A Tool to Bring Science Careers into the Classroom
««« By Rachel Hendriksen
Rachel Hendriksen is an OCT certified teacher, graduating from the University of Western Ontario’s Faculty of Education in 2012. She is the Outreach Coordinator at Ontario Agri-Food Education where she combines her agricultural background with her passion for education. Rachel’s projects at OAFE include GrowingCareers.ca and the Teacher Ambassador program.
Curriculum Connection: Grades 4 to 12 – Science, Careers; Biology, Environmental Science, Understanding Life Systems
Ontario Agri-Food Education Inc. (OAFE) has been providing educational resources to teachers across Ontario since 1991. These resources have helped teachers integrate agricultural concepts and topics into the classroom. OAFE’s latest project exposes students to the vast, promising, and exciting career opportunities available in the agriculture and food sector. The intent is to help students understand the variety of careers that may exist off the farm but are still very much within the agri-food system. The delivery method for this message is a new website called GrowingCareers.ca.
The agriculture and agri-food industry is a booming sector and according to the Ontario Agricultural College at the University of Guelph, three jobs are waiting for every one Bachelor of agriculture or food science graduate. In a time when students are faced with challenging job prospects, the agriculture and agri-food industry is as promising as ever. In total, 2.1 million Canadians are employed within the agri-food system, being responsible for 1 in 8 jobs in Canada. This growth is attributed to the emergence of new technology and increased consumer concern when it comes to issues related to environment, nutrition, health, and globalization. It would be beneficial for students interested in science to explore this sector and consider pursuing a career in research, agri-business, marketing, environment, input supply, and more.
The video, Dreams Can Come True in Agriculture, found on the homepage of GrowingCareers.ca, introduces students to the magic of the sector and allows students to critically think about careers they never before associated with agriculture. Also found on the home page is a diagram of the agri-food system. Often, when looking at the food system, we use a supply/value chain model. This diagram outlines all of the different sectors that work to ensure safe and affordable food reaches the plates of Canadians, including ecological systems, financial sectors, health, government, and more.
One of the main highlights of the GrowingCareers.ca website is the section with 75 career profile videos featured in the Student Centre. Students can filter the videos by company, job type or where the career fits in the agri-food system. Most of these careers are science-driven, including agronomy, genetics, animal nutrition, and winemaking, allowing students the opportunity to explore a variety of careers related to biology, chemistry, general science, and even some physics. Each video is a profile of someone actually working in the field. Many of those profiled are young and enthusiastic and have valuable suggestions for students. The interviewees talk about their average day, what they like about their job, and what the outlook is for their career. The videos are suitable for a variety of science units being taught in the classroom, whether it’s biotechnology, smart water use, ecosystems, climate change or soil science. The videos will allow teachers and students to have a discussion around why these topics are studied and how they can be applied in “the real world”.
In addition to the Student Centre, GrowingCareers.ca also offers a Teacher Centre that provides electronic lesson plans, handouts, and information about careers in agriculture that can be downloaded for free. The GrowingCareers: Science resource provides activities which allow students to not only understand the science-related career opportunities within the agri-food sector, but also allows students to understand real-world applications of science topics being covered in their classroom. You can also download resources that focus on pathways for students interested in pursuing a career in the agri-food sector.
Helping to bring GrowingCareers.ca and agri-food topics into Ontario classrooms are OAFE Teacher Ambassadors. This new OAFE initiative recruits and hires underemployed OCT qualified teachers and trains them on OAFE resources, enabling them to teach free, curriculum-linked lessons in Ontario classrooms for grades 4 to 12. The lessons open dialogue on discussions about where food comes from, hot topics in agriculture, and introduces the vast array of career opportunities that the agriculture sector provides. All of the lessons are based on facts and focus on both sides of an issue. To book a Teacher Ambassador to come into your classroom, visit OAFE’s website at http://www.oafe.org and follow the link to “Request a Teacher Ambassador”.
Teaching about agriculture and agri-food topics is important to Canada’s economy and our society. It is imperative that the future workforce is equipped to handle the growing concern for food availability, affordability, and safety. Science is the backbone of these issues and we will need a workforce that can research, implement, and explain the latest innovations and methods of how we produce our food. Using GrowingCareers.ca in the classroom will help students realize the great potential in this industry and how science and agriculture can help them pursue an exciting, valued, and important career path.