Agricultural Education is the teaching of agriculture, natural resources, and land management through hands on experience and guidance to prepare students for entry level jobs or to further education to prepare them for advanced agricultural jobs. Classes that may be taught in an agricultural education curriculum include horticulture,land management, turf grass management, agricultural science, small animal care, machine and shop classes, health and nutrition, livestock management, biology courses, etc. Agricultural education can be taught at the elementary level, middle school level, secondary, post secondary and adult levels. Elementary agriculture is taught in public schools and private schools, and deals with such subjects as how plants and animals grow and how soil is farmed and conserved. Vocational agriculture trains people for jobs in such areas as production,marketing, and conservation. College agriculture involves training of people to teach, conduct research, or provide information to advance the field of agriculture and food science in other ways. General education agriculture informs the public about food and agriculture.
Agricultural education at the high school level focuses on three main categories: classroom instruction, supervised agricultural experience (SAE), and active involvement in the National FFA Organization (Future Farmers of America).
- Classroom Instruction- classroom instruction of an agricultural class teaches the students the basic concepts of the particular course through hands on learning and experience. Students will be taught the information in the curriculum in order for them to understand and develop skills in the application and problem solving issues that would occur in an agricultural setting. Another requirement for agricultural education at the high school level is the Young Farmers association group, but this is a requirement for the teacher, not the students.
- Supervised Agricultural Experience– The supervised Agricultural Experience (SAE) portion of the agricultural curriculum is when a student must use the knowledge they have gained in the classroom instruction and use it in real life situations. Several topic choices are available for the student to choose between, whether it is on a farm setting, exploratory setting, entrepreneurship, agribusiness, or research projects. The student will choose a task from one of these topic areas and conduct a research experiment throughout the course of the agricultural class. The teacher is involved in the process and will help guide the student along the way. SAE programs give students the opportunity to take the information learned in the classroom setting and use it on an agricultural topic that interests them. This portion of an agricultural education will give students an idea of how it is working out in the real world and solving problems that will arise in the work field.
- National FFA Organization– The FFA is a national organization that all agricultural classes at the high school level are involved in. The agricultural teacher is the leader of that particular schools FFA chapter, and will guide students’ activities and programs held throughout the year. FFA is an educational program designed to teach students leadership skills in both agricultural settings and everyday life, encourages personal growth in students, boosts self-confidence, builds character, encourage healthy lifestyles, and give students opportunities to be a part of the agricultural economy. FFA chapters will volunteer in communities, conduct banquets for FFA members and their families, raise awareness of agriculture, compete in FFA competitions, and attend national FFA conventions.
- Young Farmers Association– Young Farmers Association is a requirement that any agricultural teacher must meet. This is a group led by the agricultural teacher that meets usually monthly. The group will consist of all the local farmers, citizens, or anyone interested in learning more about agriculture and the new methods that are being created. The Young Farmers Association is designed so that the technologies made in the agricultural field will be introduced and used in the economy. It also gives the agricultural teachers the opportunity to meet the local citizens and reach out in the community.
Colleges and universities
Agricultural education is taught on the college level as well. Degrees in agricultural education can be used to teach agriculture or obtain a job in an agricultural related work field. This degree can give students the qualifications and knowledge necessary to teach agricultural classes such as the courses offered at the high school level. Students will be required to complete agriculture classes as well as education classes in order to become qualified to teach. A bachelor’s degree in agricultural education will qualify a person to teach classes all the way up to the high school level. A Master’s degree is required in order to teach on the college level. An agricultural education degree also gives the qualifications to do extension work for universities and agriculture related companies and organizations. Colleges and universities award about 21,000 bachelor’s degrees in agriculture each year (1988). About 6,000 other students receive a master’s or doctor’s degree (1988).
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