Alissa Smith

Pennsylvania Agriculture Teachers Participate in NAAE Agriscience Inquiry Institute

Blog Post created by Alissa Smith on May 4, 2017


Twenty Pennsylvania agriculture teachers attended the NAAE Agriscience Inquiry Institute hosted by the National Association of Agricultural Educators and the Pennsylvania Association of Agricultural Educators in Hershey.  This professional development institute focused on teaching agricultural educators how to incorporate inquiry-based learning into their courses. The institute was facilitated by Pennsylvania agricultural educators who have been trained as DuPont National Agriscience Teacher Ambassadors as well as other mentor facilitators.


The Pennsylvania NAAE Agriscience Inquiry Institute focused on improving the agriculture teachers’ ability to incorporate scientific teaching methodology, problem solving, and inquiry-based learning into their existing agriculture curricula. This training is invaluable for solidifying the connections between the core subject areas of math, science, language arts and social studies with agriculture.


Throughout the training, teachers engaged from both the perspective of a student and a teacher.  Inquiry-based teaching is student-centered, allows for more collaborative learning, and encompasses 21st Century Skills development. Research shows that students who learn through hands-on, inquiry-based lessons are more successful in high school and beyond. Another goal is to improve student performance on standardized tests through the methodologies of inquiry-based instruction and activities in the agriculture classroom.


During the training, participants explored inquiry-based learning in the Agricultural Mechanics and Power, Environment/Natural Resources, Plant Science, Animal/Vet Science, and Food Science pathways.

“These teachers are leaving the training with a powerful skill,” said Alissa Smith, NAAE associate executive director. “Students become deeply engaged when they are challenged to ask questions, investigate the answers, and build new knowledge. In the process, they discover connections to things they learned previously, and also learn how to communicate their new findings effectively. Agriculture is a perfect place for teachers to incorporate this style of learning, because it is already so hands-on.


The Pennsylvania Agriscience Inquiry Institute grew out of another professional development program for agricultural educators – the National Agriscience Teacher Ambassador Program. This is a highly selective national program through which a handful of teachers each year are trained in inquiry-based learning and highlighting the science in agriscience and is sponsored by DuPont.


Pennsylvania has several National Agriscience Teacher Ambassadors, and they wanted to share the impact of that training with their colleagues throughout the state.


This program was sponsored by DuPont, the National Association of Agricultural Educators, and the Pennsylvania Association of Agricultural Educators.