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Leveraging Cooperative Extension to increase youth knowledge of local agriculture

The Issue

Today’s US population continues to become more suburbanized, which has resulted in many Americans having limited knowledge about the various aspects of agriculture and food production. The National Research Council emphasizes the importance of providing individuals with opportunities to learn about and appreciate the needs of crops, animals, and plants. There is a need for individuals of all backgrounds and ages to have a basic understanding of agriculture, the agricultural industry, and its importance to our country and its citizens. Thus, educating students on agricultural related topics and local commodities is a priority for the University of California Cooperative Extension (UCCE).

What Has ANR Done?

Each year, for the past 10 years, Butte County’s UCCE programs in collaboration with the Butte County’s Farm, Home & 4-H Support Group has hosted a Student Agricultural Field Day (SAFD) at the Patrick Ranch Museum in Durham, CA. The Patrick Ranch Museum is an outdoor educational facility dedicated to enhancing people’s understanding and appreciation of the community’s rich agricultural heritage. The goal of SAFD is to increase agricultural literacy and knowledge of local commodities for students in Butte County. UCCE Farm Advisors, UC Master Gardeners, and Butte County's 4-H Youth Development Program hosted five stations at SAFD. Station topics included: walnuts, rice, honeybees, entomology, and biosecurity. Fourth-grade classes from Butte County schools that participate in the Shaping Healthy Choices Program, which has strong ties to agriculture and gardening, were invited to attend and rotate through the stations. This event provides a unique learning experience for students, teachers, and adult chaperones by allowing them the opportunity to interact with livestock, gardens, and acres of open space.

The Payoff

Field trip increased agriculture literacy & knowledge

A subset of 4th-grade students was surveyed prior to and after attending the 2017 SAFD event. When comparing pre-test and post-test class survey scores for students who attended SAFD (n = 46), the average pre-test % was 28.0 and the average post-test % was 55.0, yielding a % difference of +27.0. While this % difference is positive, it was also found to be statistically significant. The following includes some highlights in pre/post survey scores. Overall student knowledge of the gender of worker bees increased from pre = 15% to post = 81%. Student awareness that insects have three pairs of legs increased from pre =26% to post = 54%. Student understanding that the outermost covering of a walnut is the hull increased from pre = 9% to post = 77%. Student understanding that bio-security helps to prevent the spread of disease and keep humans and animals healthy increased from pre = 52% to post = 79%. Student understanding that rice is grown in the Sacramento Valley increased from pre = 35% to post = 48%. These results indicate that there was a significant increase (p = 0.0042) in student knowledge as a result of participating in the 2017 SAFD.

Clientele Testimonial

"Local agriculture is such a huge part of Butte County. This event ties in really well with what we're learning in the classroom. The students love being here and experiencing these things firsthand." - Mrs. Stanley, 4th grade teacher at Oakdale Heights


UCCE Butte, http://cebutte.ucanr.edu
Chelsey L. Slattery, Nutrition, Family, and Consumer Sciences Advisor; Jona Pressman, UC CalFresh/EFNEP Program Manager; Suzie Lawry-Hall, UC CalFresh Program Supervisor