Catching Up with CALS — Nov. 18, 2020
Dean's Message — Agricultural Education
Most of us involved in agriculture from farmers and ranchers through elected leaders know that telling the story of Idaho’s largest industry is critical. An essential part of telling that story relies on creating an educated citizenry, something we take very seriously in the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences.
This may be the perfect week to acknowledge efforts of the Department of Agricultural and Extension Education. The abundant foods that fill our tables during Thanksgiving are among the safest, healthiest and most affordable ever. Science and education are the twin pillars that support that reality and we should never tire of telling that story. This is the proud legacy of the land-grant university system in the United States.
AEE faculty do an incredible job by training the trainer. This department influences public education about agriculture more formally than any other part of CALS by preparing high school agricultural teachers and future Extension professionals.
Idaho’s population is tilting increasingly toward the cities — a visit to the Treasure Valley is all one needs to see to understand the phenomenon. Meridian is one of the fastest growing communities in the U.S. It is also home to one of the most vibrant agricultural education programs in the state.
Supporting agriculture is supporting all Idahoans. The Idaho State Department of Agriculture website notes agriculture and food processing generate 28% of Idaho’s total economic outlook. I like to think that Idaho will continue to prosper providing that the agriculture industry remains vibrant.
There are many issues related to agriculture and our food supply that are being co-opted by groups opposed to traditional agriculture. We need to make sure that those who graduate from the hallowed halls of U of I are able to communicate the facts and are able to dispel myths and pseudo-science that support alternative agendas.
High school classes and FFA career development events magnify the lessons our faculty prepare for future teachers. Extension classes, workshops and field trips effectively deliver knowledge to community members from youth to senior citizens, thanks to AEE faculty.
Little more than a week ago, campus took another step toward normalcy when bright school buses showed up on campus with students to participate in regional FFA career development events. Seven schools sent about 60 students to campus, and nearly twice that participated online.
The regional event is organized and run by AEE students and provides an important part of their education.
Organized by AEE professor Jeremy Falk, the limited events followed the appropriate state and campus COVID protocols and started the group’s progress toward state and national competitions next year.
FFA is the formal link between high schools and agricultural education. Clara-Leigh Evans, interim Idaho FFA executive director, notes enrollment rose steadily for the past five years, reaching more than 5,200 high school students during the past school year. Statewide, nearly 100 schools host FFA chapters.
As noted earlier, Treasure Valley’s Meridian School District hosts the state’s most concentrated agricultural education program.
The reach of agricultural education expanded, too, with the addition of a program at Cascade last year and the restoration of an historically important program in Moscow the year before. Both are led by AEE alums, who as a whole lead the majority of Idaho schools’ agricultural education programs.
Teaching the teachers requires a commitment to excellence by our own faculty. Consider AEE professor Kattlyn Wolf’s teaching methods class. With the shift to online classes at many schools, teachers need a foundation in new technologies, and AEE graduates will be among those who are prepared.
An educated citizenry is vital so all can participate in the democratic process. We are doing our share to make sure that students know about and can communicate important issues related to agriculture. Through them, we raise the bar for all.
Michael P. Parrella
College of Agricultural and Life Sciences
By the Numbers
94% of winter wheat had emerged by Nov. 15, on par with 2019 and slightly ahead of the 5-year average of 92%, according to the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service. The field corn harvest reached 84%, a point behind last year but ahead of the 5-year average of 76%.
Our Stories — Teacher Education Adapts
University of Idaho students planning to become high school agriculture teachers learned to expand technology skills, but more importantly learned to adapt to changing student needs.
The U of I College of Agricultural and Life Sciences hosts a range of formal and informal education efforts geared to helping young people and adults. The college’s efforts range from the UI Extension 4-H Youth Development program to community-based programs to formal education majors.
Department of Agricultural and Extension Education students faced the first changes caused by the COVID-19 pandemic last spring when university classes moved online. Student teaching assignments also changed dramatically in schools across the state.
