Determining Nebraska elementary students' understanding of agriculture concepts: as defined by Nebraska Agricultural Education Curriculum Framework and Content Standards
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The purpose of this case study was to determine how Nebraska fourth-grade elementary students' understandings of agriculture compare to goals outlined by the Nebraska Agricultural Education Curriculum Framework and Content Standards and determine the extent of integration of agricultural concepts into the academic curriculum. Additionally, the study explored teachers' interest and ability to integrate agricultural concepts into the academic curriculum. The study looked at teachers' and students' backgrounds and experiences, relative to agricultural literacy knowledge. Six fourth-grade teachers and students from six schools within the Educational Service Unit #2, in eastern Nebraska, were involved in this qualitative study. Results demonstrated that while the participants live in a rural area, a majority of the students had little experience with production agriculture. Participants had limited definitions of agriculture, focusing on crop and livestock production. This study verified that the student respondents do not have the agricultural knowledge to indicate proficiency along the standards indicated by the Nebraska Agricultural Education Curriculum Framework and Content Standards. The students have acquired a portion of each of the agricultural concepts, yet the entire concept remains elusive in the students' articulation of their knowledge. Results show that exposure to an agricultural economy does not provide students with a complete representation of agriculture, as codified in the state standards. Teachers respondents questioned whether they have accurate and appropriate materials and resources to convey agricultural information to their students. Additionally, teachers felt pressure from mandated academic standard, which may prevent them from introducing additional agricultural concepts. Of the 16 of the agricultural concepts reviewed in this study, teachers reported integrating, on average, less than half of the concepts. This study examined potential methods to increase integration of agricultural concepts into the academic curriculum, including perceived outside factors which the teacher respondents identified as affecting their ability to integrate agricultural materials.