Why Ag Teachers Should Have an International Experience

By Adam Staley, Clear Fork Valley FFA


Honey bees do not face language barriers when it comes to pollinating plants. Neither do students with different cultural backgrounds, which can prove to be a challenge when teaching a specific topic. FFA students from Ohio recently traveled to Honduras and were able to experience this challenge firsthand. The objectives of the trip were to help develop agricultural education curriculum resources based on Honduran needs, participate in educational outreach projects, and tour Honduran facilities to determine the best way to implement career technical programs.  We are using this international development experience to build leaders in Honduras and in our own communities. It is important to deliver innovative and effective education and training programs that produce a new generation of leaders in sustainable human development.


FFA students used a curriculum called “The Honey Bee Challenge” that was created by Horton; House; Ellsworth; Denise Johnson, program manager with OSU Extension’s Master Gardener Volunteer program; and consultants Margaret Duden of SimplySmart Education Specialists; and Liz Kasper and Pete Sandvik of Northern Design Group. Portions of the Honey Bee Challenge were translated to Spanish to help with the language barriers.


During the challenge, students learned about the behavior of honey bees and their role in pollinating crops. FFA students formed small groups and used both a Spanish and English version of the challenge to build the “bee bots” from the head of a toothbrush, a watch battery, a small vibrating motor, a bee sticker, and a piece of tape. It was amazing how the students were able to communicate and complete the challenge. The Honduran students were engaged in the entire process and excited about the opportunity to be involved in the learning with a hands-on activity. Our students took what they learned in their agricultural education classes and applied it to our education model in mind. The Honey Bee Challenge presented a platform for two cultures to work alongside each other to further advance the local agricultural practices and education.


Living in the age of the internet, students and instructors can visit any place in the world virtually. I believe it is important for educators to have a firsthand experience in a foreign country. It brings a new perspective to teaching and allows them to recognize and respect that there can be more than one way to do something. Students are more connected to the world than ever before, and we educators should have an international experience in our tool chest to share. Educators need to be globally aware which means building a value system that is flexible and open to other people’s cultures. Sharing the experience will encourage students to develop the ability to respect and work with individuals from all backgrounds, cultures, and religions. Teaching our kids to be globally aware can help them better understand those who are different and work collaboratively amid diversity, which will build a more peaceful and civil society.  Nowadays, students are more likely to have traveled abroad with family at a young age. With this in mind, they still need to be guided through the process of discovery so that a deeper understanding of their own place in the word is developed. This is why fostering global awareness and international collaboration in our classrooms are so beneficial to our students.  Global awareness and international experiences during the formative years result in more rounded individuals. It encouraging students to see things from different perspectives helping them to make informed decisions and obtain transferable skills that will be useful to them and remain with them for life.