New Wisconsin Idea projects will get urban and rural youth involved in agricultural science

CALS will be participating in two new projects aimed at getting a new generation interested in agriculture  — one in  urban areas, the other in traditional settings. The projects were among those chosen this year to received funding from the Ira and Ineva Reilly Baldwin Wisconsin Idea Endowment, a competitive grant program,designed to foster public engagement and advance the Wisconsin Idea.

CALS-Milwaukee Collaboration for Agriscience and Urban Sustainability Education will be a three-year collaboration between CALS and the Urban Ecology Center in Milwaukee that will help to close Wisconsin’s racial achievement gap while simultaneously supporting the development of sustainable urban communities. Project leaders Tom Browne and Noah Feinstein envision three types of project activities: agriscience capacity-building for UEC staff, agriscience enrichment field trips for UEC students, and sustainability-themed community events in UEC’s Milwaukee neighborhoods. “By combining the scientific expertise of CALS faculty and staff with the groundbreaking, community-based educational work of the UEC, we hope to empower Milwaukee’s youth through agriscience learning and sustainable development projects,” the authors say in their proposal. “As a side-benefit, this project will also serve to improve access to CALS and UW-Madison for underserved students of color.” Brown is an assistant dean in CALS Undergraduate Programs and Services. Feinstein is an assistant professor in curriculum and instruction and agronomy.

Scientist for a Day, also a three-year project, will develop a model for using the college’s Agricutural Resarch Stations to offer a learning opportunity for students and instructors in nearby high school agriculture and science programs. “The experience would expose them to the importance, intricacies, and excitement nature of scientific discovery; and it would show how crops, animals, and the environment are intricately entwined,” note the project leaders, research program manager Nancy Betzold and information specialist Lori Bocher of the U.S. Dairy Forage Research Center. One of the college’s 11 Agricultural Research Stations, the U.S. Dairy Forage Research Center Farm near Prairie du Sac, will conduct a three-year pilot program, which could be replicated at the other research stations. The program will bring 4-5 students and their instructors from 10 high schools within a 20-mile radius of the station for a day for six hands-on learning experiences plus an interactive lunch. The six experiences include examining rumen contents, designing a feeding trial, learning how plants are modified through breeding or genetic manipulation, seeing how tissue culture is used when creating genetically modified plants, measuring or monitoring grazing behavior or plant response to grazing, andviewing on-farm environmental research related to manure/nutrient management.The interactive lunch will demonstrate how agricultural research in Wisconsin has shaped what they eat, how it is produced and how little it costs.