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Creating Awareness of the Turkey Industry through STEM-based Curriculum
Agriculture is a growing industry, as it supplies food for the increasing world population. Additionally, career opportunities within the industry are also increasing. In Indiana agriculture in particular, the poultry industry is expanding at a high rate as poultry products are an affordable and healthy protein option for consumers. However, the industry is left with the challenge of fulfilling open job positions in order to produce more food. Due to the demographic shift from rural to urban areas, a gap between the understanding of farm to fork exists among consumers. This adds to the challenge, as interest in agriculture decreases. One way to increase consumer knowledge and interest in agriculture is through education. Limited agricultural-related curriculum exists for K-12 teachers to implement in their classrooms. By creating awareness of the agriculture industry, confidence can be instilled in students and they are more likely to find the content interesting. This interest can impact their future career choice. Chapter two of this thesis reviews the literature in regards to the relevance of the agriculture industry, agricultural-related curriculum, learning development, and teacher impact on learning.
Chapters three and four of the thesis discuss two studies conducted during the implementation of an agricultural-related curriculum for elementary students. The POULT Program was created to provide elementary students with an accurate and relevant online STEM-based curriculum focused on the turkey industry. The program took place over six consecutive school days in 23 4th and 5th grade Indiana classrooms during the fall of 2021. Seventeen teachers and 482 students participated in the study. Students completed five online modules, an interactive notebook, turkey digestion simulation game, and a class project.
Chapter three analyzes how students’ previous experience and knowledge, the POULT Program, and the taxonomy of assessment questions impacted students' interest in the turkey industry and agricultural literacy. Results from the study showed that students’ agricultural literacy increased from pre to post program completion, individual interest was predicted by previous knowledge, and individual interest had a positive impact on students’ situational interest. Students’ agriculture knowledge, turkey knowledge, and agriculture experience also impacted situational interest. With these results, we can conclude that agricultural-related curriculum can have an impact on students’ agriculture literacy and their interest in agriculture.
Chapter four analyzes how teacher self-efficacy, previous experience, and previous knowledge impacted students’ interest in agriculture. We found that teachers reported high engagement self-efficacy and low poultry science content knowledge self-efficacy. We also found that teachers with more agriculture experience had greater motivational self-efficacy, and teachers with greater agriculture knowledge had lower motivational self-efficacy. Teachers’ instructional self-efficacy also had a positive impact on students’ challenge. Teachers reported that they liked the program content and class project. Overall, teachers reported that technology issues and time constraints were limiting factors of the program.
In conclusion, the POULT Program was successful in increasing students’ agricultural literacy. We learned that previous knowledge and experience, teacher self-efficacy, and agricultural-related curriculum can impact students’ interest in agriculture. From these findings, we can create and effectively implement more agricultural-related curriculum that will benefit students by making them more aware of the industry and potentially impacting their future career choices.