Agricultural education students spend spring break teaching in U.S. high schools
Students speak 41 native languages at John Bowne High School in Flushing, New York, which boasts one of the nation’s most diverse student bodies and provided an ideal setting for University of Idaho agricultural education students to broaden their horizons.
John Bowne was among five U.S. schools to welcome students from U of I and Penn State University for a week of guest teaching. The 2023 spring break immersion experience was part of a USDA-funded program to provide future agricultural educators with teaching experiences to make them more culturally responsive and globally educated.
During their spring break, 10 aspiring agricultural teachers from U of I and nine from Penn State assumed control of high school and middle school classrooms in New York, North Carolina, Florida, California and Utah.
Participating students in the collaborative pilot program — mostly juniors majoring in agricultural education — undergo a year of real-world experiences and related coursework. Called Global Orientation to Agricultural Learning (GOALs), the pilot will wrap up its second year this spring. U of I received word in March 2023 that USDA has awarded another grant for $750,000 to continue and expand the program for three more years, starting with the fall 2023 cohort.
I think it is so important that we keep students connected to the realities of the world and the ways that they can help make a difference. Kasee Smith
“You simply cannot learn to be an educator only within the walls of a classroom on a college campus,” said Kasee Smith, an associate professor of agricultural education, leadership and communications, who co-leads the U of I program along with Jeremy Falk. “I think it is so important that we keep students connected to the realities of the world and the ways that they can help make a difference.”
Participants start the program by taking a three-credit fall semester course covering food insecurity, global agricultural issues, and cultural competency, and interact online with the group from Penn State. In October they travel to Des Moines, Iowa, to participate in the World Food Prize Foundation’s Borlaug Dialogue, where they hear presentations about global food system challenges. In May, the students attend the awarding of the World Food Prize — recognizing individuals for improving the quantity, quality or availability of food in the world — in Washington, D.C.
The program’s spring course focuses on curriculum development and preparing students to be at the head of a classroom. During the spring break immersion, participants teach four days of predeveloped curriculum, which was created by a U of I graduate student, and a fifth day of curriculum they develop themselves in small groups.
“I think they ask better questions and reflect as a teacher in such a strong way because of these experiences,” said Falk, an agricultural education professor at U of I. “They get to say, ‘Yesterday I taught this and it worked or it didn’t work, so this is how I’m going to adjust how I teach that.’”
Starting in fall 2023, the program will add a summer immersive experience in Belize. Participants will spend 10 days of their summer break in the English-speaking Central American country teaching in middle school and high school classrooms.
The program will also be adding 1890 Universities — comprising 19 Black land-grant universities established under a second Morrill Act in 1890 — as a third partner. It will accept six students from U of I, six from Penn State and six from 1890 Universities — including two students from North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University, two students from Tennessee State University and two students chosen at large from any of the 1890 Universities.
The program will further expand to accept eight students from each of the three groups in years four and five.
The pilot program was funded with a two-year grant from USDA’s Secondary Education, Postsecondary Education and Agriculture in the K-12 Classroom Challenge Grants Program (SPECA). Years three through five of the program, called “Globally Aware and Culturally Fluent Future Educators in Food Security Education: Changing the World Together,” will be funded with a three-year, $750,000 grant from USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture, of which 100% is the federal share, under federal award No. 2023-70003-38776.
Article by John O’Connell, College of Agricultural and Life Sciences
Photos provided by Kasee Smith
Published in April 2023