BROOKINGS, South Dakota — South Dakota State University Extension has launched a new educational program for middle school science teachers, homeschoolers and 4-H youth program advisors looking to add a sustainable agriculture curriculum to their lesson plans.

Designed for children in grades six through eight, the curriculum was developed by Krista Ehlert, assistant professor and SDSU Extension Range Specialist, as part of a grant funded by the North Central Region Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program. Other personnel involved in the project are Christine Wood, SDSU Extension 4-H Science Technology Engineering and Math (STEM) Field Specialist and Jessalyn Bachler, SDSU Extension Range Field Specialist.

"This curriculum will increase agricultural literacy among South Dakota teachers, youth and their families, thereby strengthening and highlighting the importance of agriculture, understanding where food comes from and communicating how ranchers act as land stewards all across our state," Ehlert said.

The curriculum involves four modules that will help students learn about sustainable agriculture from a rangeland lens. The modules are an overview of rangelands, rangeland plants, rangeland animals and soil. Each module has several interactive and hands-on activities for students to learn from and to foster critical thinking skills about one of the most-important land resources in South Dakota. Next Generation Science Standards and South Dakota Science Standards have been outlined as part of each module.

Another part of the program that will be developed over the coming months and facilitated by Ehlert and her team is field trips to local ranches, so that students can interact with and experience a working ranch.

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The program is designed to be a pilot during the 2021-2022 school year. Middle school teachers, homeschoolers and 4-H youth program advisors are invited to attend a workshop to learn more about the curriculum, resources and provided materials on Thursday, Aug. 19 at the SDSU Extension Pierre Regional Center, located at 412 W. Missouri Ave. The workshop will start at 10 a.m. Central Daylight Time and conclude by 3 p.m. Registered participants will be reimbursed for their mileage and meals, as well as lodging, if needed.

To register for the workshop by Aug. 17, visit the SDSU Extension Events page. Registration will be capped at 30 individuals.