Urban students plant soybeans

“Most people think agriculture means to put plants in the ground and drive tractors around,” said science teacher Chuck Crawford. He wants to stop this limited portrayal of agriculture by educating youth about the processes and possibilities in agriculture.

In 2012, Crawford, an AP Environmental Science teacher at Dublin City Schools, attended the Ag Biotech Academy, a two-day professional development event for teachers that is sponsored by the Ohio Soybean Council. The Academy is held at DuPont-Pioneer’s soybean facility and offers teachers an opportunity to learn about topics like gel electrophoresis, micropipetting and food science. Crawford’s experience at the Academy led him to want to incorporate agriculture into his classroom. Crawford feels many young people are not informed about agriculture or hot button issues such as those surrounding GMOs (Genetically Modified Organisms).

As Crawford began to build agricultural applications into his curriculum, he relied a great deal on GrowNextGen.org. He said he uses the GrowNextGen network to connect with teachers, farmers, agronomists and industry professionals to gain a better understanding on subject matter. The growing list of resources on GrowNextGen has helped Crawford develop lesson plans that integrate agriculture into the science classroom and give students a more interactive learning experience.

This May, Crawford partnered with DuPont-Pioneer to create a demonstration plot near the school. “The key to this whole demonstration plot is to allow students an authentic classroom experience with commodities that play such a vital role in our lives.” Crawford’s students physically planted five cultivars of soybeans and five cultivars of corn, and his intent is that students will be able to see what it takes to prepare soil, plant crops, and manage plants to maturity. The students will be able to learn first-hand how pest management is addressed in the plot. They will study the chemicals cycling through the soil and observe how water affects the plant at every stage.

Not only is Crawford’s teaching method innovative, it is practical. The crops his class is growing now will produce a harvest in the fall. Crawford plans to use the yields from the demonstration plot as feedstock to produce ethanol and biodiesel as part of a unit on biofuels. Students in Crawford’s class benefit from experiencing the full life cycle of the soybean.