A Year in Review:
Youth Educational Programs in Hopkins County
by: Dr. Mario Villarino
Hopkins County AgriLife Extension Agent
It is hard to believe that 2012 is almost over. As we quickly approach to the end of the year, it has been a tradition to share with you the results of some of the programs that Extension has planned for benefit of the community. Today I want to share with you the outcome summary of the 2012 Ag in the Classroom. All our reports will follow the three R’s (relevance, response and results) format. A copy of the interpretative piece is available at the Hopkins County Extension Office.
Relevance: As today's youth are further removed from farming, they do not understand the importance of agriculture and how it impacts their daily lives. Less than 4 percent of the population in the industrialized countries, and only 2 percent in the United States, is directly engaged in production agriculture. Thus, it is no longer possible for urban children to spend summer vacations on their relatives’ farms (Borlaug, N). The Science of Agriculture (Ag Literacy/Awareness) program targets 4th grade students and teachers and provides the following educational components: Educational support materials on Science of Agriculture, ag day/ag fair field trip, pre- and post-tests, teacher evaluation and information related to 4-H opportunities for the participants and parents. The objective of the plan was to increase awareness and knowledge about agriculture and natural resources to fourth grade students. The success of the program was measured through student (youth) who participated in the program pre- and post-test, teacher evaluations and testimonials found in student thank you notes to presenters and donors. Educational programs like Ag in the Classroom are vital to developing the agricultural literacy that is fundamental to the next generation of scientists, teachers, and leaders to ensure an adequate and equitably distributed world food supply (Borlaug, N). The Hopkins County Leadership Advisory Board and Beef Area Program Area Committee identified the need of providing educational education and awareness to youth during 2012. A committee of industry leaders, county extension agents and members of the community was assembled to provide leadership, design curriculum and implement the plan.
Response: Based on the success accomplished during 2011, the ag in the classroom committee decided to promote agricultural awareness during 2012 with the overall theme of the program emphasizing the recognition of local farmers for their contribution to society. The theme “Thank a Farmer” was selected during a working session of the committee. Ten topics including dairy production, beef production, human nutrition, horse and horseman ship, small grain production, cotton production, wildlife management, wool production and poultry production were assembled by presenters. The sessions were designed to be 8 minutes each. A two day session, 4 hrs each day were planned and delivered at the Regional Civic Center in Sulphur Spring. All participating counties (Hopkins, Delta, Franklin and Rains) invited the corresponding Independent School Districts to participate. A one-page handout with a detailed description of the sessions was distributed to teachers for their classroom use. Educational materials and teachers evaluations were distributed to participant teachers during the event. Two methods of evaluation of the plan were implemented. A teacher evaluation survey was distributed to 4th grade teachers participating in the program to evaluate the satisfaction of the students to each session. Student evaluations were delivered to the Sulphur Springs Elementary School for their 4th grade students to respond. An evaluation tool was created based on agricultural awareness guidelines and models provided by Texas A&M AgriLife Extension. The tool consisted of 14 yes/no/I do not know questions and 4 multiple choice questions. The questions selected were pertinent to the topics that were offered during the field trip part of the event. Pre event evaluations were distributed to a sample (n=300) 4th grade students attending the Sulphur Springs Elementary School during 2012 two weeks before (Pre) and After (Post) the training session. Pre and post evaluations results were recorded and analyzed using statistical tools (double sided paired t-test).
Results: Sampled participating students returned 261 surveys (pre) and 204 (post) surveys. Overall, the results indicated a significant knowledge gain after the training. The differences were by conventional criteria, considered extremely statistically significant (p<0.0001 two tailed) with a mean average of 13.87% knowledge increase between pre and post tests. Answers of ten of the questions (10/18) strongly agreed with the overall test evaluation (more than 12% knowledge increase).
Next Steps: The organizational committee suggested incorporating water conservation awareness during the 2013 session of Ag in the Classroom. The program will be expanded to include water conservancy, erosion control and water harvesting topics during 2013.
Acknowledgements: The organizational committee of Ag in the Classroom wants to recognize Texas A&M AgriLife Extension, Rains-Hopkins Farm Bureau, Southwest Dairy Farmers, North East Texas Beef Improvement Association, Hopkins and Rains Counties 4-H and the Hopkins County Master Gardeners for their support during the planning and implementation of this plan.