When I was at the Wisconsin Rural Development Center a few years back I
oversaw a project called the High School Sustainable Agriculture Curriculum
Project. We hired a coordinator who helped pull together, with lots of input
from farmers, university researchers, etc., Toward A Sustainable Agriculture:
A Teacher's Guide. After feedback from high school instructors, we then also
published a resource guide, with descriptions of all sorts of videos, books,
magazines, etc., that teachers could use. Finally, also after more feedback
from teachers, we published "Lessons for Teaching Sustainable Agriculture"
that gave teachers "classroom-ready" lesson plans on various topics that
teachers had said would be helpful.
We also instituted a $500-per-school "Discovery Grants" program aimed at
helping instructors organize some hands-on learning projects other than the
ubiquitous corn "seed trials" that mostly feed advertising needs of seed
companies and earn kids some money to take a class or FFA club trip to
D.C.... The amount of $500 for our grants was recommended by teachers, as
sufficient to start up most initiatives. Some of the schools got more for
programs that would be multiple years or for various other reasons.
Despite hiring a field coordinator to help high school agriculture
instructors (and other instructors) use these materials and the Discovery
Grants program, we found it quite difficult to get teachers to take the bait.
After seemingly endless "what-can-we-do-to-help-you" discussions, we came to
the conclusion that, in general, in Wisconsin, we weren't making the headway
our efforts might have predicted.
There seem to be some fairly complicated reasons for this. A crude summary
of those factors might be that for a lot of reasons the instructors aren't,
as a group, risk-takers. The schools in which instructors did use these
materials or undertake creative projects, and there were some, seemed to be
where there was strong parent support for these activities.
Also, by and large, instructors most likely to use these materials or
introduce sustainable ag in other ways, weren't ag instructors, but
environmental or other instructors.
You can order the materials from the Wisconsin Rural Development Center (608)
437-5971. Also, some of them are available from the University of Wisconsin
Center for Integrated Agricultural Systems (608) 262-5200.
- Margaret Krome
Michael Fields Agricultural Institute
W2493 County Rd. ES
East Troy, WI 53120
(608) 238-1440 (my home phone, where I work)