Feed the Future
This project is part of the U.S. Government's global hunger and food security initiative.

For Agricultural Educators, From Agricultural Educators

This blog post was written by Melanie Miller Foster and Daniel Foster from the Innovation for Agricultural Training and Education (InnovATE) project.

Recently, Daniel and I were approached to work on a fun project that focused on the pedagogy of an agricultural training in Guatemala to be offered in several local agriculture high schools. We worked with the instructional team for a few days and then took the new curriculum for a test drive with 45 secondary students of agriculture. Several of our innovations were initially a hard sell with members of the instructional team, but they changed their minds once they saw how students reacted to the clarity of objectives and the variability in activities. 

There was one particular activity at the end of the three-day training that we felt carried some instructional risk. It was a game we designed to allow students to demonstrate what they had learned by answering questions related to the course content with some fun elements, including a buzz-in system involving running to the center of the room to pop a balloon. The game unfolded around us with students loudly discussing the answers in teams, combing through their notes to find the correct answer, and quickly trying to pop their balloon to earn the right to answer the question first. It was a rowdy, fun way to review the material from the previous three days and in stark contrast to watching students sit quietly in a classroom with blank stares looking at a screen, diligently taking notes. I turned to Daniel and shouted over the din, “I’ve never seen so many people this excited about IPM!”

Group of Guatemalan students holding balloons and smiling, prepared to join the game. Photo: Melanie Miller Foster.

Whether it is on our own campus, in an agriculture education program in a remote corner of our state, or a classroom in a far-flung country, we have both witnessed the power of using research-based educational strategies and techniques to improve learning outcomes. Thinking about the example above, research in teaching and learning leads us to believe that the extrinsic motivation of competition added to an activity that appeals to the three domains of learning—visual, auditory and kinesthetic—leads to increased student engagement.

Over the next year, the Pennsylvania State University Global Teach Ag! Initiative is excited to curate a series of monthly blog posts for the USAID-funded Innovation for Agricultural Training and Education (InnovATE) project. The posts will be from U.S. agricultural educators on a variety of topics related to all aspects of agricultural education. Of course, educational contexts do vary widely, and these blogs are not intended to provide examples to replicate. Rather, the posts are intended to inspire, encourage and embolden agricultural educators across the globe. 

It can be an intimidating and daunting task to depart from traditional approaches to teaching and learning, but trying something new can lead to positive effects on learning outcomes. This task is especially important in agricultural education, as we aim to inspire young people to make agriculture a part of their future.

To see a short video clip of the balloon game, click here

Melanie Miller Foster is an Assistant Professor of International Agriculture and Daniel Foster is an Agricultural Teacher Educator and Associate Professor of Agricultural Extension Education. Melanie and Daniel are enthusiastic team members of Global Teach Ag! Initiative at Pennsylvania State University and the USAID-funded Innovation for Agricultural Training and Education (InnovATE) project.