AMES, Iowa — Young people in Iowa are surrounded by 30.5 million acres of farmland, yet they know very little about what is actually going on in the fields and how the crops are used. An online course developed by Iowa State University Extension and Outreach, “Crops Feed the World,” was created to expand what young people know about crops growing in Iowa fields. The new course is a joint effort of the integrated pest management team and 4-H youth development.
The six-lesson course aims to highlight and teach about the world of crop sciences and crop production to youth in grades four and five, as well as youth who have not had direct experience with agriculture. The lessons explore the prevalence of agriculture in our daily lives, the many responsibilities of farmers, and the intricate biology of plant and soil health.
Unique to the course is the incorporation of video lessons in several modules of the online course. These videos, part of the “Crops for Kids” video series, are featured on the Agriculture and Natural Resources YouTube channel, and can be viewed as part of the lesson or as supplements to the course.
“The course is open and free to anyone, youth or instructor,” said Maya Hayslett, crop sciences youth education specialist with ISU Extension and Outreach. “It is meant to be easy and accessible for youth and educators, in order to spread knowledge about our food production system.”
The six lessons, intended for both youth and instructors, range across many facets of crop management – from corn and soybean production, agronomy and soils, and to careers in crop management. Currently available are lessons for youth in grades four to five. Soon, level two lessons for youth in grades six to eight and level three lessons for youth in grades nine to 12 will be added.
Each level includes six individual lessons that can be used separately as stand-alone lessons or together for a total of six contact hours. Youth may progress through the levels at their own pace and as quickly as they like.
“The stand-alone lessons of Crops Feed the World would work well for a variety of environments including after school lessons, in school lessons or activities at an event,” said Hayslett “As a club project, activities could be done with the club as a whole or alone by an individual club member.”
The methods of the course are grounded in 4-H positive youth development, which emphasizes youth-adult partnerships and research-based experiences. The Iowa 4-H positive youth development experience provides opportunities for youth to develop skills they can use now and throughout their lives.
The "Crops Feed the World" course is made available in the 4-H section of ISU Extension and Outreach Moodle Courses at https://moodle.extension.iastate.edu/. To access the course, users need to have or create an account.