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Farm kids learn at a young age how to help run the family business.
Whether it’s waking early to complete livestock chores before school or running dinner out to family bringing in a soybean harvest at dusk, they help get the big and small jobs done.
Doing that work safely is one focus of Ohio State University graduate student Molly Michael, who is working on an ag safety curriculum for K-8 educators about being safe while performing tasks on the farm. The curriculum also addresses basic agricultural safety for children who may be visiting a farm or fair for the first time.
Development and testing of this curriculum is being paid for through a Youth Farm Safety Education and Certification grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture. Michael’s faculty advisor is Dee Jepsen, a professor with the Agricultural Safety and Health program in the OSU College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences.
Michael grew up in rural Ohio, in Fairfield County, and was in 4-H. She had a hobby farm in high school. She is a second year master’s degree student studying ag safety, with a bachelor’s degree in animal sciences.
“When I started my master’s degree work I realized how dangerous a profession farming is,” Michael said. “This is my way of supporting and being an advocate for agriculture. I hope this curriculum is part of the groundwork to sustain agriculture in the long run.”
The curriculum being developed touches on everything from safely using ATVs, to personal protective equipment and how to interact with livestock.
“The National Ag in the Classroom curriculum has a lot of good information, but what we saw missing was early safety and health practices,” Jepsen said. “Things such as how to approach an animal safely at a petting zoo, such as approaching from the shoulder.”
Using personal protective equipment is also part of the program, Michael said.
“We want to explain the use of personal protective equipment in an age-appropriate manner,” she said, such as wearing reflective vests and hard hats when necessary. “We want students to know they should have their ‘PPE Pal’ with them to keep them safe, such as hard hats, helmets, long pants and boots, and pass that information onto family members” who may or may not model that behavior.
Lesson plans span kindergarten through eighth grade, with a specific focus on fourth and fifth grade students.
Michael is now looking for teachers, even in urban and inner-city districts, who are willing to review the curriculum and potentially test it in their classrooms.
“We want to get feedback on the curriculum and how to package it,” she said. “We’re ready to see what teachers think.”
The curriculum has enough content for an entire week, but “teachers can pick and choose what to teach and how to teach it,” Jepsen said. “Even if they only use 10 minutes, it could impact one person’s life,” Jepsen said.
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