Program Promotes Agricultural Literacy

The Ag EDbassador program sponsored by the University of Illinois equips high school students to educate others about agricultural topics.

by Dani Yokhna


Ag EDbassadors
Courtesy University of Illinois/ David Riecks
Before branching out to their local schools, the Ag EDbassadors attend a series of workshops on agricultural education.

Nearly 100,000 elementary students will benefit from the efforts of 10 high school students throughout the next few months as they promote agricultural education in schools across the state of Illinois.

As part of the Ag EDbassadors program, a select group of Illinois high school students gathered at the University of Illinois in November 2010 to learn effective ways to promote agricultural education in their local elementary schools. The year-long program is designed to provide youth  with early exposure to the field of agricultural education.

Before going into their local schools, high school participants attend a four-day training event conducted by UI faculty and agricultural education students on a variety of topics from basic teaching strategies to the impact of agriculture on the state of Illinois.

“Our goal is to train high school students to promote agricultural literacy,” says James Anderson, UI assistant professor of agricultural education. “It’s a great opportunity for these older students to show younger students how agriculture addresses important issues in their community and how students can make a difference.”

The high school students learned how to create 30-minute lessons that have a two-fold mission: to provide information that is relevant to their target age group and to address an issue impacting their local community using an agricultural topic. They also received supplies and materials to conduct interactive lessons with 10,000 students over the next few months.

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The high school participants will be tackling a variety of topics with elementary students, including dairy production, the origin of foods, seed germination and planting, teamwork, agricultural careers, nutrition, the lifecycle of Honey bees, and recycling.

Brittany Hosselton, a senior in UI’s agricultural education program who led one of the event’s workshops, says agricultural educators teach students in real-world settings, allowing them to see many facets of the industry while exposing them to career opportunities that are often overlooked. Agricultural educators are necessary to train and prepare students for increasing opportunities in agricultural careers.

“With our growing urban and suburban populations, agricultural educators are more important than ever,” Hosselton says. “Children need to be inspired, and what is more inspiring than knowing about the world around you and how agriculture affects it?”

Lauren Hawker, a senior at Armstrong Township High School in Armstrong, Ill., graduated from the 2009-10 Ag EDbassadors program. Her experience has helped her accomplish more as a student, she says.

“I regularly reflect on what I learned during this program when I am preparing presentations, giving speeches or assisting my FFA advisor,” Hawker says. “This program has helped me excel in whatever I pursue in life.”

AG EDbassadors is sponsored by the Growing Agricultural Science Teachers Grant, a special project of the Illinois State Board of Education created to get more students interested in teaching.

For more information on the AG EDbassador Program, email James Anderson or call 217-244-0285.

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