University of Maryland Extension

History

A new idea

AGsploration was an idea that was hatched in 2010 as University of Maryland Extension (UME) initiated Impact Teams to help lead programming efforts and to develop signature programs.  As part of the Agriculture Profitability Impact Team, a group of educators thought it important to include agriculture literacy education to ensure the long term success, understanding, and profitability of agriculture in the state.  Thus the AGsploration program was initiated and started on the track to becoming a UME Signature Program.

Through a partnership with the Maryland Agriculture Education Foundation (MAEF), which oversees the Maryland Agriculture in the Classroom program, the AGsploration team collectively identified middle school youth as a targeted audience because of the lack of age-appropriate curriculum nationwide for this group.


Development of the program

Program development began with a $33,367 grant received from the National Institute of Food and Agriculture.  This grant provided the funds for curriculum development and creation of a supply kit to accompany the curriculum, providing all of the necessary instructional materials.  Before beginning to write the curriculum, the AGsploration Team met with the Maryland State Department of Education’s Science, STEM, and Career Development coordinators to provide guidance into the correct format and template required for use in public schools.  The AGsploration Team relied on the expertise of UME personnel including educators and specialists from multiple Extension departments. Lesson plans were peer reviewed by Extension faculty for content and accuracy and Maryland public school teachers for appropriateness for classroom use.

Following the initial curriculum writing, the AGsploration Team initiated a “Teens as Teachers” model to help initiate implementation of the program.  In February 2011, the team trained 27 high school and college-aged youth in the first ever AGsploration Winter Institute.  The institute focused on teaching these youth how to use the curriculum as well as public speaking and leadership skills they would need to teach the lessons the following year.  As part of the 3 day training, the youth agreed to provide 30 hours of AGsploration teaching for the year.  Because of the teens’ efforts and the work of Extension staff, the curriculum for AGsploration: The Science of Maryland Agriculture was written and pilot tested with approximately 6,000 youth and adults across Maryland from 2010 to 2012.

Participants at the 2011 Winter Institute      Participants at the 2011 Winter Institute 

Participants at the 2011 Winter Institute

The focus for 2012-2013 was to provide training and curricular materials to youth educators in order to expand implementation of the program outside the scope of University of Maryland Extension. Since 2013, the AGsploration team has held more than 50 trainings for more than 400 youth and adult educators.

In 2014-2015, the AGsploration team began developing a collection of online digital teaching resources such as videos and interactive student activities. These resources allow for further engagement of students and allow students to visualize and explore agriculture first-hand without leaving the classroom. 


Direction for the future

In 2016, the AGsploration team is developing plans for a two-day workshop for high school-aged youth intrested in pursuing post-secondary education or careers in agriculture. This new off-shoot of the program is still in the very beginning stages, but the team hopes to hold the first workshop in the fall of 2017.

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