Agricultural Literacy Curriculum Matrix
Find Your Future Career (Grades 6-8)
Students will discover the variety of agricultural careers available and consider their career paths in terms of economics, interests, and suitability to their personal talents and characteristics.
- Living Science Career Cards
- Emerging Agricultural Technologies handout
- Career Activity Scenario sheet
- 7 large resealable bags that contain equipment as listed on attached Living Science Careers Equipment Bags List*
- 4, 15-foot pieces of yarn; each a different color; ends tied together*
- 4 signs printed on card stock (approximately 8 1/2" x 5 1/2"); labeled PLANT, SOIL, WATER, ANIMAL*
*These items are included in the Living Science Careers Equipment Bags, which is available for purchase from agclassroomstore.com.
Concept Elaboration and Evaluation:
- Career Matching Activity sheet, 1 per student
- Agricultural Career Cluster Investigation activity sheet, 1 per student (optional)
Essential Files (maps, charts, pictures, or documents)
Did You Know? (Ag Facts)
- Between 2015 and 2020, there are expected to be 57,900 average annual openings for graduates with bachelor’s or higher degrees in the areas of food, agriculture, renewable natural resources, and the environment.1
- Almost half of the opportunities will be in management and business.1
- Another 27% will be in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM).1
- Jobs in sustainable food and biomaterials production will make up 15%, while 12% of the openings will be in education, communication, and governmental services.1
Background Agricultural Connections
Explore agricultural and natural resources careers that go beyond the stereotypical farmer and rancher occupations. These careers focus on food, land, and people and significantly affect our quality of life and our environment. To assess student knowledge about agriculture and its impact on their lives, do the Source Search activity prior to this lesson. After the students complete this activity, it becomes obvious to them that there must be numerous careers in agriculture and natural resources because they learn that all the things we use every day (with the exception of services) are either grown or extracted from the natural world.
The careers highlighted in this lesson require post-high school training; many require bachelor of science degrees. The most important point to make with students concerning career education is that every industry or occupational endeavor has entry-level positions, mid-level positions, and highly skilled/educated positions. For example, most students can relate to cars. In the automotive industry you can be a car detailer (entry-level), sales person, auto plant worker, or mechanic (mid-level), or an automotive engineer who designs cars. What is the difference between these positions? Salary, yes, but what is the main factor that contributes to the differences in salary? Education! For the most part, you are paid for what you know. This isn’t always the case, but training or education usually pays off. The other part of your salary may be determined by how much or how hard you work. Here is a table to compare entry-level wages with higher paying wages:
$7/hour $14,560 per year
$23,624 current poverty level in America
(family of 4 with two children, 2013)
$53,046 median US household income
(could be two wage earners, 2009–2013)
What is the median household income in your state?
(Check the US Department of Commerce website)
Employment Opportunities (2015–2020)
Your students are probably unaware of the career opportunities that make American agricultural and natural resource management systems work. Farmers and ranchers account for less than one percent of the US workforce, but the professionals supporting this industry increase that number to about nine percent, and if you count transportation and distribution, the number employed as a result of agriculture is about 20 percent. Think about a career in agriculture and natural resources.
Opportunities in jobs related to food, agriculture, renewable natural resources, and the environment are expected to grow more than five percent between 2015 and 2020 for college graduates. These occupations include agricultural inspector, food scientist and technologist, soil and plant scientist, and irrigation engineer (more information at https://www.purdue.edu/usda/employment/).
Interest Approach - Engagement
Ask your students the following questions:
- What do you see yourself doing in the future?
- What are the possibilities?
- How much do you want to earn?
- How much training or school do you think you will need to achieve your career goals?
Obtain the Living Science Career Cards (see Materials). Laminate the cards, punch a hole in the upper left corner, and organize them into 14 groups as suggested below. Not all the cards will be used in this activity. Use small book rings to keep the following groups together:
Group 1: Soil Scientist, Forester
Group 2: Hydrologist, Renewable Energy Specialist
Group 3: Virologist, Plant Geneticist, Fisheries Scientist
Group 4: Biotechnologist, Environmental Scientist
Group 5: Toxicologist, Forest Engineer, Food Safety Specialist
Group 6: Entomologist, Wildlife Biologist
Group 7: Food Process Engineer, Nematologist
Group 8: Weed Scientist, Plant Pathologist
Group 9: Plant Physiologist, Aquaculturist
Group 10: Remote Sensing Specialist, Horticulturist, Range Manager
Group 11: Food Scientist, Turf Scientist
Group 12: Nutritionist/Dietitian, Florist, Conservation Biologist
Group 13: Animal Nutritionist, Wood Scientist
Group 14: Veterinarian, Agronomist
Activity 1: Agricultural Career Scenario
- Use a concept web to define agriculture and natural resources with your students. In preparation, you may wish to familiarize yourself with concept webs.
