EducationProjects.org + Ohio Soybean Council

Growing from good to great

Soybean prices were high when one of our long-time clients, The Ohio Soybean Council, had checkoff dollars that they wanted to invest in education. So they asked us, “What can we do for the teachers and students in Ohio that would really “move the needle” on education?”

Strategy

Our work with Ohio Soybean Council spanned nearly 15 years and our instructional design included curriculum to teach teachers about biotech, food science and plant science. Professional development workshops had proven components and excellent participation. Teachers were using the materials and students were learning about modern agriculture and soybeans. We had some industry involvement and our outreach program included attending science fairs at regional and state levels. Integrating the new online resources would be key in communications with the general public.

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We examined what was working and what needed improvement. Gaining alignment with our stakeholders, marketing folks, teachers, and our education team was key to moving forward with additional resource.

After the first stage of the strategic process, these challenges/opportunities emerged:

  • We had excellent content that could be used by more educators. (curriculum, labs, photography, stories)
  • We needed a sustainable online resource to include open platform for others to participate.
  • We had established important industry-ed connections of empowered teachers and engaged industry leaders
  • We needed to boost our outreach plans to drive more traffic to the programs and the online resources.

GrowNextGen was born to provide an online portal for participants and a library of all the content that was being produced by our team but also the materials created by the teachers using our content.

This online community would provide the ongoing resource site that they could invite others to and ask questions.

Design

We reconvened teachers, industry folks, marketing experts and our team for the design phase. The marketing firm offered a deep understanding of the ag industry. Our educational background and our teacher partners experience provided a unique awareness of what teachers are looking for.

We looked at education websites, considering their appeal, visibility and usability. Next Generation Science Standards led to the name GrowNextGen, a brand that included both science and ag concepts.

We determined the elements of the site would include a place to house the materials but more importantly it would be a place to go for news, updates on events, meet others, make connections and even use the live site in the classroom.

The site was tested with a variety of stakeholders before it was rolled out to the public. The team determined a static site with deep capacity would be the best way to launch.

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Implementation

GrowNextGen was rolled out as a basic website, but it has grown quickly to a much wider offering of online resources. We had the capability, so we added career exploration pathways and no-prep resources. We created more industry-ed connections by identifying partners willing to do career videos and added those to the site. Knowing how information needs to be delivered, we wrote content for e-learning courses. New curricula are being developed and added to the website on an ongoing basis.

Through our connections in the ag world, we’ve mustered a roster of great individuals excited to partner with teachers and students. Looking for a guest speaker? Need an expert to look over your lesson? Want to set up a field trip? GrowNextGen has a wide variety of careers represented, and connecting is as easy as filling in a form–-we’ll match you with an industry or educational partner.

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GrowNextGen offers a summer Ag Biotech Academy professional development workshop for educators with specialized tracks for new and returning participants. This workshop allows teachers to go through lessons on the spot, creating a comfort level with the curriculum and equipment that will promote future use in their classrooms. Teachers can apply for graduate credit in the workshop, as well as experience peer collaboration and networking. A dinner during the workshop allows participants to meet experts with various agricultural careers who are available to answer questions and help brainstorm how to incorporate ag topics in the classroom. These workshops provide an opportunity to identify teacher leaders among the teachers present.

All of these resources encourage teachers use ag to address Next Gen science standards in the classroom. We’ve developed a well-rounded, robust package that goes above and beyond to engage teachers and effectively leverage our client’s investment.

Timeline: 5 years

Outcomes

  • 20,000 teachers connected to (link: grownextgen.org
  • 500,000 students exposed to the materials
  • Teachers use curriculum for a min of 5 years
  • Understanding the facts about modern agriculture has increased