by Mario Villarino
I could not start this week commentaries without expressing my sincere recognition to all those volunteers and members of our community that contributed to the success of our extension program in Hopkins County. If you were part or participated somehow on the many different activities related to the Extension Office I wanted to remind you that this programs was created for you by member like you. I also want to invite you to be part of our activities by joining us. The extension office and our agricultural programs are a great way to give back to our community and our future. I also want to recognize the support of a volunteer that is no longer with us and how much he will be missed: Bobby McDonald was not only a Hopkins County 4-H member during his youth, he was also a friend of our community and a personal friend of mine. During the many programs and events that he covered either taking photographs or reporting on his internet sites, Bobby was a familiar face that I relied on. It was not unusual having Bobby coming to the extension office after a busy weekend to share with us the happenings of our community or the felling of those who mattered the most. Bobby was very easy to get along. He related his personal and familiar experiences often and was a good person to ask for advice. We spend many hours planning programs and activities related to our Ag Program. Bobby will be missed. Part of our extension mission is to share with the community the programmatic efforts related to our teaching activities and how those impact our community. The first part of this series in the 2016 Youth Science of Agriculture: Relevance: As today’s youth are further removed from farming, their understanding of the importance of agriculture and how it impacts their daily lives diminishes. This Science of Agriculture (Ag Literacy/Awareness) program targets 4th grade students and teachers in Rains, Hopkins, Delta, Wood and Franklin Counties. The plan provided the following educational components: Educational support materials on Science of Agriculture, field trip to the Hopkins County Regional Civic Center, pre- and post-evaluation and information about 4-H opportunities for the participants and parents. During 2016 the plan included educational presentations in cattle milking, products and byproducts of the beef industry, dairy foods, 4-H, horse care, wildlife, small grains and cotton, poultry production, bee keeping and water conservation. This program targeted 857- 4th grade students in Rains, Wood, Delta, Franklin, and Hopkins Counties.
To address the needs of agricultural education to school grade youth, this plan conducted the following activities:
- Ag in The Classroom Volunteer Meeting (October 2015): A working meeting after the 2015 educational event was held with presenters. Recognition for their support was expressed and comments/suggestions were taken. A definitive date was scheduled for 2016.
- Organizational Meeting for 2016 Ag in the Classroom (February, 2016). County extension agents from Hopkins, Delta, Franklin and Rains Counties and representatives of Rain-Hopkins Farm Bureau met to provide leadership for topic selection, volunteers and programmatic needs for the 2016 event.
- Ag-in-the-classroom program planning with Ag in the classroom committee (May 2016). A meeting with participant volunteers and presenters was conducted to describe the differences and adjustments to the 2015 program.
- Marketing/Promotion to Schools. An invitational letter to all elementary schools in the region was drafted and mailed to school superintendents and principals. A description of the program including the benefits for the children on their participation was included.
- A pre-event evaluation consisting of 18 questions was given to 34 participants attending the Sulphur Springs Elementary School during September 2016.
- Ag in the Classroom Event Implementation (949 attendees) (857 youth). The program consisted of a field trip to the Hopkins County Regional Civic Center Arena. The arena was set up in 11 stations with different agricultural topics on each one. The students were welcome at the same time and The Mobile Dairy Classroom session was delivered to the group. After the first session, smaller groups were divided into each station and 8 minute programs were delivered to the groups.
- Science of Agriculture Teacher/Student Packets. A package of information was prepared and delivered to the teachers to use as reference material for their classroom.
- A post-event evaluation consisting of 18 questions was given to 34 participants attending the Sulphur Springs Elementary School during late October 2016.
- Plan Summary. Activities accomplished during the plan were summarized in a two page document.
- Science of Agriculture Interpretation. Interpretation of the plan was compiled and distributed to key leaders of the community, media and the community in general.
During the delivery of the program, several volunteer groups provided student instructions, moving teaching display and caring for live animal part of the exhibits and teaching sessions.
Evaluation Strategy: An evaluation instrument (pre and post approach) was utilized to measure knowledge gained after the students participated in the program. A sample (50 students) was selected from the Sulphur Springs Elementary School to fill out the surveys before and after the educational event. Student survey result comparisons were conducted using a paired t-test.
Results: Survey results indicated that the knowledge gained by the Science of Agriculture plan was significant (P> 0.0001) (paired t- test t=17.90 df= 33). Student evaluations showed a significant knowledge gain after they experience the field event (Mean 51.16 % before the event vs 63.4 % after the event).
Acknowledgements: The Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service Office in Hopkins County would like to appreciate the support of Hopkins-Rains Farm Bureau, Hopkins County Master Gardeners, Southwest Dairy Farmers, North East Texas Beef Improvement Organization, Hopkins County Master Gardeners, Shannon Pickering and the Hopkins County Regional Civic Center for their support during the implementation of this plan.
Future Implications: The Ag in the Classroom committee has suggested continuing Ag in the Classroom for 2017.