Ag education student gains hands-on experience in the classroom

Erin Ahlefeld
February 27, 2018

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Rose Cowan, a senior in Penn State's College of Agricultural Sciences, is getting a head start on her teaching career as a student teacher in the Penn Manor School District in Millersville.

Cowan, who is majoring in agricultural and extension education, with minors in animal science and international agriculture, is teaching grades nine through 12, which is the age group she hopes to teach in the future.

She said that student teaching is a major steppingstone for her, and though she is just several weeks into her student internship at Penn Manor, she already has learned a lot about how to teach agriculture in a very hands-on way.

"I am excited to learn as much as I can about myself as an educator through this experience," she said. "This internship is further preparing me to start my career in agricultural education."

Cowan believes that the world's population is growing rapidly and society needs to keep up with this population growth to feed the world in a sustainable manner. In her view, agricultural education is essential in preparing coming generations to deal with this issue properly.

"Today, only 2 percent of the American population is directly involved in production agriculture, which means there is often a large disconnect between producers and consumers," she said. "Agricultural education has the power to bridge that disconnect and help students become informed consumers of agricultural products."     

Cowan's interest in agriculture began with a love for animals. During high school, she worked on several farms, which further cultivated her interest in animals and desire for a career in agriculture.

Cowan said the College of Agricultural Sciences has helped prepare her for a career in agricultural education in a variety of ways. Though she was very involved with her classes, her studies went beyond a classroom setting.  

She has been involved with many organizations, including serving as an officer of the PSU Teach Ag! Society, a student group that promotes the development of leadership, citizenship and scholarship of those interested in the world of agricultural and extension education.

For three weeks this past summer, Cowan traveled to Tasmania, Australia, where she conducted undergraduate research. The global perspective that Cowan acquired from her time in Australia has encouraged her to incorporate a broader study of agricultural education in her own classroom someday.

"My research was focused on evaluating the potential for implementing an experiential, work-based learning program in Tasmanian agricultural education programs," she said. "I learned how to conduct qualitative research and grew in my knowledge of agricultural education."

Cowan's enthusiasm for teaching agriculture has been recognized by faculty, including John Ewing, associate professor of agricultural and extension education.

"Rose always is curious about the lesson material being presented, and she always has been willing to dig into the content and participate during class activities and discussions," he said. "She is interested in learning as much as possible to be the best teacher possible. She definitely has the qualities of a lifelong learner."

Ewing said there is an ongoing need for teachers of agriculture and that Penn State is proud to educate the next generation of teachers, such as Cowan.

"With students like Rose educating our youth, the future of agriculture is a bright one," he said.

As she gets ready to set foot into the real world and teach in her own classroom, Cowan believes the education and opportunities she has gained at Penn State have prepared her for the future.

"One of the things I love most about this major is the wide variety of career options one can pursue after graduation," said Cowan. "The communication skills and content knowledge I have gained at Penn State really have prepared me to pursue my career in agricultural education, extension and the agriculture industry."

  • Cowan

    Rose Cowan, right, a senior in Penn State's College of Agricultural Sciences, is a student teacher in the Penn Manor School District in Millersville.

    IMAGE: Penn State

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Last Updated February 28, 2018