The pandemic altered the world of Idaho FFA, a key part of AEE’s role statewide, canceling the spring state convention in Twin Falls and the traditional June gathering at U of I in Moscow.
The arrival of school buses in Moscow earlier this month for FFA North Idaho District career development events showed hope for a gradual return of group events. The event complied with both state and university rules for social distancing while allowing members to compete in person for some events.
The campus event drew about 60 students in small groups from seven schools. The school groups were staggered during the day to comply with rules that limited the numbers who could gather at a time, said Jeremy Falk, an AEE professor and North Idaho District FFA superintendent.
More schools decided to participate online and their students made up nearly two-thirds of those involved, Falk said.
The district competition provides an important experience for the FFA members, Falk said. It also offers U of I students in his Agricultural Education 358 class, a real world exercise in organizing and conducting the event.
Statewide involvement in FFA grew substantially during the past five years to total more than 5,000 members during the 2019-2020 school year, said Clara-Leigh Evans, Idaho FFA executive director. Nearly 100 schools across the state participate in FFA as part of their agricultural education efforts.
AEE department alumni fill the majority of agricultural teaching jobs across the state. The next group of student teachers will begin their first classroom experiences next spring. Or at least their first formal teaching experiences will begin next spring, since the pandemic might continue to change the rules.
The department is preparing future teachers with flexibility in mind, said Kattlyn Wolf, the AEE professor overseeing the teaching methods class. She gained first-hand experience last spring in adopting new methods when she facilitated three online career development events focused on livestock, meats and dairy judging with CALS colleagues and superintendents Michael Colle, James Nasados and Josh Peak originally planned in Moscow.
“I consider it a triumph that we were able to even offer these events considering the shortened time frame and logistics,” Wolf said.
Zoom, the online video conferencing program used by many elementary to university classes, already was familiar to most of her students, Wolf said. Delivering lessons and collecting students’ work presented a greater challenge.
Her students learned to use Google Classroom software for their classes, mirroring the move by many high schools. Few, including Wolf, had experience building an online class, but they learned together, she said.
That willingness to adapt to the unexpected may be one of the most lasting lessons from the traditional approaches to teaching, Wolf said.
Even so, agricultural education may be one of the tougher subjects to teach online, she said. Teaching a welding class by watching videos may be the only realistic possibility during a pandemic, but few would consider it the better option.
“I think a lot of parents who are teaching their children at home would agree that in-person instruction has a lot of advantages,” Wolf said.
Faces and Places
Associated Students University of Idaho U of I Career Services is offering December graduates help with resumes, interviewing skills and other job-search aspects, including access to Handshake, an online site. Students can connect with Career Services through VandalStar or by emailing director Eric Anderson at firstname.lastname@example.org. The office also asks graduates to fill out a survey about post-graduation plans and to learn about where fellow 2020 grads are headed.
Apparel, textiles and design instructor Patrick Brown-Hayes, a temporary lecturer in the Margaret Ritchie School of Family and Consumer Sciences, was selected to serve on a panel of judges for Outdoor Retailer, the nation’s largest outdoor industry retail show. He served as a judge last year and evaluated roughly 170 products and services entering the marketplace.
Associated Students University of Idaho Sen. Ezmy Perez successfully sought $275 from the U of I student government to fund the purchase of four new clothing racks for the professional dress program operated by Gayle Gleason in the Department of Agricultural Economics and Rural Sociology. The program offers students clothing suitable for job interviews and professional events.
- Nov. 23 - 27 — U of I Fall semester break
- Dec. 1 — CALS Dean Michael Parrella presents an update on Idaho Center for Agriculture, Food and the Environment during the Malcolm Renfrew Interdisciplinary Colloquium via Zoom at https://uidaho.zoom.us/j/94981922332?from=msft. 12:30-1:30 p.m. PST
- Dec. 16 — "Researching the History and People Behind the Apples,” Heritage Orchard Conference, 10-11:30 a.m. PST
Feedback or suggestions? Please pass them along through email@example.com