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Hands-on: From classroom to employment
Date:2/11/2010

MADISON, WI, February 11, 2010-Academic programs and courses have increased in recent years for sustainable agriculture, organic farming, and agroecology. In a recent study published in the 2010 volume of the Journal of Natural Resources and Life Sciences Education, researchers from Cornell University and North Carolina State University sought to bring hands-on learning activities and experiential learning, which are often a part of for-credit coursework, to employment settings.

"Many students discover their interest in sustainable agriculture late in their undergraduate career," says Dr. Julie Grossman, an assistant professor in the Soil Science Department at North Carolina State University and lead author of the study. "This leaves little time for them to make a drastic shift in undergraduate program or coursework in order to learn more about this applied field. New approaches are needed to engage these latecomers in real sustainable agriculture learning opportunities."

Research laboratories in sustainable agriculture typically hire undergraduate students to perform routine lab work. In order to develop a broader understanding of the role research plays in the greater agricultural context, the researchers developed a pilot study to include hands-on learning opportunities in addition to their normal lab duties.

"Students, whose laboratory work involves little more than washing glassware or repetition of routine procedures, very often develop a negative attitude towards research. On the other hand, the reality of much of modern laboratory science is that it involves a lot of routine, repetitive work. There is a real tension between producing the data and keeping the students motivated and interested in research," explains Maya Patel, a graduate student in Education at Cornell University and second author of the study. "Students minds need to be engaged, as well as their hands, if we want them to truly develop a sense of the na
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Contact: Sara Uttech
suttech@sciencesocieties.org
608-268-4948
American Society of Agronomy
Source:Eurekalert

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