Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) is a major push for schools in Indiana. State government has allocated millions of dollars to promoting these types of courses in secondary schools. Indiana’s FFA state officer team has launched a project to show educators how agriculture fits into a STEM curriculum. Ethan McNeely, State FFA Vice-President from Scott County, says their message is simple — ag education courses are part of STEM, “The state officers and I have developed what we feel is a way to promote agriculture education as STEM. We want to put value and emphasis on agriculture as a core curriculum and get school administrators to support agriculture programs in our high schools.”
The problem is many school principals and school boards don’t understand how science-based ag classes are. “Today there is a large connection between farming and technology and science. We feel we fit right in the middle of what STEM is all about,” stated McNeely. The concept came about after the state officer team met with Lt. Governor Sue Ellspermann who challenged them to come up with an idea to promote ag education and FFA within local school systems. The team met with Ellspermann this week to present the idea and received her support.
McNeely says the state officer team will produce a video that will show how a vo-ag program can fit into an emphasis of STEM, “We really feel that agriculture is sometimes seen as the first thing that is not essential in schools, but agriculture is huge in Indiana and in our nation.” McNeely said agriculture classes can open up a variety of career opportunities for young people as well as providing a well-educated and trained workforce for the agriculture economy of the future.
It has been shown that students who take ag classes score higher on standardized science tests. Purdue President Mitch Daniels has suggested that STEM should be changed to STEAM: Science, Technology, Engineering, Agriculture, and Math. McNeely hopes the video project will raise awareness of and appreciation of agriculture as part of STEM.