Through this program, funded by the Beef Checkoff Program, the American Farm Bureau Foundation for Agriculture (AFBFA) – a contractor to the beef checkoff – provided an immersive experience for district and university level science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) curriculum coordinators from across the nation. New science standards require real world application, and teachers are hungry for connections. The program equipped coordinators with hands-on examples of how STEM principles are applied in the real world.
We know that real life experiences have a greater likelihood of changing opinions than even the greatest strategic marketing campaigns. That was the motivation behind the On the Farm STEM program. Creating a platform for shared experiences among science curriculum coordinators and educators who are key opinion leaders for their districts, schools, and communities fosters real life experiences which can significantly impact education.
Engage 15 - 20 science/health curriculum coordinators in the comprehensive training.
Assess participant knowledge change about beef and the beef industry before and after the training. Achieve a 10-15% increase in responses indicating accurate knowledge of beef and the beef industry.
"I feel safer and more confident in the beef industry." Participant, 2016 On the Farm STEM Event
"This was a wonderfully well organized, carefully constructed event - truly one of the best professional development experiences I have had the pleasure of being involved with." Participant, 2016 On the Farm STEM Event
The On the Farm STEM event was held immediately prior to the National Science Teachers Association annual convention. More than 200 education leaders applied for the On the Farm STEM program. Representing the beef checkoff, AFBFA worked closely with the Tennessee State Beef Council, Tennessee Farm Bureau, and Metro Nashville Public Schools to offer a purposeful and engaging experience that was relevant to education and industry. All resources developed were reviewed and approved by the USDA.
The participants selected have incredible direct reach within their universities and districts. Five of the top 10 districts in the nation (by student population) were in attendance – including Los Angeles Unified, Houston Independent, and Orange County, FL. The total student and teacher enrollment for each educational institution present reaches nearly 2 million.
To maximize this impact, AFBFA worked diligently to connect each participant after the event with a local beef contact. AFBFA engaged farmers and ranchers at the state level as local contacts for STEM coordinators after they returned home. AFBFA continues to receive email updates on planned implementation and outreach efforts by participants.
Through this program AFBFA also created "The Science of Beef: Industry Connection Toolkit" a great tool for science educators. The resource provides context for connecting the beef industry to science classrooms through the Disciplinary Core Ideas as identified in the Next Generation Science Standards.
What social impact was made as a result of this effort?
Barriers were broken down and real communication took place between those who produce our food and those who consume it.
Real-life connections were made to empower students to understand the relevance of education principles.
Relationships were built across the country, across industries, and across backgrounds, leading to fruitful discussion and purposeful partnerships.
The On the Farm STEM Event was funded by the Beef Checkoff Program. The Beef Checkoff Program (www.MyBeefCheckoff.com) was established as part of the 1985 farm bill. The checkoff assesses $1 per head on the sale of live domestic and imported cattle, in addition to a comparable assessment on imported beef and beef products. In states with qualified beef councils, states retain up to 50 cents of the dollar and forward the other 50 cents per head to the Cattlemen's Beef Promotion and Research Board, which administers the national checkoff program, subject to USDA approval.
The event was a success. 94% of participants indicated the event exceeded their expectations. The following is a snapshot of data collected through formal pre/post assessment of participants.
46% increase in accurate identification of the nutrients provided by beef
47% increase in accurate understanding of the beef lifecycle
After this experience, participants were…
More confident with food safety in the beef industry. (51% decrease in those who "agree" that they have concerns with food safety in the beef industry.)
More confident with animal welfare in the beef industry. (43% decrease in those who "agree" and "strongly agree" that animal welfare with regard to beef production is a concern.)
More confident in the transparency of producers. (65% increase in those who "strongly agree" that farmers are transparent with consumers.)
More confident in the environmental stewardship of farmers. (77% increase in those who "strongly agree" that farmers use land and water resources in a sustainable manner.)
More confident in their ability to identify STEM concepts in agriculture. (48% increase in those who "strongly agree" that they are familiar with application of STEM concepts in agriculture.)
Intent to Apply
After this experience…
35% of participants indicated they plan to eat more beef than they currently consume. 65% plan to consume the same amount.
100% of participants plan to incorporate concepts from this experience in their work within the next year.
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