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STUDENTS' PERCEPTIONS OF AQUACULTURE EDUCATION IN THE NORTHEAST REGION

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STUDENTS' PERCEPTIONS OF AQUACULTURE EDUCATION IN THE NORTHEAST REGION
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  STUDENTS’ PERCEPTIONS OF AQUACULTURE EDUCATIONIN THE NORTHEAST REGION Gary J.   Wingenbach,  Assistant Professor Stacy A. Gartin, Professor Layle D. Lawrence, Professor  West Virginia University Abstract The purpose of this research was to determine educational benefits, mathematics and science skills, life  skills, and the future of aquaculture as perceived by agriculture students in 12 northeastern states. Respondents TJ 60) profoundly believed in their aquaculture programs because of the hands-on learning  environmentprovided by such programs. Studentsfound their aquaculture programs exciting, challenging, and fin. The  process of learning scientific and mathematical concepts transcended age groups and  geographic srcination, especially for topics relating to chemistry and biology. Additional skills gained included problem solving, teamwork, responsibility, communication and leadership. Respondents viewed  the care andmaintenance of an aquaculture system asparamount to the success of an aquacultureprogram.  Northeastern agriculture students were adamant in their belief thatpeople (adults andyouth) external toan aquaculture education program were not aware of and/or did not care about the educational benefitsderived from such a program. Respondents stated that the aquaculture program was one of the best educational experiences they had acquired in high school, yet they did not have aspirations of working in the aquaculture industry. Respondents believed that increased collaboration between high school teachers and/or school districts will lead to an increase in aquaculture education program enrollments. Introduction Aquaculture can be considered as the aquaticcomplement to agriculture. Specifically, it is thehusbandry of fish and/or other aquatic species in acontrolled environment (Bardach et al., 1972;Lovell, 1979; Shell, 1983; Lindsay, 1985; Molnar et al., 1987). Molnar reported that the world catchof fish was approximately 4 million metric tons in1900. Improved technologies helped increase thistotal to 20 million metric tons by 193 0 and over 70million metric tons by 1970. Currently, the totalworld supply of fish caught has increased to over 97 million metric tons during the year 199 1 (MSUAquaculture Center, 1994). It is estimated thatfuture world demand and consumption of fish willnecessitate a supply of approximately 115 millionmetric tons by the year 2000 (Stickney, 1994).Based on the annual global per capita consumption(18.4 pounds), population increases (over 6 billion), and wild fish caught (81 million metrictons/year), a considerable shortfall will be evidentin the total world supply of fishery products. Willthe aquacultureindustry acquiresufficient personnel with adequate mathematics andscientific skills needed to perform the tasks inaquaculture production?Given the likelihood that global supplies of wild aquatic plants and animals will not meetexpected demands by the year 2000, state andfederal entities have increased their support toadvance the science of producing aquatic plantsand animals in a controlled setting. At the most basic level of successful aquaculture production isthe scientific and mathematical knowledge, as wellas technological skills, needed to produce repeatedcrops of marketable aquatic products. Anecdotalevidence exists claiming the inherent value and benefits of incorporating and/or developing Journal of Agricultural Education14   Vol.  40, No. 11999   “stand-alone”aquaculture curricula for anagricultural education program at the secondaryschool level. This evidence was derived fromagriculture teachers’ perspectives, but did notinclude agriculture students’ perspectives (Conroy &  Peasley, 1997). Review of Literature Current and future demands of aquatic animalsand plants have been determined to exceed thesupplies available through traditional harvestingtechniques employed by the world’s fishingindustry. It is expected that aquaculture, the practice of producing aquatic animals and plants,will become a major global industry in the St century (McCraren,1994). Due to expectedsupply shortages, aquaculture is considered to beone of the fastest growing industries in the U.S.agricultural sector. Although fishing and fishfarming have been practiced since prehistorictimes, the modern aquaculture industry is only beginning to develop as a global economic force.As such, the USDA has financially supported thisgrowing industry with favorable policies since theFarm Bill of 1978.The potential for increased job opportunities,rural development, and economic growth in theaquaculture industry has increased the awarenessand teaching of aquaculture in secondary schools.In 198 1, the California Aquaculture Associationcalled for qualified [aquacultural] workers whowere not college graduates; the contention wasthat aquaculture is labor intensive and that collegegraduates tend to be more interested in problemsolving than in labor (Lindsay, 1985). It was notknown how many secondary schools wereteaching aquaculture or what types of skills were being learned during the early 1980’s. Morerecently, the National Council for AgriculturalEducation (1994) reported that after one year of testing an aquaculture curriculum at six highschools, there was a 400% increase in studentenrollment for aquaculture classes during the 1992-  1993 school year. Additionally, it was foundthe pilotaquaculturecoursesattractednontraditional students of agriculture, women, andminorities.El-Ghamrini (1996) stated that aquacultureeducation in U.S. high schools has a very shorthistory. A lack of documented researchsubstantiates this claim as no studies were foundthat described the benefits of aquacultureeducation as perceived by agriculture