This year’s Indiana FFA state officer project working with Lt. Governor Sue Ellspermann turned into much more than the officers imagined when they brainstormed the idea early in their officer year. Wednesday “Go For Launch” at the leadership center focused on the benefits of a STEM based ag education program in the classroom. Dr. Paul Kaiser, superintendant of Beech Grove City Schools spoke highly of what the program has done for his schools.
“We’re in an urban environment,” he said. “We have 3,000 students so most of our kids have never been to the farm. They don’t understand agri-science or agri-education so we now require that as an 8th grade course. We think it is so valuable that our kids understand the environment around them, where their food comes from, and probably even more importantly the job opportunities that are out there for them. For us the agri-science program is a vision setting program. it gives our kids an opportunity, it gives them a chance to have a vision of something they know they can achieve.”
He told HAT they started the program three years ago. The biggest implementation challenge?
“Changing the mindset about this is all about production farming to it’s really and truly about agri-science and the multitude of high paying and high skilled jobs that are out there for our kids.”
Kaiser was one of 5 panelists, and they weren’t just preaching to the choir. School corporations that don’t offer agriculture in the curriculum were also present, and they heard Dr. Allen Talbert from Purdue confirm the outstanding job availability for ag students.
Talbert is Professor of Agriculture Education at Purdue University. Indiana FFA’s Steve Hickey was happy with the inaugural Agricultural Education Informational Luncheon, as it turns out an important event to promote ag education.
“As we heard today one of the great challenges is getting all of our schools, even our rural schools, to understand that we’re not teaching kids to be farmers. We know that’s a tiny percentage in that room. What we’re teaching are the skills necessary to go forth in any discipline they choose.”
Hickey lauded the great run for ag education in the Hoosier state in the last few years, noting the roughly 9,000 Indiana FFA members 3 ½ years ago. The organization is now pushing closer to 11,000 members, and the number of schools with programs has increased from 176 to 195 in the last 4 years.
“And there are folks in this room I’m guessing are going to push that number even higher,” he said.
(pictured left to right: Kate Skirvin, Agriculture Educator at North Putnam High School, Dr. Paul Kaiser, Superintendent of Beech Grove City Schools, Stefany Deckard, State Program Leader for Agriculture Education and State Perkins Specialist, Dr. Allen Talbert, Professor of Agriculture Education Purdue University and Dr. Dwight Armstrong, Chief Executive Officer National FFA Staff)