PULLMAN, Wash. — Twelve agriculture teachers from across the U.S. sat in a Washington State University classroom, learning about a vast array of technology ranging from temperature sensors to small engines.
They were taking part in the Curriculum for Agricultural Science and Education (CASE) program, and over two weeks they will receive training in modern approaches to engineering and agriculture, including web design, 3-dimensional printing, electrical applications and small engines used in outdoor equipment, said J.D. Baser, senior agricultural educational instructor in WSU’s Department of Crop and Soil Sciences.
They’ll then turn around and teach what they learned to high school students in their ag classes.
“The demand for students in the work force that have this kind of training is pretty high,” Baser said.
The job market typically calls for employees with four-year degrees and training in basic skills.
The teachers hope to encourage their students to further their education, perhaps studying engineering, and give them the skills to go to work in jobs that are sustainable for their families, Baser said.
The program, in its second year, is an addition to CASE, said instructor John Bergin, who is from Mission Valley, Kan.
Previously, students might learn how to fix a small engine. The new program goes beyond teaching them how to fix one and shows how they might build one, Bergin said.
“Most ag programs have a small engines curriculum: you tear it down, slap it back together, it runs, you troubleshoot it — yeah, we do all that,” he said. “But while we’re doing it, they will engineer an improvement to the engine.”
“Traditionally, agriculture classes were always thought of as just welding classes or cows and plows,” said Colton, Wash., ag teacher Nathan Moore.
The new program adds a science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM, approach.
Students respond well to the hands-on parts of the course, Moore said.
“It’s very little of me standing up in front of the class and lecturing at them,” he said.
Dan’a Borland, agriculture education instructor in Warden, Wash., said she teaches many of the course’s lessons in her classroom.
Many students might wish to pursue engineering, but not realize they can remain in agriculture, she said.
“The industry’s moving toward a lot of robotics functions,” she said. “This program is going to allow me to give my students that opportunity.”