I educated youth about sustainable agriculture through a series of six full-day sessions once a month from April 2010 to October 2010. The events included hands-on activities and field trips. Youth who participated gained knowledge of sustainability and how it relates to agriculture and the food system. The goal of the project was to make youth more aware of where their food comes from and the issues related to food production. The primary audience of the project was girls grades 7 through 12 who reside in southeastern Nebraska. Some participants came into the program with knowledge of agriculture, but most did not.
To plan and conduct the project I worked with a Program Specialist at the Spirit of Nebraska Girl Scout Council. The Program Specialist helped to recruit girls to participate and helped to lead some of the sessions. The sessions were as follows:
Session One: “Sow What about Sow What?”
Participants gained a better knowledge of the food system and were introduced to sustainable agriculture practices through a variety of hands-on activities.
Session Two: “Foraging for Food”
Participants explored their local food network by visiting a farmer’s market, a local dairy, and a food cooperative.
Session Three: “Dig Deeper”
Participants visited local agricultural operations to learn about different sustainable agricultural practices and challenges farmers face in the area.
Sessions Four and Five: “Planning to Harvest”
Participants identified a project to complete in their communities to help educate others about sustainable agriculture.
Session Six: Wrap Up
Participants reviewed what they learned by participating in the program and shared their knowledge with others.
Before this grant, I was involved in youth agricultural programming, but no specific programming related to sustainable agriculture. Most of my sustainable agricultural programming was for an adult audience. Also before this grant I was actively involved with the Girl Scout program as a volunteer trainer and former troop leader.
To educate participants about the basics of agricultural production and different sustainable agricultural practices.
To increase participants’ understanding of sustainability and the environmental issues related to conventional agriculture.
To introduce participants to local food systems.
To make participants aware of entrepreneurship opportunities available in sustainable agriculture.
1.) Contacted the local Girl Scout Council about collaborating on the project.
2.) Met with the Project Specialist at the Council to draft a plan.
3.) Decided upon once-a-month meetings for the course of the growing season since an original idea was for girls to work on growing their own garden, but due to location constraints this idea was scratched.
4.) Planned and organized sessions around the guidelines and curriculum set forth in the “Sow What?” leaders guide.
5.) Worked with the Girl Scout Council to recruit participants.
6.) Met one day per month between April and October.
Tracy Stewart, Program Specialist, Spirit of Nebraska Girl Scout Council. Served as the contact with the Girl Scout Council and also helped to lead sessions.
Vaughn Hammond, UNL Extension Educator. Led a tour about alternative crops at the UNL Kimmel Education Center in Nebraska City.
Rod and Kay Christen, local agricultural producers. Led a tour of their operation to teach participants more about beef and forage production.
I learned from this project how to be flexible and make changes if necessary. The biggest challenges I was faced with included promotion, attendance, variation in ages and experience levels, teaching without lecturing, and conveying your passion for the topic. In regards to promotion there was a mix-up with the advertising that went out to potential participants that was beyond my control, which may have affected total numbers. Attendance was an issue because the program was a big time commitment for the girls to make. Variation in ages and experience was an issue that probably affected the quality of the program for some participants. If I was to do this program again I would limit it to a more defined age range; either middle school students or high school students. Teaching to a group who had little agricultural knowledge without a lot of lecturing was difficult. I tried to remedy this through hands-on activities and field trips, but I sometimes struggled to know if participants were gaining the knowledge I wanted them to get out of the program. Finally, conveying my passion for sustainable agriculture was difficult due to the group dynamics.
I was able to share information about my project with others at the NCR-SARE Farmer’s Forum in Columbia, Missouri in November 2010. I hoped by sharing information about the Girl Scout sustainable ag program, with other individuals that it would educate them about ways to teach youth about sustainable agriculture.