students.Conroy and Peasley encountered a similar situationwhile researching the literature for their report onthe “National Aquaculture Curriculum” to the National Council for Agricultural Education.Historical accounts suggest more effort has beenexerted in establishing research and education atthe postsecondary level, than has been evident atthe secondary school level.Aquaculture education programs at thesecondary school level integrate math and scienceconcepts and provide hands-on practicalexperiences that complement theory (Conroy & Peasley, 1997). Mooring and Hoyle (1994; quotedin Com-oy &  Peasley, 1997) reported that oneaquaculture program in North Carolina usedchemistry, biology, and math in an integratedmanner with their closed recirculation system, pond, and caged pond production methods. Also,Conroy and Peasley reported that althoughaquaculture programs can be costly, less-expensivealternatives have been explored and developed byagriscience teachers,Dr. Garrison conducted a mail survey (1995;quoted in Conroy &  Peasley, 1997) of allagricultural education supervisors for the 50 statesand two territories. A total of 33 states and Guamwere represented in the results. Respondentsanswered four open-ended questions that assessedthe: 1) number of secondary programs offering aunit of aquaculture education; 2) number of students enrolled in the programs; 3) number of teachers who have attended aquaculture-relatedworkshops; and 4) existent industry support for aquaculture programming at the secondary school Journal of Agricultural Education   15 Vol. 40, No. 11999   level.Results from the Garrison survey revealed that941 programs across the country offered units of aquaculture instruction providing 53,419 studentswith the opportunity to experience the curriculumeither through agriculture or science course work.Survey participants indicated that approximately1,278 teachers had participated in an aquacultureseminar or workshop during the years 1993 to1995. A total of 21 state supervisors respondedthat aquaculture industry support was evident atthe secondary school level in their respectivestates. Support was identified as contributionsfrom state divisions of wildlife resources, land-grant universities, various commodity associations,and others.the educational benefits, math and science skills,life skills, and future of aquaculture as perceived by agriculture students in Connecticut, Delaware,Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, NewJersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island,Vermont, and West Virginia. The researchobjectives were.1. Assess demographics of northeasternagriculture students studying aquaculture. 2. Determine math and science skills gained fromstudying aquaculture.3. Examine life skills gained from studyingaquaculture. 4. Determine selected students’ beliefs about thefuture of aquaculture programs. Methods and Procedures El-Ghamrini identified potential barriers tomaintaining an aquaculture program, as perceived by agriculture teachers ~=141 in the Northcentral region. The barriers included taking care of fish on weekends and holidays, facility limitations,low teacher knowledge, high equipment costs,limited administrative support, and the possibilityof failure. Respondents rated the importance of instructional units for providing a qualityaquaculture education program. The highestranked topics were water quality, aquaculturemanagement, fish nutrition, fish marketing, fish biology, fish diseases, and fish ecology.As part of a larger study, data were collectedusing structured interview methodology and anemergent design. The advantage in using thismethodology was the accumulation of actualresponses from students who had primaryknowledge of the benefits derived from enrollmentin an aquaculture class. The emergent designallows for the development of the qualitativeresearch design as the inquiry progresses (Borg & Gall, 1989).A preliminary review of related research andliterature produced a noticeable void of studiesthat had investigated the students’ perceptions of the educational benefits, math and science skills,life skills, or future of aquaculture education in asecondary agricultural education program. A needexisted for research that identified the educational benefits, mathematical and scientific benefits, andlife skills attained by students who studiedaquaculture. Purpose and Objectives The target population consisted of students ina secondary agricultural education program in thenortheastern region that included an aquaculturecomponent in the total curriculum during 1996-1997. Schools’ names and addresses wereobtained from inquiry letters, electronic mail, andtelephone conversations with state supervisors of agricultural education, teacher educators, and stateaquaculture specialists. From these communiques,the populationof northeastern secondaryagricultural education programs was 115. Allstudents who were enrolled in at least one of the115 programs identified, served as the target population.The purpose of this research was to determineA proportional stratified sample of  Journal of Agricultural Education16  Vol. 40, No. 11999   northeastern secondary agricultural education programs was drawn from the target population.A minimum of one agricultural education program per state was drawn in the stratified sample.Proportional stratified sampling was based ongeographical location of schools for each state inthe population. At least one aquaculture programfrom every state (some states only had one to four  programs per state) in the study was randomlyselected for the sample so students’ views onaquaculture education for that state could berecorded. Northeastern states that reported havingfive to fifteen aquaculture programs per state hadtwo or more programs randomly selected for theinterview group. Researchers contacted agricultureteachers from the selected programs to gain permission for conducting an on-site structuredinterview with students who participated in theaquaculture curriculum. All students from eachrespective program drawn in the stratified samplewere present and included in the face-to-faceinterviews. Sixty students (43 males, 17 females)from 13 schools were included in the stratifiedsample.Data were collected via the structuredinterview technique. Using this technique, a set of open-ended questions about aquaculture directedeach interview session. Selected students wereasked a series of fixed-order questions, along withtransitional phrases and probes (Ary,  Jacobs, & Razavieh, 1996). All interviews were tape-recorded, analyzed, and transcribed verbatim. Thefollowing general questions provided a basis for each structured interview session. Each questionwas phrased in the simplest form possible.Obiective One: l Please state your grade at the time of thisinterview. 