criteria and constraints for solutions that account for societal needs and wants.
  • HS-ETS1-3 Engineering Design: Evaluate a solution to a complex real-world problem based on prioritized criteria and trade-offs that account for a range of constraints, including costs, safety, reliability, and aesthetics as well as possible social, cultural, and environmental impacts.
  • HS-LS2-7 Ecosystems – Interactions, Energy and Dynamics: design, evaluate, and refine a solution for reducing the impacts of human activities on the environment and biodiversity.

The various module activities include Scientific and Engineering and Crosscutting Concepts standards as well (National Research Council, 2012).

Fashion Supply Chain Cluster

  • Textile and Apparel Supply Chain Overview Module: The purpose of this module is to provide knowledge of the fashion supply chain and sustainability related impacts of fashion production. Specific objectives are to 1) identify the structure of the fashion supply chain; 2) understand economic, social, and environmental impacts of fashion production. The activities of this module are more classroom based than experiential. Students’ current knowledge of the fashion industry will be elicited as a starting point. Information will be supported by videos and images to help students visualize the magnitude of the industry and the impacts. This module incorporates learning outcomes related to NGSS HS-ETS1-1, Scientific and Engineering Practices (e.g., asking questions), and Crosscutting Concepts (e.g., patterns, cause and effect)
  • Sustainability within the Textiles and Apparel Industry Module: The purpose of this module is to share alternative and more responsible business approaches necessary to address economic, social, and environmental impacts and to transform the fashion industry. The objectives are to 1) explore Cradle-to-Cradle principles as a sustainable business approach; 2) investigate some current sustainable practices; 3) recognize the role consumers can play in changing the system. Some activities include classroom style presentation, guided online research, and small group discussion. The modules in this cluster prepare students for the more experiential activities in subsequent clusters. This module incorporates outcomes related to NGSS HS-ETS1-3, Scientific and Engineering Practices (e.g., defining problems), and Crosscutting Concepts (e.g., systems).

Sustainable Fiber and Fashion Cluster

  • Textile Science of Wool Module: The purpose of this laboratory module is to examine the structural properties of wool and develop connections between properties and sustainability. The objectives are to 1) understand how structural properties of wool fiber relate to the characteristics and sustainability of wool apparel; 2) appreciate structural differences of different wool classifications; 3) be aware of different scientific methods for testing fibers. Some of the lab activities in this module include identifying the microscopic characteristics of wool fibers in comparison to other fibers and conducting fiber identification and other textiles tests. This module incorporates learning outcomes related to Scientific and Engineering Practices (e.g., analyzing and interpreting data, constructing explanations) and Crosscutting Concepts (e.g., patterns, cause and effect).
  • Spinning, Dyeing, and Weaving Module: The purpose of this hands-on module is to experience the processes of hand spinning and weaving wool. The objectives are to 1) understand the steps required to process raw wool into a yarn and a textile; 2) learn how to dye wool yarn using natural methods; 3) create products from wool fibers. Some of the activities in this module include carding and spinning fiber, naturally dyeing yarn, and weaving on small looms. This module incorporates learning outcomes related to Scientific and Engineering Practices (e.g., planning and carrying out investigations) and Crosscutting Concepts (e.g., cause and effect).
  • Fashion Applications Module: The purpose of this classroom/hand-on module is to expose students to the versatility of wool for fashion. The objectives are to 1) change misconceptions of wool products; 2) identify fabric characteristics of different wool fabrications and appropriate applications. Some of the activities include interaction with a variety of wool fabrications and products to elicit and change misconceptions as well as to identify characteristics and applications and use three stages of the design thinking process to apply their new understanding of sustainability and wool. This module incorporates learning outcomes related to NGSS HS-ETS1-3, Scientific and Engineering Practices (e.g., defining problems, analyzing and interpreting data), and Crosscutting Concepts (e.g., patterns).

