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Friday, January 5, 2024

Media Contact: Sophia Fahleson | Digital Communications Specialist | 405-744-7063 |

Big changes are happening for the students in the agricultural education program at Oklahoma State University.

In the Spring 2023 semester, the Curriculum for Agricultural Science Education was introduced to the program and was implemented in courses for undergraduates pursuing a degree in agricultural education.

The first course had 23 students, and the curriculum’s use has grown to three courses this year.

Much of this expansion has come through the contributions of Natalea Watkins, who provided an opportunity for pre-service and in-service teachers to access CASE and all it encompasses.

Her late husband, Larry Watkins, was a beloved agricultural education teacher and constant believer in the good the agricultural education, communications and leadership department does, she said.

Part of Larry Watkins’ estate was donated to the OSU agricultural education program to fund CASE classes. This funding helps purchase materials, curriculum and other necessities to deliver the classes each year.

“Larry was a vocational agriculture teacher at heart, even when he stopped teaching,” Watkins said. “Our second date was to the yearly Agricultural Education Awards Banquet. It was my duty to use his estate to give back to the agricultural education program.

“He was the world’s biggest believer in agricultural education because he believed it prepares you for anything you want to do in life,” Watkins added. “His dream was that his estate would go to encouraging the very best agricultural education teachers to stick with it for at least five years, and that was how we got started with this.”

Watkins said her husband did not see agricultural education as just farming, but he saw it — as well as FFA — as science, relationships, business development, leadership and more.

“He would be absolutely thrilled with this STEM program,” Watkins said. “That’s kind of the dream.”

Chris Eck, assistant professor in the agricultural education program and contact for CASE at OSU, said the agricultural education faculty and students are grateful for the support given by Larry and Natalea Watkins over the years.

“They have helped our agricultural education program immensely, and they are helping us grow our program piece by piece,” Eck said. “CASE’s Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources program teaches Introduction to Agriculture content.

“Undergraduates, or pre-service teachers, will receive a completion certification for this program to allow them to teach eighth- and ninth-grade students,” Eck added. “This first course is offered as a standard part of the agricultural education coursework and counts toward the student’s credits to graduate.”

These courses, which focus on science, technology, engineering and math, are vital for undergraduate students, Eck said.

“Since I started in June 2022, I’ve aimed to increase STEM knowledge,” Eck said.

“Now, we are the only agricultural education program in the U.S. that offers multiple certifications, and I am proud of that,” Eck added. “We have taken many steps to further knowledge in STEM. OSU agricultural education students can become certified in CASE AFNR, AgX and small gas engines prior to graduation.”

The AgXplore BriefCASE, a two-day course curriculum, was offered in June 2023 for any teachers in the U.S. and was presented to Oklahoma teachers and OSU agricultural education students in November 2023. This course equips teachers with curriculum and activities for middle school students.

Kane Kinion, agricultural education and agricultural communications alumnus serves as the agricultural education instructor at Carnegie Public Schools. He gained his certification in December 2022, facilitated the OSU AgXplore BriefCASE, and has hit the ground running in his classroom with these activities ever since, he said.

“This past year, my students did a deep dive into the Journey 2050 website, which teaches them all about sustainability and how we farm sustainably,” Kinion said. “There was even a video game attached that the students loved, and it has helped keep them engaged.”

After Journey 2050, Kinion’s students grew their own cucumbers in class. They referred to the produce as “pickles” and were active in the growing process, he said.

At the end of the class, Kinion brought in extra cucumbers for students to make pickles and demonstrated the farm to table concept.

 OSU also brings CASE to current teachers through CASE Institutes. These workshops are for in-service teachers. OSU hosted a five-day CASE AFNR Institute in July 2023 for teachers from California to New Jersey.

The CASE Institutes provide teachers with two essential components. The first part is curriculum-based and demonstrates how to implement the curriculum into the classroom. With the completion of the institute, teachers receive lifelong access to CASE curriculum, activity books and other materials to use in their classrooms.

The second piece to the institute is professional development. These courses help in-service teachers continue to learn and improve in the classroom. During this time, teachers also are encouraged to create professional connections with other teachers and facilitators, Kinion said.

 “At the end of the day, Oklahoma is doing a better job of giving professional development to new and in-service teachers,” Kinion said. “The more we learn, the more we benefit students.”

A few details set the CASE Institute at OSU apart from other universities, Eck said. Unlike other programs, OSU undergraduate students take CASE courses at no cost to them. This means OSU agricultural education students can graduate with multiple CASE certifications for no extra cost other than normal tuition and fees.

Through CASE, undergraduate students are equipped with a lifetime of curriculum they can take into their future classrooms. CASE courses are designed to be taken before student teaching so students can use what they learn in their classrooms.

Students entering the workforce will now be equipped with curriculum that is updating constantly, Eck said. These programs mean big changes for agricultural education programs all across Oklahoma, he added.

Future CASE Programs

Faculty members in the OSU Department of Agricultural Education, Communications and Leadership plan to host a variety of programs for in-service teach- ers and pre-service teachers.

OSU undergraduate students enroll for the fall or spring CASE courses through their portal.

In-service teachers enroll for BriefCASE or CASE Institute here

Story by: Hallory Parks | Cowboy Journal

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