The protection and preservation of rangelands is integral to key ecosystem services within the North Central Region such as biodiversity, recreation, and food and fiber production. Educating youth through a sustainable agriculture curriculum can serve as the direct link to the future sustainability of rangelands in the Great Plains and South Dakota. This project, entitled “Investigating Rangeland Systems and Practices: Enhancing Sustainable Agriculture Curriculum in South Dakota,” is focused on educating youth in grades 6, 7, and 8 about sustainable agriculture through a lens of rangeland systems and practices. Our overall objectives are to promote sustainable agriculture curriculum through educational events for teachers and 4-H Youth Program Advisors, have educators and youth learn about sustainable agriculture through a rangeland lens, and allow ranchers opportunities to connect and communicate with youth about their challenges, management practices, livelihood, and community impact. To maximize reach, we will conduct statewide workshops for teachers and 4-H Youth Program Advisors, providing these educators with lesson and laboratory/field exercises that align with the Next Generation Science Standards. All lessons and laboratory/field exercises will involve active learning strategies, such as think-pair-shares and small group discussions, as well as experiential and hands-on learning, using case studies developed by ranchers highlighting typical challenges they encounter. Ranchers will be directly involved in this project through the “Adopt-a-Rancher” component, where they will provide vlogs (video blogging) to classrooms and help develop field trips to their ranches. Students and educators will learn about the local, national, and worldwide impacts sustainable agriculture has on people, the economy, and the protection of natural resources. This project will result in increased awareness of sustainable agriculture among youth, including challenges faced, impacts of management strategies, and career opportunities. Ultimately, this project will provide youth and, consequently, their families an objective understanding of what farmers and ranchers are doing, making them informed citizens and cognizant neighbors and future voters.
Project objectives from proposal:
Learning outcomes: 1) teachers and 4-H Youth Program Advisors will learn about sustainable agriculture and how to teach the curriculum, 2) students will learn about sustainable agriculture, 3) students will gain awareness of careers and higher education paths in agricultural fields. Action outcomes: 1) students will share sustainable agriculture information with their families, 2) students will seek careers or higher education paths in agricultural fields, 3) the curriculum will be adopted by states within the North Central Region. Condition outcomes: 1) increased concern for the protection and conservation of natural resources, 2) increased labor force in agricultural fields.