Agriculture Education on the Move (AEOTM), a program of Missouri Farmers Care, began in 2011 as a way to bring free, hands-on agriculture education to third and fourth grade students throughout the state.
John Tummons, an assistant teaching professor of agricultural education and leadership in the University of Missouri College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources (CAFNR) Division of Applied Social Sciences (DASS), has been involved in the program since 2014. Tummons has partnered with the program in a variety of ways, including serving as a curriculum advisor.
CAFNR’s most recent partnership with AEOTM is the College’s biggest yet, and brought more than 50 Missouri high school FFA students to the Mizzou campus for a one-day curriculum training. The FFA Partner Training Day was held in mid-September and put CAFNR agricultural education majors in the driver’s seat, with those students leading the entire training.
“This is a vision come true for me,” Tummons said. “We want to be engaged with industry and partner however we can. We also want our students to get these authentic experiences. Our students, who are preparing to be high school teachers, are literally out here teaching high school students. It’s a win-win all the way around.”
High school FFA students lead the AEOTM curriculum in their local communities, teaching elementary students the importance of agriculture and where their food comes from. The program lasts 10 weeks and includes hands-on activities, as well as discussions on crop and livestock production, soil and water conservation, and careers in agriculture.
The purpose behind the FFA Partner Training Day was to have CAFNR lend its expertise in teaching to the high school students and help prepare them to teach the 10-week program. Multiple high schools participated, including Montgomery County R-II, Salisbury, Blue Springs, Ashland, Boonville, Cainsville, Centralia, Chillicothe and El Dorado Springs.
“Working on the curriculum side, I saw more and more of our students in agricultural education who had taught the curriculum as high school students in their local communities,” Tummons said. “That led to the idea of us sharing some of our expertise in teaching, curriculum building and student motivation, as well as becoming a more involved partner with Missouri Farmers Care.”
Tummons and Rebecca Mott, assistant teaching professor of agricultural education and leadership, worked closely with Heather Fletcher, program director of Agriculture Education on the Move, to make the event a reality.
“It’s just fantastic,” Fletcher said. “One of my favorite aspects of Agriculture Education on the Move is the FFA partnership. I love that we’re educating elementary students – and the FFA students are also getting so much out of it in terms of becoming such strong leaders.
“I think we’re replicating some of that leadership training with this event. Our FFA members are learning so much, and the CAFNR students are also getting an opportunity to serve as agriculture educators. That peer-to-peer learning is so powerful.”
A total of five CAFNR students led the discussions throughout the day, including Elizabeth Brooks. Brooks, a senior, interned with Missouri Farmers Care this spring and summer.
“I was super excited to help lead the discussion, as I taught this curriculum as a high school student,” Brooks said. “It’s great to be able to walk through everything with the current high school students. We want them to be familiar with each part of the curriculum so that they feel prepared and excited to teach the content.”
Along with Brooks, seniors Lauren Quinlan, Reagan Limbach and Hattie Grisham, and junior Evan Davidson participated in the training event.
While the actual training only lasted a day, CAFNR is developing a mentorship program where the CAFNR students will keep in touch with the high school students who participated.
“We really want to make sure that the students just don’t walk away and forget everything from the training,” Mott said. “We wanted to create a program where our students are available for the high school students, and where they can build a relationship that extends beyond the event.”
“It’s been so much fun watching this project grow,” Quinlan added. “It’s been cool to consider the different aspects and plan it all from start to finish. It’s one thing to do all of the planning, but to also see it come to life is really exciting. This program is going to have a really big impact, and I hope that it continues to grow.”
The training touches on service learning, a key part of the RISE Initiative. The RISE Initiative states that all CAFNR undergraduate students will take part in at least one signature experience while on campus: Research, International, Service Learning and Experiential Learning.
“That’s the important thing with the agricultural education major – getting that experience where you feel comfortable teaching high school students,” Brooks said. “To be able to create events like this, when you’re the ones planning it – it’s a great way to get actual hands-on experience with what we’ll be doing in the future as agriculture teachers.”
“It’s so rewarding to see the things we teach about being used in practice,” Mott said. “Seeing our students use those strategies with other students is great. We’re hoping these students get a fire and find that passion for teaching agriculture.”