February 1999 // Volume 37 // Number 1 // Ideas at Work // 1IAW1

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Ag Day 1998

The Extension staff in Iberia Parish (County) felt that in spite of having a population that is 44% rural, school children did not fully appreciate the value of agriculture to the parish. With the assistance of the school superintendent, local government and numerous other collaborators an Ag Day program was created for the parishes 1500 third grade students. Hands-on activities were used to supplement lesson plans provided to classroom teachers in a variety of subjects, ranging from food safety to wetlands conservation.

Robert F. Richard
Assistant Specialist
Program and Staff Development
Louisiana Cooperative Extension Service
Baton Rouge, Louisiana
Internet address: rrichard@agctr.lsu.edu

Bobby Fletcher, Jr.
County Extension Agent
Iberia Parish
Louisiana Cooperative Extension Service
New Iberia, Louisiana
Internet address: bhfletcher@agctr.lsu.edu

Iberia Parish (County), in the heart of Louisiana's Cajun Country, has a population that is approximately 44% rural, yet the local Extension staff felt that many children did not understand the importance of agriculture to the parish. Consequently, the local Extension staff contacted the parish school superintendent and proposed a program that would increase school children's understanding of agriculture.

The objective was to educate third grade students throughout the parish about agriculture and its importance to Iberia Parish. To accomplish this, the Extension staff enlisted the aid of the Iberia Research Station, part of the Louisiana State University Agricultural Center's network of research stations across the state. The station agreed to provide the site for hands-on activities while the Extension staff provided educational programs on selected subjects.

To better prepare the students for their visit to the research station, lesson plans were distributed to all 55 of the parish's third grade teachers with the support of the Superintendent's office. Lesson plans were distributed on subjects such as food safety, energy, vegetable production, nutrition, agronomy, and wetlands conservation. Teachers were encouraged to use these lessons as complements to their planned classroom teaching.

A total of 1,500 students were exposed to the lessons. Six hundred students participated in Ag Day activities at the research station where they stopped at five educational stations featuring such subjects such as dairy foods, vegetable production, sugar cane production, and wetlands conservation. In addition, there was a petting farm (mobile min-farm) that visited seven schools reaching the 900 students unable to attend the program at the research station.

According to a follow up survey, completed by 34 of 55 teachers, the lessons were quite useful, particularly in health and science areas. All teachers responding indicated that they were comfortable teaching the lessons.

Of the 13 lessons provided to teachers, those used most often were "Wash Before You Bite," a lesson on food safety; "The Mooooving Relay," a lesson on dairy products; "Fruit Doesn't Grow In The Store," a lesson on fruit production; and "Marshes Everywhere," a lesson on wetlands conservation. Visuals and other teaching aids were provided with the lesson plans.

The majority of teachers responding indicated that they would use this type of lesson again next year, if offered. Lessons complementing the science curriculum were the most requested for future use.

In addition to the Iberia Parish School Board, Iberia Parish government, and the Iberia Research Station, other cooperators included the Iberia Parish Farm Bureau, Iberia Parish Cattleman's Association, American Sugarcane League, and the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries.

Because this was the first year of this project the Extension staff was most interested in determining if teachers and other school personnel were comfortable with the format. Plans for next year's program include pre- and post-tests for the third graders to determine if the main objective of the program - for third graders to better understand agriculture and its importance in Iberia Parish - is being achieved.