Unified school district 283 along with the Longton community are pleased to be a driving force in offering our plans for a high-quality experiential, work based and project based learning program in agricultural education.School officials along with a local advisory committee made up of volunteers from the community and county have come together to take a positive look at how resources can be used to provide a valuable educational program to strengthen agriculture and the economy for the future. The need for those educated in agricultural careers is more important now than ever before. The world population is growing by an average of 83 million people per year and is expected to reach nearly 10 billion by the year 2050. By using our resources and helping to educate the agriculture leaders of tomorrow we can make a difference. With more than ninety percent of the local economy, jobs and land usage in Elk County and the Longton area coming from production agriculture it is time to put the strength of our local resources, the knowledge of our education system and volunteer base into action.
The local school district, superintendent, agricultural education instructor and community planning committee recognized in the context of today’s agricultural education programs many schools and interested students from urban areas are facing significant barriers to making the commitment to this level of experiential learning in agriculture a reality. Urban schools face financial and zoning barriers for land labs and production facilities to provide real life agriculture experiences to students interested in new and innovative careers in agriculture.
With the increased need for students going into careers in agriculture and the population moving to urban areas there are less students coming from production agriculture backgrounds. There are very limited opportunities for urban students to get production agricultural education and related experiences.
To provide real-life hands-on experience for urban, suburban or any students without access to programs in agricultural, food and natural resources education we are offering the following program.
The Agriculture Education Model and Structure for “The Agriculture Experience”
“The Agriculture Experience” is designed as a comprehensive immersion program combining a three-component model for agriculture education. Those three components and an understanding of each are as follows:
Classroom and Laboratory (contextual, Inquiry-Based Instruction and learning): Students entering the program will be introduced to a variety of agriculture, food and natural resources career pathways including their interests in such pathways as animal systems, plant systems, biotechnology, food products and processing, power structure and technical systems, natural resources, Environmental Services, and agribusiness. Through career exploration and planning students will design their experience around career ambitions. All students will be exposed to personal financial planning and management, agricultural literacy and employability skills preparing them for college and career readiness.
This unique opportunity built for all types of learners provides a hands-on approach to learning by doing. Students will not only learn the technical information in the classroom but will experience what they have learned with real life experiences in land labs and actual production agriculture settings. Experiences that can only become reality in unique settings like the Elk Valley school system has available to offer.
Supervised Agriculture Experience Programs (Work Based Learning): Experience itself is critical to understanding what is considered high quality experiential learning and high-quality SAE for school based agricultural education.
Agriculture teachers provide experiential learning on a daily basis through inquiry based teaching methods, directed laboratory instruction in school facilities, field trips, and FFA competitive events. What makes the SAE component different is the activity ties back to career planning, is student rather than teacher driven, happens outside of formal classroom instruction, and takes place in a real-world environment (i.e. farm, ranch or agricultural enterprise) or simulated workplace environment (i.e. school lab or school farm). All students will be engaged in a planned pre-determined SAE program as an extension of their agricultural education. The program will be delivered through a foundational process identifying the students career aspirations and finally into immersion to prepare the student for the workplace and/or post-secondary education upon graduation. Student progression through the immersion of SAE activities lead them into more intensive experiential and work-based learning experiences to develop their career aspirations, increasing their options and opportunities for post-secondary education and finally career readiness.
The Elk Valley school system is positioned to offer high-quality experiences for SAE programs due to the following.
• Exceptional agricultural education instruction from award winning teachers.
• School land lab where students can conduct SAE programs full time.
• School and community partnerships where students can experience production agriculture first-hand.
Leadership Education (Premier Leadership, Personal Growth and Career Success through Engagement): The third component of the total agricultural education program is leadership education through FFA the secondary agricultural education leadership organization. FFA is an intracurricular student organization for those interested in agriculture and leadership. The FFA Organization remains committed to the individual student, providing a path to achievement in premier leadership, personal growth and career success through agricultural education.
FFA is designed to guide the next generation to rise up to meet challenges by helping members to develop their own unique talents and explore their interests in a broad range of agricultural career pathways. Through FFA engagement members develop themselves to be the future Biologists, Chemists, Veterinarians, Engineers and Entrepreneurs of America.
Some unique features for member engagement include:
• Members focusing on skill development and career preparation through participation in Career Development and Leadership Development Events. These competitive events develop individual responsibility, foster teamwork and promote communication while recognizing the value of ethical competition and individual achievement. Successful members expand their knowledge base by interacting with peers, teachers, as well as business and community leaders to gain a complete and comprehensive knowledge about specific career and leadership areas.
• Celebrating skill development. Agricultural Proficiency Awards honor members who, through Supervised Agricultural Experience have developed specialized skills they can apply toward their future careers. Students can compete for awards in nearly 50 areas ranging from agricultural communications to wildlife management. Proficiency awards are recognized at local, state and national levels providing recognition to members that are exploring and becoming established in agricultural career pathways.
• Degree Programs: FFA members dedicated to their chapter, demonstrating the commitment toward their supervised agricultural experience program and exhibit outstanding leadership abilities and community involvement are eligible for advanced degrees of membership. There are four degrees of membership with the ultimate goal being the American FFA Degree. American FFA Degree recipients show promise for the future and have gone above and beyond to achieve excellence.
• The FFA Organization provides over 2 million dollars in scholarships annually. Through the National FFA Foundation businesses and individuals sponsored scholarships are awarded to students with a wide variety of higher education plans and career goals. Just one application is required for multiple opportunities to receive valuable scholarships.
As you can see Agricultural education is a systematic program of instruction available to students desiring to learn about the science, business, technology of plant and animal production and/or about the environmental and natural resources systems.