OSU bridges the gap between agriculture and educators

woman examines an invasive weed overlooking a farm
Rancher Jason Beck shows an invasive weed to teacher Orissa Burghard during OSU's Summer Ag Institute. (Photo by Lynn Ketchum.)

More than 500 teachers have completed the weeklong program since 1989

Agriculture feeds Oregon's residents and keeps many of them employed. But not everyone — especially the younger generation — knows about this sector's important contibution to the state.

To bridge this knowledge gap, OSU helped create the Summer Ag Institute in 1989 to help teachers use agriculture as a context for teaching subjects like science, math, social studies and English. The week-long program is aimed at teachers in kindergarten through 12th grade with little or no agricultural background. The teachers earn graduate-level, continuing education credits from OSU.

Teachers have a choice of two sessions: one on either side of the Cascades. The eastside experience, based in Union, includes Columbia Basin wheat ranches, timber operations, seed farms and cattle ranches. The westside experience, based in Corvallis, showcases the Willamette Valley’s cornucopia of fruit, nuts, vegetables, wineries, grass seed and Christmas trees. Participants tour orchards, berry fields, dairies and wineries. They shear sheep, test soil and build hydroponics systems for their classrooms. They each stay overnight with a farm family, lending a hand in chores and building relationships.

Surveys have shown that the Summer Ag Institute has positively impacted teachers' perceptions and knowledge of agriculture. As one participant said, "All the tours were so eye-opening. Everything dispelled myths I had held as true for a lifetime."

Read more about the Summer Ag Institute in Oregon's Agricultural Progress magazine.

Sources: Greg Thompson, head of the agricultural education and general agriculture department at OSU

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