MySoybean.org, A summer science institute

Research Experiences for Teachers (RET) programs are designed to provide graduate-level classroom instruction and laboratory experiences for teachers. The premise is that experience in the practice of food and agricultural science improves the quality and authenticity of teaching which increases student interest and achievement. Using soybean as a model will bring awareness to the role soybean plays in our daily lives and the overall importance of this commodity to Kansans and other consumers across the US. By continuing the Food and Agriculture RET program in Kansas, more teachers will be equipped with the tools and knowledge necessary to communicate and educate the youth in our state on the role of soybeans in their lives, the lives of their families and the impact of soybeans on the state, region and nation. There are five key messages that we address: 1) agriculture, in general, and soybean production specifically are critical to the economy of the U.S.; 2) scientific research is the key to increasingly profitable soybean production and to increased demand for soybeans—and it is important for children (K-12) to understand this perspective; 3) there are many opportunities for careers in agricultural research; 4) soy production is environmentally sustainable, a nutritious source of protein for animals, and a sustainable feedstock for bio-based products; and 5) food and agriculture can be used as a vehicle for understanding many concepts in science.

The overarching goal of this objective is to continue developing an open-source, low-cost RET network (www.mysoybean.org) for participants that expands the accessibility of existing resources and expert networks, and facilitates a community-based approach to creating meaningful teaching experiences. A major outcome of the RET web-based application will be the increased communication and data sharing between teachers and agricultural professionals. For the RET program to provide resources necessary for expansion into new schools, a free web-based portal for educators must be expanded and deployed, which includes innovative forms of communication like mobile technologies and social networking (e.g., blogs, wikis, forums). More about the project at http://mysoybean.org