Sustainable Sheep Husbandry Cluster

  • Sheep and Fiber Industry Overview Module: The purpose of this module is to provide an overview of the interconnectedness of the global, national, regional, and state sheep industry. The objectives are to 1) understand the sheep industry and economic drivers; 2) appreciate the scope of the global and national industry; 3) comprehend the high profitability of sheep for farmers. Some of the activities in this module include learning about breeds of sheep and how different breeds are utilized. This module incorporates learning outcomes related to NGSS HS-ETS1-1, Scientific and Engineering Practices (e.g., asking questions), and Crosscutting Concepts (e.g., cause and effect).
  • Sheep Handling and Facilities Module: The purpose of this hands-on module is to educate on the proper handling of sheep and the facilities necessary to operate a farm. The objectives are to 1) give a broad understanding of how to handle sheep (efficiently and humanely); 2) learn how to provide general care to sheep; 3) increase understanding of sheep movement and handling. Some of the activities in this module include working with the university’s sheep and meat goat center to trim hooves, vaccinate, and body-condition score sheep. This module incorporates learning outcomes related to NGSS HS-ETS1-3 and Crosscutting Concepts (e.g., patterns, cause and effect).
  • Sheep Health and Nutrition Module: The purpose of this hands-on module is to focus on sheep health and nutrition. The objectives are to 1) teach typical diseases and health issues; 2) learn how to prevent and treat these issues; 3) gain knowledge of how to navigate a nutrition program for fiber-producing sheep. Some of the activities in this module include identifying sheep health issues and designing and implementing a nutrition program. This module incorporates learning outcomes related to NGSS HS-ETS1-3, Scientific and Engineering Practices (e.g., asking questions, defining problems,) and Crosscutting Concepts (e.g., cause and effect).
  • Harvesting Sheep Fiber Module: The purpose of this hands-on module is to educate about the proper harvesting procedures necessary to obtain a sustainable, high-quality fiber product. The objectives are to 1) teach appropriate shearing technique; 2) teach proper wool handling, classing, and packaging. Some of the activities in this module include practicing shearing techniques and wool classing and packaging. This module incorporates learning outcomes related to NGSS HS-ETS1-3, Scientific and Engineering Practices (e.g., analyzing and interpreting data), and Crosscutting Concepts (e.g., patterns).

Interacting with Sheep Farmers Cluster

  • Farm Tour Module: The purpose of this hands-on module is to create a connection to what the students have been taught in the previous modules at a sustainable sheep farm. The objective of this module is to provide a real-world example. Some of the activities in this module include visiting a sheep farm to learn directly from farmers that operate profitable and environmentally sustainable sheep and fiber businesses. While at the farm the participants will practice safe handling of sheep and identifying sheep health issues. Time at the farm will also be spent spinning, weaving, and dyeing. The owners of Nordeen Farm will be actively involved in the development and delivery of this module. This module incorporates learning outcomes related to NGSS HS-ETS1-3.
  • Sustainable Sheep Enterprises Module: The purpose of this classroom/hands-on module is to use problem-based educational strategies to teach sustainable business development concepts (I.e. triple bottom line). The objectives of the module are to 1) introduce sustainable business models; 2) teach students how to write a business plan; 3) understand the basics of constructing a budget for sustainability and profitability of a sheep enterprises. The activity in this module will be having the students work in small teams to create a mock business plan and budget for an economically, environmentally, and socially sustainable sheep enterprise. This module incorporates learning outcomes related to NGSS HS-LS2-7, Scientific and Engineering Practices (e.g., defining problems, designing solutions, obtaining, evaluating and communicating information), and Crosscutting Concepts (e.g, systems models).

References

McDonough, W., & Braungart, M. (2002). Cradle to cradle: Remaking the way we make things. North Point Press.

National Research Council. (2012). A Framework for K-12 Science Education: Practices, Crosscutting Concepts, and Core Ideas. Committee on a Conceptual Framework for New K-12 Science Education Standards. Board on Science Education, Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education. Washington DC: The National Academies Press.

Swiderski, S. M. (2011). Transforming principles into practice: Using cognitive active learning strategies in the High School classroom. The Clearing House, 84(6), 239-243.

Research results and discussion:

Due to COVID-19, all research activities were paused in 2020 so there are no results to present yet.

Participation Summary

Education

Educational approach:

Education curriculum modules on the topics of the fashion supply chain, sustainable wool fiber processes and sustainable sheep husbandry will be delivered to high school aged youth through a summer camp format on the team members' university campus. The camp will also include a visit to a working sheep farm.

Project Activities

Farm to Fashion Camp

Educational & Outreach Activities

Participation Summary:

Education/outreach description:

Due to COVID-19 restrictions, no educational or outreach activities happened in 2020.

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.