WAIC Strives to Educate Students in Ag, Natural Resources TopicsWritten by Ron Rabou
By Ron Rabou, Wyoming Agriculture in the Classroom Board Member
“My food comes from the store! What is wrong with you?”
“People and machines make our clothes, and we buy them from the store. Why don’t you get that?”
“Oil companies are greedy, and all they think about is money. They couldn't care less about people and the environment.”
“Farmers and ranchers are using chemicals and hormones that are causing cancer and killing us. They are bad people.”
Sounds pretty horrible, doesn’t it? Yes, it’s horrible – horrible that these are the kind of comments that my kids heard while attending elementary school here in our state’s capitol, right here in the “Cowboy State.” I made the mistake of assuming that, if you lived in Wyoming, you understood, for the most part, the value of agriculture, energy and natural resources. After all, drive in any direction or just look out your door and our vast land of resources is staring you right in the face. You can’t miss it, right? Wrong. An increasing and alarming number of students are disconnected now more than ever from the industries of agriculture, energy and natural resources – the industries that have helped to shape, form and build our great state and our nation for generations.
Our students seem to have a pretty good grasp on technology, sports and even some of the core subjects in school. And all of those are important to a degree, but what they are missing is the pure, basic understanding of what truly sustains life and our economy. These are the things that we cannot do without but rarely think of their value and importance in our everyday lives – things like food, fiber, transportation, heating and cooling, housing, pharmaceuticals and vaccines, to name a few.
The roots of almost all things we need in our daily lives are attached firmly to the industries of agriculture, energy and natural resources. However, as our younger generation continues to slip further and further from their understanding of the value of these industries and what they provide in our lives, the larger the challenges and regulations we will face in the future.
An ancient Chinese proverb reads, “When you cease to strive to understand, then you will know without understanding.” Sound familiar? As an agriculture producer, it seems to me that a lot of folks, especially government, know more about what I need to do and how I need to do it, than I do. And I’m the one taking the risks and in the trenches doing it. I attribute this largely to the lack of understanding about what I do, how I need to do it and why. The good news is I am confident the tide can be turned. But it can only be turned if we pool our resources, our intellect and our willpower together and unify as one voice.
When I became a board member for Wyoming Agriculture in the Classroom, my hope was that we could do something that really made a difference in how agriculture, energy and natural resources were perceived. When I learned about our newest mission, “The Wyoming Stewardship Project,” it immediately became clear to me that this is our chance – our chance to have a voice, to be heard and to make a difference. And not just to make a difference, but to help transform what Wyoming’s students learn, how they learn and how they can apply what they learn.
The goal of the Wyoming Stewardship Project is to educate, engage and empower students, primarily through understanding and practical application. We are proud that this project is for Wyoming by Wyoming and will help to create generational viability for Wyoming by empowering students to problem solve, create, understand and improve, making Wyoming better tomorrow than it is today.
In simple terms, here’s how it works. We are currently working to develop new learning opportunities for students across Wyoming. These range from hands-on education, technology, scholarship opportunities and other projects that provide incentives for both students and teachers. We are currently hosting stakeholder meetings with industry leaders to determine what and how Wyoming’s students should learn. Then, simultaneously as this information is shared and stakeholders participate, we will work with educators across the state to work in harmony to process, brainstorm and write these new programs. And most importantly, these programs will be written so they are both practical and applicable to agriculture, energy and natural resources, so they are impactful and produce positive results.
As you might imagine, this is an enormously expensive and massive undertaking, especially for a staff of two people and a small volunteer board. As we move forward, it is imperative that we enlist your help! The project cannot be realized or completed unless we have the funds to make it happen. This will be an ongoing project and our ultimate goal is to have enough funding to continue to update and manage these projects. We can have a true, solid impact on our future. And it starts here, today, with each one of you. Help make Wyoming better tomorrow than it is today.