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An Integrated Approach to Curriculum Development in Global Agriculture Emphasizing Relationships and Interdependencies with the U.S.


The overall objective of this project is to offer a new and flexible undergraduate curriculum that emphasizes individual and team-based experiential learning and the use of instructional technology to help undergraduate students understand the relationships and interdependencies in livestock agriculture in global economies and thus integrate disciplinary knowledge to solve real-world problems. The specific objectives center on the development of a curriculum that includes the creation of the following courses and educational opportunities: <ol>
<li> To expand the scope of a fall semester seminar currently titled: Agriculture in Emerging Economies: Dairying in Mexico to emphasize relationships and interdependencies of livestock agriculture with other sectors of the economy nationally and internationally from multiple perspectives. The proposed new title for the course is: Relationships and Interdependencies in International Agriculture: Mexico and U.S. <li> To offer a 7-day study tour of Mexico and a spring follow-up seminar. Emphasis will be placed on Mexican history, culture and diversity of livestock production systems. High school instructors will be invited to participate actively in these activities (with funds from outside this grant). Each student will be paired with a high school instructor and the team will elect a specific issue that will become the focal point of emphasis of the students academic challenge for the subsequent program activities. We anticipate the formation of 4 teams per year (with requested funds) and an additional 2 teams supported by private sector funds. <li> To develop a range of private sector (farms and businesses) and public sector (university and government agencies) research internship opportunities. These research internships will serve the student with real-world experiences, ground for data collection and information gathering in the context of the pre-defined team project with their K-12 teacher/partner. Internships will take place both in the U.S. and in Mexico. Students electing Mexico will further improve their language skills, their understanding of the Mexican culture and they will gain Mexican perspectives on specific issues. <li> To offer an independent study course in the subsequent fall and spring (year 2 of the curriculum) to design and implement specific agriculture-related classroom projects for high school instruction as a culminating (learning) experience of the team project. We anticipate a total 18 completed projects in the next three years (6 teams per years). <li> To develop an on-line learning community to provide (a) a means of continued communication between students, high school instructors, and UW instructors throughout the program, (b) a publishing medium for students scholarly projects, (c) a database of 18 agriculture-related classroom projects for high school instruction and (d) a promotion tool for the overall project. </ol>

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NON-TECHNICAL SUMMARY: To be well prepared for a career in agriculture and related fields, our students must learn how to integrate information from different sources to solve real-world problems in a team setting. Complex issues such as food safety, international trade and environmental stewardship may no longer be dealt with at a national level, but rather on a global scale. For these (and other) issues, it is no longer sufficient for our universities to provide students with strong disciplinary knowledge and effective communication and management skills. Under this grant, we will take advantage of the strong working relationships that with Universities in Mexico to create experiential learning opportunities for undergraduate students and to internationalize the curriculum both at the college and high school level. Undergraduate students will have the opportunity to learn and experience directly how the U.S. and Mexico are responding to a wide variety of topics related to agriculture, environmental quality and international trade in a series of inter-related courses.

APPROACH: Students will need to show competency in Spanish to enter this program. Recruitment of high school instructors will be made with the help of the UW-Madison Center for Biology Education and the state of Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction. We are intrigued by the prospect that some students might be paired with one of their former hometown high school teachers. Students will participate in a series of courses and increasingly independent and team-oriented learning opportunities and scholarly projects. The program will be completed in a two-year period (Sophomore-Junior or Junior-Senior). We anticipate the formation and successful completion of the entire program by 6 teams annually. <P> Components of the proposed curriculum are as follows: <BR> Year 1 Fall Seminar (1-cr, annually): The Relationships and Interdependencies in International Agriculture: Mexico and U.S. seminar will discuss current issues in the livestock industry in the U.S. and in Mexico. The seminar will be offered in late afternoon to allow participation of high school instructors who might elect to take the class in the context of their continuing education. Year 1 Study Tour & Follow-up Seminar (2-cr, annually): Students will work cooperatively with high school instructors in preparation for an discovery project to be completed during the 7-day winter study tour of Mexico. Team members will be encouraged to participate in the tour jointly. Participants will be invited to a follow-up seminar to reflect on the experience and to begin the design of agriculture-related class activities for usage in high school instruction. <BR> <BR> Year 2 Research Internships (1-4 credits, annually): Students will be offered a 6-8 week research-based summer internship in Mexico or in the U.S. This summer program will be research-based because students will seek information, collect data and compile evidences (scientific reports, pictures, videos, local news paper stories, or other literature) that will add to an arsenal of material to build educational activities for high school. Year 2 Independent Study (2-4, credits, annually): In the fall and if necessary the subsequent spring of the program second year, students will enroll in independent study to complete the following three objectives
(a) to prepare and present an overview of their summer research internship,(b) to complete a high educational project after reunification with their teammate instructor and (c) to implement classroom activities in the high school of their teammate instructor as the culmination of the program. <BR> Our teaching web site will be expanded with educational material generated through the project (discussion of reading materials, narrated power points slides, reports, stories and interviews from the winter-break study tours and the summer internships, educational material needed to implement classroom activities suited for high school instruction). Prior to posting, a peer-review process will be initiated to guarantee the quality and educational value of the posted-material. The review panel will include project key personnel and internship supervisors.

Waittiaux, Michel
University of Wisconsin - Madison
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