Described as a "huge missing piece" in public education, new agriculture classes will teach kids how connected our lives are to the land.
The state of Georgia has launched a three-year pilot project in 20 schools to teach elementary students about agriculture. While some secondary schools do offer agriculture classes, particularly in rural communities, this education rarely begins in elementary school. And yet, young kids stand to benefit greatly by understanding the system that provides their food, clothing, and countless other products.
Christa Steinkamp, who works with Georgia Agricultural Education, points out that there is far more to agriculture than just food production.
"The desk that I’m sitting at, the leather and the clothes that we’re wearing. That umbrella of agriculture is so important for us to make sure that we start teaching these earlier learners the importance and give them such a good ‘ag awareness.'"
The curriculum is the result of a 2017 agreement between USDA secretary Sonny Purdue and a group called the National FFA Organization (FFA stands for Future Farmers of America), which Modern Farmer describes as "an influential force for agriculture education in the U.S." It will include lessons on animal and plant science, jobs within the agriculture industry, and natural resource conservation.
Such education is important because it teaches children to respect the products they consume, reminding them that they come from the Earth and someone's hardworking hands. Hopefully it will encourage them to be good stewards of the planet and to consider future careers in farming, as the average age of farm producers is getting older every year. (In 2017 it was 57.5 years.)
Dan Nosowitz, writing for Modern Farmer, calls agriculture "a huge missing piece of public education" in the U.S. and points out that it pulls together numerous aspects of a child's education:
"Agriculture education includes science, math, business, environmental studies, social studies, history, engineering—and, of course, it affects what kids eat, what they wear, and how they live."
It's great to see Georgia implementing this program. It will be refined during the initial three-year period, with the goal of expanding throughout the entire state if all goes well.