Some middle school students will have the opportunity to dive deep into agriculture topics as part of new curriculum.
“Exploring Agriculture: A World of Opportunities” is new in 2019 for middle school students in Missouri. The curriculum is sponsored by FCS Financial. Teachers can choose from six modules, each lasting nine weeks.
Modules may be selected to provide quarter, semester or yearlong exploratory ag classes. The modules include animal science, plant science, food science, natural resources, ag systems and agribusiness.
“Middle school agriculture classes are an important component of agriculture education that often gets overlooked,” says Amanda Sullivan, Montgomery Co. R-II agriculture instructor in Montgomery City, Mo. “This new curriculum will offer more hands-on activities to get middle school students excited about agriculture and the opportunities it offers. I plan on using this curriculum in my eighth-grade agriculture education class to help create more hands-on, critical thinking activities and lessons.”
Changing curriculum message
The middle school ag curriculum was available starting in 2014. This year’s new sixth- through eighth-grade modules build upon the existing infrastructure.
With materials last revised in 2000, changing demographics without direct connection to agriculture in many areas, a growing demand for ag employees and a shortage of ag teachers, the need for a high-quality, turn-key curriculum was obvious.
Developed by Vivayic, a learning solutions company, with a committee of educators and industry representatives, the lessons reflect modern agriculture and teaching practices.
“FCS Financial is dedicated to serving agriculture and rural communities,” says David Janish, FCS Financial CEO. “Inaccurate perceptions about ag production as well as the need for a growing workforce in ag-related careers can be improved by providing a quality education to all students. Beginning these classes in middle school provides a strong foundation to build on.”
The curriculum is web-based and integrated with school technology using Google classrooms, Canvas and Blackboard. Online delivery of the materials allows for targeted updates and expansion. Instructors can access the materials for free on the Missouri FFA Association website.
Rise of middle school ag programs
Agriculture programs in Missouri middle schools are growing with 29 programs added in 2016-17, which is up from an average of six new programs per year for the past 10 years. Enrollment also is growing. Since the development of the original curriculum in 1991, there has been a 450% growth in total number of enrollments. Average enrollment growth has been 3% for the past 10 years and is expected to continue.
“In today’s world, we know that early exploration of career opportunities can be key to a student’s success as they progress through their formal education into a career,” says Leon Busdieker, director of agriculture, food and natural resources at Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. “The new FCS-sponsored Exploring Agriculture curriculum will provide agriculture teachers across the state with a much sought-after tool needed to help their students develop a solid understanding of today’s ag industry and its career opportunities.”