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HONING IN ON ENVIRONMENTAL EDUCATION
ILLINOIS PROGRAM SET FOR NATIONAL SPLASH
Illinois agricultural education supporters are taking a comprehensive approach to getting more students exposed to the study of environmental resources. They're offering a curriculum package to instructors nationwide to help broaden their reach to a wider base of students and raise awareness about alternative ag careers.

"Environmental science is another way to address a variety of science concepts. It's a versatile course that can be taught by an agricultural instructor or science teacher," notes Jay Runner, coordinator for Facilitating Coordination in Agricultural Education (FCAE), Rantoul, Ill. FCAE, which is a state-funded project administered through the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE), works to improve ag education in Illinois, including managing the environmental education effort. "The curriculum can begin to prepare students for careers in environmental resources, including parks and recreation, soil conservation, fish and wildlife management and more," Runner says.

The curriculum will be available on CD-ROM for Illinois high school instructors and other states' teachers this spring. The cluster of 125 lessons includes five units - natural resources, plant management, wildlife management, employability in the agricultural industry, and developing leadership skills and supervised agriculture experience (SAE) as it relates to environmental resources. Within the units, students focus on such diverse lessons as determining land use, maintaining watersheds, monitoring air quality, managing agri-entertainment enterprises, pruning trees in urban settings, diagnosing fish diseases, and snowmobile safety.

"The environmental resources CD is developed with the non-traditional student in mind. The lessons were all written by Illinois agriculture teachers, but we hope that many science instructors will also find the lessons useful for teaching environmental resources," Runner says. "The lessons have all been cross-referenced with Illinois State Learning Goals and Standards, which makes the curriculum a credible option for addressing Illinois high school education quality goals and meeting college requirements."

In the Illinois Career Pathways in Environmental Education Program, used by the state for course reimbursement for schools, environmental science studies are considered preparation courses for juniors and seniors in the agricultural sciences. The courses follow the freshman and sophomore level work such as "Introduction to the Agricultural Industry" and "Basic Agricultural Science."

BEYOND ILLINOIS CLASSROOMS

Other states may have different program criteria. "The curriculum has generated a great deal of interest from other states' educational leaders because it provides a complete, versatile package for instructors," Runner says. "The CD contains not only lesson plans but procedures for labs and PowerPoint presentations that teachers can use in the classroom to communicate the material to students."

In fact, the CD may ultimately be used outside of Illinois as much as in Illinois, says Dan Pentony, president of the Center for Agricultural and Environmental Research & Training (CAERT), Danville, Ill. CAERT is working with FCAE officials to produce the environmental resources curriculum for distribution nationwide.

"This is a readily accessible source of technically sound lesson plans for use by educators with their students," he says. "Because this is a complete package, other states are interested in adapting the CD to their own programs and standards. The lessons are licensed to all state agricultural teachers for a fee. The lessons are then cross-referenced to that state's academic learning standards. FCAE and ISBE receive royalties based on the fees that other states pay for the material.

"We are particularly pleased with the interest in the curriculum as it provides opportunities for more students to become aware of the issues that influence producing the world's food supply," Runner says.

In the long run, Runner hopes such efforts will benefit a wider audience. "Providing students now with a sound environmental resources curriculum will help to develop future consumers and leaders who can make educated decisions concerning policies that affect the agricultural industry," he says. "It will also help provide the industry with a continuous supply of qualified employees."

For information about the curriculum, contact CAERT at 217/446-0500, or visit www.caert.net. Details can also be obtained at www.agriculturaleducation.org. AM

Barb Baylor Anderson is a freelance writer from Edwardsville, Ill., who covers a wide variety of ag issues.


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