The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) announced grants to support public secondary schools, non-profits, community and junior colleges, and four-year colleges and universities to engage K-14 students in the food, agriculture, natural resources, and human (FANH) sciences. These awards, totaling about $841,250, are made through NIFA’s Secondary Education, Two-Year Post-secondary Education, and Agriculture in the K-12 Classroom Challenge Grants (SPECA) program.
“Fostering curiosity about the world and a love of discovery begins in pre-school and can grow or wither depending on how much we invest in educational quality,” said NIFA Director Sonny Ramaswamy. “Ensuring a robust educational system down to the youngest grades is critical to ensuring our scientific workforce continues to have the skills and preparation needed to meet the demands of the future.”
The projects that received SPECA funding promote and strengthen secondary education and two-year post-secondary education. Some awards promote complementary linkages among secondary, two-year post-secondary, and higher education programs in the food, agriculture, natural resource, and human sciences. All projects are designed to advance excellence in education and encourage more young Americans to pursue and complete a baccalaureate or higher degree in the FANH sciences.
Since 2009, NIFA has awarded more than $6.9 million through the SPECA program to support K-14 educational and vocational training in agricultural science, which contribute to a skilled, diverse scientific workforce in agriculture. The 2016 awards announced today include:
- Howard Valentine Coffman Cove School, Thorne Bay, Alaska, $45,471
- Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana, $43,253
- Johnson County Community College, Overland Park, Kansas, $ 22,546
- University of Kentucky Research Foundation, Lexington, Kentucky, $134,672
- Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan, $134,657
- Gateway Greening, Inc., Saint Louis, Missouri, $135,309
- The Harley School, Rochester, New York, $ 45,470
- The Ohio State University, Wooster, Ohio, $33,156
- Oklahoma State University, Stillwater, Oklahoma, $43,682
- The University of Tennessee, Knoxville, Tennessee, $45,055
- Galveston College, Galveston, Texas, $ 22,458
- Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Blacksburg, Virginia, $135,560
For more information on these projects, visit the NIFA website.
Among this year’s grant recipients, Gateway Greening targets St. Louis’s economically marginalized African-American communities to support students who will pursue higher degrees in food and agricultural sciences. The project has a strong service learning component: 58 interns will grow food to be sold at farmers markets and donated to food-insecure families, including their own. Johnson County Community College’s sustainable agriculture project will establish a collaborative network among all sustainable agriculture educators throughout Kansas to develop an associate degree in sustainable agriculture.
Previously funded projects include a Greenfield Community College (Massachusetts) project that made available a three-credit hands-on Sustainable Farming Skills course free to rising and graduating high school seniors and a free 15-hour curriculum development workshop on Sustainable Food Production for local high school teachers. Ellsworth Community College in Iowa Falls, Iowa, expanded its Mobile Precision Ag Lab, a traveling high school agriculture curriculum, with more onsite, hands-on activities and demonstrations, including unmanned aerial vehicles and advanced planter technologies. The project also established a Center for Knowledge and Skills to help students establish relationships with potential employers.
Since 2009, USDA has invested $19 billion in research both intramural and extramural. During that time, research conducted by USDA scientists has resulted in 883 patent applications filed, 405 patents issued, and 1,151 new inventions disclosures covering a wide range of topics and discoveries. To learn more about how USDA supports cutting-edge science and innovation, visit the USDA Medium chapter Food and Ag Science Will Shape Our Future.
NIFA invests in and advances innovative and transformative research, education, and extension to solve societal challenges and ensure the long-term viability of agriculture. NIFA support for the best and brightest scientists and extension personnel has resulted in user-inspired, groundbreaking discoveries that combat childhood obesity, improve and sustaining rural economic growth, address water availability issues, increase food production, find new sources of energy, mitigate climate variability, and ensure food safety.