Ag Sustainability in High School Classrooms: Professional development training Back »

High school teachers learning about soil aggregate stability as a part of incorporating agriculture sustainability lessons in their upcoming semester.


Written collaboratively by David Karki and Anthony Bly.

In an effort to educate today’s youth about sustainable agriculture, SDSU Extension field specialists teamed up with educators from University of Nebraska Lincoln (UNL) and presented a four-hour training session for South Dakota high school teachers on January 5, 2018 at the SDSU Student Union. The training was attended by nine current teachers from different SD school districts and six future teachers who are currently working on their teaching degree at SDSU.

The Ag Sustainability curriculum development was spearheaded by UNL and was targeted for high school teachers in the Northcentral states that includes South Dakota. The developed curriculum designed for high school students will be provided to all participating teachers for incorporation into their classrooms during the upcoming semester.

Classroom Training & Demonstrations

There were total of six different lessons designed to gradually improve the understanding of a sustainable production system. The provided syllabus was designed to be equally friendly to students who have farm background and those who don’t. The six lessons that were covered during the training session included:

  1. What is a system?
  2. City Farm Game
  3. Connections to the Field Print Calculator
  4. Sustainable Ag. Case Studies
  5. Engineering: Center Pivot Irrigation
  6. Digging In: Exploring our Soils

These lessons incorporate many in-class demonstrations, videos, and on-line farming game that could easily help students understand the concept of being sustainable, with special attention to the environmental and natural resource conservation. The soil resource in-class demonstration that teachers were able perform was compared aggregate stability of soils from neighboring farms with highly variable soil management practices. This exercise was easy to perform indoors and needed a small pudding jar, a tea strainer, a paper plate, water and of course the soil samples. The simple demonstration shows the importance of soil aggregates and soil health. Following the pilot use of these sustainability lesson, teacher will provide feedback for curriculum improvement which will be followed by a published version of the curriculum making it available to teachers everywhere.


This educational program is funded by Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as a part of its Local Grants program.

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