Why Agriculture in the Classroom?
We are a nation that has reaped the benefits of a successful agricultural system with advances in science and technology. This has allowed our society to flourish, engage in leisure activities, and dream about the future. Our successful agricultural innovations have resulted in fewer farmers and larger yields. Today, roughly 21 million jobs are supported by the U.S. agriculture industry—a much smaller number than previous years. Even with that many Americans employed by agriculture, the level of agriculture knowledge has decreased as more people have moved away from farms and rural areas.
Our agriculture success story has come with a consequence—a society that has little understanding concerning agricultural production, technology, and processing, and how this system meets our basic needs (food, clothing, shelter), and improves our quality of life. As people moved further away from the farm, the less agriculture knowledge was shared with them through actual hands-on activities as well as in educational materials in school. Farming was only discussed in terms of an occupational specialty, rather than an integral part of every student’s life.
About Agriculture in the Classroom
Agriculture in the Classroom was created in the early 1980s as a way to re-integrate agriculture knowledge through education programs starting first with our youngest students and continuing through high school. More recently, the Agriculture in the Classroom program has increase the rigor and relevancy, with the development of the National Center for Agricultural Literacy and the National Agricultural Literacy Outcomes (NALOs). This is linked to an agricultural literacy logic model to help define what an agriculturally literate person should know at different stages of their education and training in the following topic areas.
- Agriculture and the Environment
- Agriculture has transformed and had to work with natural ecosystems to fulfill societal needs. This area focuses on the relationship between agriculture and the environment.
- Plants and Animals for Food, Fiber and Energy
- Focuses on the importance and stewardship of natural resources in sustainably delivering high-quality food, fiber, and energy while at the same time maintaining a quality environment through the use of technology.
- Food, Health, and Lifestyle
- Explores the relationship between food production, storage, preparation, consumption, and health.
- Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics
- Understanding the science, engineering, technology, and mathematics of agriculture, food, and natural resources is crucial for the future of all humanity.
- Culture, Society, Economy, and Geography
- The global movement of agricultural products continues to be driven by economics, and consumer demand/preferences. Agriculture, food, and natural resource systems continue to play an integral role in the evolution of societies both in the U.S. and the world.
The overall goal of the NALOs is to have agriculturally literate individuals who understand and can communicate the source and value of agriculture as it affects our quality of life.
By offering high-quality Agriculture in the Classroom resources to teachers, it encourages them to embed agriculture into subjects they’re already teaching in their classroom instead of as a separate subject. Agriculture in the Classroom seeks to improve student knowledge of agriculture by applying authentic, agricultural-based content as the context to teach core curriculum concepts in science, social studies, language arts, and nutrition.
Today, the feeding, clothing, and fueling of our country is left to the remaining farmers—one U.S. farmer feeds 166 people globally. If U.S. agriculture is going to continue to meet the needs of the U.S. population and address growing global needs, agriculture needs to be understood and valued by all. The Agriculture in the Classroom program is a vital link in ensuring we have an agriculturally literate society.