0 Please tell me if you live on a farm, in town, or in a city. l What attracted you to enroll in the aquaculture class? Journal of Agricultural Education   17 l Do you “like” being in class to learn aboutaquaculture? Why? Why not?Obiective Two: l How has the aquaculture class affected your science and/or math abilities? l Specifically, what mathematical concepts or skills were affected by studying aquaculture? l Specifically, what scientific concepts or skillswere affected by studying aquaculture? l How is learning about science or math in anaquaculture program different from learningabout those subjects in regular science andmath classes?Obiective Three:What practical skills have you gained by participating in this aquaculture class?What do the terms “problem solving” (from previous question) mean to you?What do the terms “leadership skills "  mean toyou?What does the term “responsibility” mean toyou?What does the term “teamwork” mean to you?How might you use these other skills inadulthood?Would you like to work in the aquacultureindustry after high school? Why? Why not?Do you have plans to attend college? Do youthink studying aquaculture influenced thisdecision? Why? Why not?Obiective Four: l What do your parents think about your aquaculture program? l What do other teachers think about your aquaculture program? l What do local community members think about your aquaculture program? l What is the future of aquaculture education programs? Vol. 40, No. 11999   Content and face validity were established by developing the open-ended questions incollaboration with state aquaculture specialists,West VirginiaUniversity agricultural andextension educators,secondary agriculturaleducation teachers, and researchers investigatinga similar project at Cornell University.Validity was addressed through the researchdesign, which included gathering data at severalsites. The lack of extended time spent in eachinterview site helped to establish credibility(Lincoln &  Guba, 1985). Since no serious threatsto validity existed, results may be generalized tothe larger population of northeastern secondaryagricultural education students who had enrolledin an aquaculture class during 1996-1997.Data collection occurred during May 1997.Confidentiality and anonymity were assured to allrespondents prior to beginning each interview.Following the methodology of Ary, Jacobs, andRazavieh (1996) and Lincoln and Guba (1985),  allstructured interviews occurred in a natural settingsuch as the selected students’ respectiveclassrooms, aquacultural facility, or agriculturaleducation shop. Each interview lasted from 30minutes to two hours. Upon completion of eachinterview, the researcher analyzed and transcribedthe tape-recorded sessions before beginninganother interview. Responses were categorized byquestion.Datawereanalyzed following themethodology of Ary, Jacobs, and Razavieh (1996), Glesne and Peshkin (1992),  Borg and Gall (1989), and Lincoln and Guba (1985). Emergent themesevolved through inductive analysis (Patton, 1980),reducing the raw data to the formation of relationships that supported development of grounded theory in the phenomena known asaquaculture education. Findings Sixty students (43 males and 17 females)representing 13 schools throughout thenortheastern region were in the sample. Of thosestudents, there were 20 seniors, 28 juniors, and 12sophomores. A mix of rural and urban studentsmade up the total group. Using descriptions of each student’s place of residence, no majorityexisted between rural and urban sub-groups.Obiective OneThe first research objective sought todetermine student demographics of those whowere enrolled in a northeastern aquaculture program. The respondents were characterized asindividuals who enjoyed outdoor experiences,especially fishing. During the interviews, studentsexhibited a sincere interest in studying naturalresources, environmental or marine sciences, andshowed a genuine curiosity of fish growth anddevelopment. The students expressed particular interest in aquaculture system maintenance. Northeastern agriculture students wereattracted to the aquaculture program because itwas being taught as part of the agriculturaleducation or natural resources program. Theyfound aquaculture “interesting, new, or different”from what was expected from the normalcurriculum for those programs. Also mentionedwere the advantages of participating in a class with“hands-on experience and problem solving” skills.Generally, students liked being in the aquaculture program because they could earn “college credit”or “learn how to do  pH"  tests.Obiective TwoStudents’ participation in the aquaculture program had affected their science and/or mathabilities. The general consensus was that students’involvement in an aquaculture program providedthem with more scientific skills than it didmathematical skills. The most cited increase of skills involved studies in chemistry and biology,with particular importance placed on  pH  testingand water quality. Also, students repeatedly talkedabout “hands-on” experience that facilitated their  Journal of Agricultural Education 18  Vol. 40, No. 11999 
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