There's an underlying theme at Commodity Classic this year in Tampa, Fla.: working to enhance education and information beyond agriculture. Pioneer Hi-Bred announced an effort Friday aiming to enhance science education to high school students in Iowa and Illinois. The company is partnering with NBC Learn - an education arm of NBC News - to improve students' understanding and interest in ag science. The video-based education program will be provided free to 40 schools in both states for the 2011-2012 school year.
The grant to the schools will make available more than a thousand video clips fom NBC News archives, plus current NBC News science coverage, to Iowa and Illinois teachers, students and schools for use as teaching tools.
"Talks here at Commodity Classic this week convince me that agriculture would benefit from people knowing where our food and fuel comes from," says Judd O'Connor, Pioneer Hi-Bred vice president. "Pioneer wants to provided added resources to help teachers share the message with students across the Midwest. This is going to be important if we're going to double ag productivity by 2050."
O'Connor notes that Illinois and Iowa is the "core of what we do in ag" and this pilot program will be offered to 40 schools at first. He explains that schools can nominate themselves for the program by contacting Pioneer business unit offices. The company will work to allocate the first 40 grants.
He adds the company has no preference for the types of schools - urban or rural - but comments it would be "great to get into urban schools." The company did not disclose the cost of the pilot program or offer information on the cost to a school for the program. A quick check of the NBC Learn website didn't offer any cost information.
O'Connor notes that ag secretaries from both Iowa and Illinois support this effort for the 2011-2012 school year. In a prepared statement, Bill Northey, secretary of agriculture, Iowa comments: "This partnership is an innovative investment in our youth. This kind of programming that links science o the events that have shaped our world and our industry is the kind of thing that can help inspire young people to become the next generation of scientists and Iowa leaders."
Adds Tom Jennings, Secretary of Agriculture for Illinois: "We need to engage young people in a discussion about the challenges and opportunities in agriculture. This partnership is an engaging way for students to explore the science behind the industry that feeds our world."
That last bit - about developing leaders - is important to the program as well. O'Connor says beyond education there is a desire to "drive some of the best talent into ag careers."
Working with "consumer media" may surprise some readers. O'Connor notes that the DuPont Office of Education is reviewing the video files to be offered by the program to be sure "the pieces align with the information we want to deliver to young students." While they don't get editorial control of the content itself, DuPont is working with NBC Learn on what video clips will be offered in the science effort. "This video library is very science based," O'Connor adds.
The archive is more than current news. Teachers would have access to archive footage of the Dust Bowl to talk about drought and agriculture. NBC Learn has created online resources to leverage nearly 80 years of historic news coverage.
If you're an Iowa or Illinois teacher reading this story, contact your local Pioneer business office to see about nominating your school for this pilot program.