- Ask students to create a list of agricultural and/or natural resource careers on the board or add them to the previously created concept webs.
- After students have made a list on the board or on the concept webs, add the careers cited on the career cards to display the science-related careers in agriculture and natural resources you will be discussing. The careers are integral to modern agriculture and well-maintained natural resources, yet most students will not be familiar with the job titles.
- Divide the class into 14 groups; give each a set of the ringed career cards. Ask the students to take five minutes to read the backs of the cards they have received to familiarize themselves with the careers, what roles they play in the agricultural community, and what education is necessary for each profession. (Note: Teachers may wish to highlight or underline key points to assist students in synthesizing this information.) The education required for each career is listed on the backs of the cards, and the explanation emphasizes that students should study science, math, and English in high school in order to prepare themselves for similar subjects at the university level. Remind students that there will be entry- and mid-level occupations that support the highly skilled occupations.
- Read the Career Activity Scenario sheet and ask students to raise their hands if they think they have the career that correctly fills the blank. After each profession is answered correctly, ask, “What other cards are in your group? What courses do they need to complete to get their degrees?”
- Share with students the Emerging Agricultural Technologies handout.
Activity 2: Where do I stand? What tools do I use?
- Place the seven equipment bags around the classroom. Using the four pieces of yarn, arrange the pieces on the floor as intersecting circles (similar to a Venn diagram). Place one sign in the center of each of the circles.
- Using the groups established in Activity 1, Step #4, ask the students to think about the tools and equipment they would need to perform the jobs as described on their assigned career cards.
- Direct each group of students to find the bags that contain the equipment most likely to be used in their careers. (Note: students will have to break from their groups and several students will “share” each bag.)
- Once students have correctly identified their equipment bags, ask them to talk within their group and describe the work environment for their identified career. The teacher can perform an assessment of understanding by talking with each group of students.
- Following the above discussion, ask students to stand on the circle that indicates the resource(s) with which they would most likely work. For example, a student holding the “veterinarian” card would stand in the “animal” circle. However, a student holding an “aquaculturist” card may stand in the intersection of the “plant,” “animal,” and “water” circles.
- Ask each group to explain their career role in interacting with the circles identified above. Also ask students to explain how these careers might interact with each other.
Concept Elaboration and Evaluation
- Use the Career Matching activity sheet to check student understanding. Note: You may wish to divide these careers among students.
3 4 16 11 13 9 21 7 6 5 28 25 1 15 20 29 19 32 23 8 10 18 31 30 27 17 2 24 12 14 22 26
- Using the National FFA Ag Explorer, ask students to select a career cluster and then complete the Agricultural Career Cluster Investigation activity sheet.
- After conducting these activities, review and summarize the following key concepts as an evaluation:
- There are many careers in the areas of agriculture and natural resources. Students may evaluate their knowledge of agricultural careers by adding on to their concept maps with careers they have learned about. Teachers can also use the Career Matching Activity in the lesson plan to check students’ understanding of agriculture and natural resources careers. Teachers might also use a “final pause,” e.g., an exit ticket, at the end of class for students to recap the description, education requirements, and working environment required of a particular career.
- Their are numerous agriculture and natural resource careers related to science, engineering, and business. Some careers require a four year degree while others require a certificate or work experience. While more education and higher salaries are often linked student should be able to evaluate careers that may not have this relationship.
We welcome your feedback! Please take a minute to tell us how to make this lesson better or to give us a few gold stars!
Ask the students to brainstorm other agricultural careers that have been left out of the activity. Popular ones include mid-level jobs in processing, marketing, and distribution. Ask each student to create his or her own agricultural or natural resource career card.
Create your own “Career Activity Scenario” using the remaining Living Science Career Cards
Suggested Companion Resources
- Careers in Agriculture
- Living Science Careers Equipment Bags
- Living Science Career Cards (posters or mini-posters)
- Agricultural Careers Prezi
- Connecting to Agriculture
- Field to Film Career Snapshots
- Employment Opportunities for College Graduates in Food, Renewable Energy, and the Environment
- Ag & Food Careers
- Nepris: Connecting Industry Professionals to Every Classroom!