Why is agricultural education so valuable? AgAmerica Lending, (https://agamerica.com/blog/importance-of-youth-in-agriculture/), commends organizations like FFA and 4-H because they are helping to ensure the future of American agriculture. Through chapters and clubs, school enrichment programs, and special interest workshops, youth develop valuable life skills, are introduced to STEM principles, and become aware of the importance of agriculture: economic impacts, food safety and security, and career exploration. According to the National Association of Agricultural Educators (https://www.naae.org/whatisaged/), “Agricultural education teaches students about agriculture, food and natural resources. Through these subjects, agricultural educators teach students a wide variety of skills, including science, math, communications, leadership, management and technology.” Unfortunately, many people do not understand where their food and fiber comes from, and that is why programs like FFA and 4-H are so significant.
Volusia County 4-H offered a one-day Florida Agriculture in the Classroom day camp on July 7, from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. using FAITC materials. Through games, crafts, preparing food, and other activities, the nine youth that attended left with a new appreciation for Florida’s farmers. The youth learned that cow by-products are in many medicines, as well as chewing gum; you can make ice cream in a Ziploc bag; there are an amazing number of careers that bring crops to the table; what the difference is between commodities and by-products; what the top crops for Florida are; and how to make a mini-hydroponic unit.
The popular model that 4-H incorporates, “Do-Reflect-Apply,” (based on the “Experiential learning Model”) is used to engage youth in project area activities. It works like this: the educator introduces or shows the youth what they will be doing, and then the youth engage in the educational experience. Following the activity, youth discuss and think about the experience – asking questions, evaluating their performance, and developing goals. Using their new-found knowledge, they apply what they have learned to begin the process over.
First, the youth used a variety of dried legumes grown in Florida to make art projects on paper plates. After that, they created fruit blocks, using a template. The youth cut out the pre-printed cube, and drew or wrote on its sides facts about the fruit. Next, we played a game created by Florida Dept. of Agriculture and Consumer Services, called “Start Farmin’.” Using a life sized board game, youth answered questions about real world agriculture to move around the board. Another game was called “Fruit or Vegetable?” Most people do not realize that scientifically, a lot of the vegetables we eat are actually fruits! After our activity, the youth understood the difference. After all of that work, it was time for a snack break. We made homemade peanut butter, scooped it out on popsicle sticks, drizzled Florida honey on it, and covered it with rice cereal. Yum!
Following our break, we created our own “Florida Commodities” books. To make them, youth stapled brown paper bags together to make a book, and then glued down photos of commodities and by-products that come from them. Most of the youth did not realize just how many crops Florida produces, and were amazed at how many by-products result from them. For example, blueberries (commodity) can become pie, jam, and an ingredient in yogurt and cereals (by-products). To drive that concept home, we played “Beefo Bingo,” a game that covers many of the by-products from cattle (https://faitc.org/lessons/beefo-bingo/), such as car polish, glue, and clothing. To finish the day, we moved on to dairy – first making a puppet, and then making our own butter and ice cream.
The discussion and sharing part of any lesson is critical. For our program, we took a few minutes after each activity to review it, share insights, and ask questions. Youth enjoy giving each other positive feedback and seeing what each has done. Evaluation of the day camp showed that they learned a great deal about agriculture – the camp got them thinking about things they had never thought of before.
FAITC resources are free – “Make and Take” activities, lessons, downloadable books. If you are interested in them, go to: https://faitc.org.