Students in Ohio schools are much more likely to experience hands-on learning about agriculture than to read about it. For example, every third grader in Akron City Schools hatches chicks, learns that chickens eat soybeans, and discovers that Ohio is No. 3 in egg production.
This is due, in part, to a program called GrowNextGen. GrowNextGen was launched in 2014 with funding from the Ohio Soybean Council and Ohio soybean farmers, bringing agriculture science to Ohio classrooms by providing real-world educational tools to engage the next generation workforce. The program is supported by OSC, which invests farmer-contributed funds, also known as the soybean checkoff.
“The best way to get the information to the students is through their teachers,” said Tom Fontana, director of research and education at the OSC. “Only 4% of students in Ohio take agriscience classes. GrowNextGen helps introduce and educate all students about agriculture.
“We also want middle and high school students to know they have a wide range of career opportunities in agriculture,” he continued. “Agriculture is much more than farming; it includes everything from technology and transportation to water quality and biofuels.”
EducationProjects.org creates the curriculum for GrowNextGen. The site provides teachers with free, high-quality STEM units and lessons that bring agriculture principles and practices into the science classroom, all of which can be found at GrowNextGen.org.
With a primary focus on biology, chemistry, food science, and environmental science standards, the site includes e-learning courses and a network of educators and industry leaders to answer questions and provide resources to support the lessons, including some of OSC’s own farmer board members.
The program also hosts in-person events to help train teachers to incorporate agriculture in their classrooms. Partnering with Pioneer, a seed company, GrowNextGen hosts Ag Biotech Academy workshops that provide teachers with science lessons that meet Ohio science standards.
In 2022, GrowNextGen trained more than 85 teachers, with 130 teachers attending workshop sessions over the past year. The program also added a STEM school partnership and launched two new e-learning courses.
Workshop participants can also hear from leading industry experts about how those science skills are used in various ag-related careers. “It’s had a lot of popularity,” said Jeanne Gogolski, CEO of EducationProjects.org. “The teachers are excited to be going home with new knowledge, curriculum they can use immediately in the classroom, and supplies for their classroom.”
To access these free resources or to sign up for a workshop, visit GrowNextGen.org.