CLEMSON, S.C. – Teachers participating in Clemson’s SOCIAL Studies Academy will learn how drones and other technologies are common tools used in today’s agriculture.
Dale Layfield, a Clemson University agricultural education associate professor, has received a grant from the United States Department of Agriculture National Institute of Food and Agriculture (USDA-NIFA) to provide a Summer 2022 professional development opportunity for 8th grade social studies teachers that will introduce them to agricultural occupations, culture and innovations. The teachers can bring what they learn back to their classrooms and train their students to work in the agriculture field.
“We have a shortage of people going into agriculture as a career,” Layfield said. “We don’t have the population numbers we need in agriculture. We need more people so that we can meet our future food and fiber needs.”
Information from the National Association of Agricultural Educators (NAAE) shows students in agricultural education classes earn a wide variety of skills, including science, math, communications, leadership, management and technology.
Career ambitions begin with many students by the time they reach middle school. But barriers, including lack of knowledge about different careers, prevent them from pursuing their career goals.
The new grant-funded program for middle school social studies teachers is called SOCIAL Studies Academy. SOCIAL is an acronym for Studies of Occupations, Culture and Innovations Toward Agricultural Literacy.
Emails with information will be sent to South Carolina middle school principals this fall. The principals can share this information with their teachers. A committee will review applications based on a set of criteria and select 20 teachers and a list of alternates. Teachers interested in the program are asked to alert their principals to keep an eye out for an email about the program.
“This program is designed to show teachers how they can integrate history and agriculture in their social studies curricula,” Layfield said. “We have a variety of lessons and activities that will improve their knowledge of food and agricultural sciences (FAS) careers.”
The Academy will consist of a variety of activities, including a tour that highlights modern agricultural production and research at the Clemson Research and Education Centers (RECs) and farms located throughout the state.
“What’s exciting about today’s agriculture and natural resources industry is the wide array of opportunities available beyond the farm and field, such as precision agriculture, computing, engineering, communications and even finance,” Layfield said. “Robots, sensors, drones, gene editing technology, GPS, GIS and supercomputers are all part of how college graduates in agriculture are helping tackle challenges associated with sustainably feeding, clothing and sheltering a growing South Carolina and global population.”
Minimizing the rural exodus is another advantage to teaching middle school students about agricultural careers. Also known as the “rural brain drain,” rural exodus is a term describing how college graduates don’t return to rural communities and tend to migrate toward urban areas where more opportunities await them.
Layfield hopes his and similar activities will help instill a desire in youth from rural communities to learn how agricultural careers can keep them close to family and friends while using their knowledge to make changes in their communities.
“We believe opportunities such as this allow teachers to become better-informed advocates, who can then foster student interest in pursuing careers in the FAS field,” he said, adding the project is expected to reach an estimated 4,000 students.
Layfield is working with Beatrice Bailey, Clemson professor of social studies education, and Joseph Donaldson, North Carolina State University Cooperative Extension Service education specialist and assistant professor. The program is funded for four years.
The Clemson SOCIAL Studies Academy study is funded by the United States Department of Agriculture National Institute of Food and Agriculture (USDA-NIFA) Grant Number 2021-67037-34301, CU Award Number 0312-207-2014552. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the USDA-NIFA or Clemson University.
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