High school agriculture teachers from across the country are on the McNeese State University campus to learn how to elevate student experiences in the agriculture classroom and prepare students for success in college and careers emphasizing science, technology, engineering and math.
The national CASE (Curriculum for Agricultural Science Education) Institute for agriculture, food and natural resources provides intense teacher professional development and curriculum on university campuses throughout the United States that is changing the culture of agriculture programs, according to Dr. Chip LeMieux, head of the Harold and Pearl Dripps Agricultural Sciences Department.
"McNeese is one of only nine universities that offer a CASE Institute," said LeMieux. "Through its system of professional development, curriculum, assessment and certification, CASE equips teachers with the tools for the advancement of agricultural education and enhancement of student learning of agricultural science subject matter."
Twelve high school agriculture teachers from Louisiana, Missouri, Pennsylvania, Kentucky, Colorado and Ohio are cramming 36 weeks of material into two weeks - learning everything from soil types and working with a GPS to creating "clean smoke." All training takes place at Gayle Hall and the McNeese farm.
Mary Grassbaugh, a teacher at Logan Elm High School/PRCTC in Circleville, Ohio, said the CASE experience is great and that she can't wait to "take back what she has learned to her students."
Teacher Jason Cutler is here despite the complete destruction of his schools - Franklin Technology Center/Joplin High School - in the May tornado that devastated Joplin, Mo.
"Both buildings were a total loss," said Cutler, who said he was not affected personally by the storm. "However, school will start as planned in August. We will be in temporary housing until our new facilities are constructed."
LeMieux said CASE is a project started by the National Council for Agricultural Education in 2007.
"The project goal is to implement a national curriculum for secondary agricultural education that provides a high level of educational experiences to enhance the rigor and relevance of agriculture, food and natural resources subject matter," LeMieux said. "CASE develops curriculum utilizing science inquiry for lesson foundation and concepts are taught using activity-, project- and problem-base instructional strategies. In addition to the curriculum aspect of CASE, the project ensures quality teaching by providing extensive professional development for teachers that leads to certification."
This is McNeese's third year to participate in the program. Another CASE Institute on plant science will be held July 5-16 at McNeese.