Ohio leads in many industries but driving around the state, it’s hard not to notice all the fields of corn and soybeans. Agriculture is the number one industry in Ohio— contributing $124 billion annually to the economy and employing 1 in 8 Ohioans as of 2019.
Despite agriculture’s role in Ohio’s economy, it’s a good bet many students don’t know about the full range of careers available in the field. Ask a kid about agriculture jobs and you probably won’t hear answers like crop consultant, transportation coordinator, production engineer, technician, or soil sampler —much less the support systems needed in areas of sales, technology, human resources and operations.
Battelle’s education team recently won a three-year, $300,000 grant from the United States Department of Agriculture to change that perception. Dr. Stephanie Johnson, a Senior STEM Relationship Manager and Project Manager at Battelle who is co-leader of the project, said the new Ohio Rural Educator Program will help rural Ohio middle and high school science teachers close the agriculture workforce knowledge gap by integrating agriculture-based learning into their classrooms and connecting them to local industry.
“We will provide lots of great agricultural content that they can incorporate into their curriculum without having to do a lot of extra work on their own,” Johnson said. Battelle’s education team is recruiting teachers from rural Ohio schools through the Ohio STEM Learning Network. A cohort of 20 teachers will complete the program this year with 20 more the following year. Teachers will learn about problem-based learning so their classes can solve agricultural-based problems in their communities using design thinking.
The first cohort of teachers will visit The Ohio State University’s Waterman Agricultural and Natural Resources Laboratory in Columbus for hands-on learning. On September 23, they’ll attend the Farm Science Review at the Molly Caren Agricultural Center. This national event features industry experts from all over the country. “At the Farm Science Review, teachers will see how farmers are solving problems related to climate, water quality, and crop yield and use that information to create hands-on lessons for their students,” said Heather Sherman, Battelle STEM Relationship Manager and co-project Director.
With the help from partners at and Education Projects & Partnerships and Performance Dynamics, the team will create and deliver workshops throughout the year for the cohort that will focus on agricultural content, problem-based learning, and agriculture careers. This year’s cohort of the program culminates when the educators present the real-world projects their students worked on throughout the year.