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 from proposal:
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.
Introduce sustainable agriculture learning opportunities among middle school students (new curriculum) and K-12 teachers (professional development).
- Improved understanding of sustainable agriculture
- Explore tools to make informed choices about the food they eat and purchase
- Improved knowledge of agricultural careers
- Improved awareness of current issues and challenges in agriculture
- Develop sustainable agriculture teaching modules
- Improved access to agricultural experiential learning opportunities
- Connect math/science concepts to real problems farmers face
- Connect teachers with local farmers