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Engaging Youth in Agriculture through Field Excursions

Agriculture plays an important role in our society, yet a noticeable gap in understanding and engaging with this sector is evident among youth. Often, this disconnect stems from misconceptions about agriculture and the vast career opportunities it offers. Addressing these challenges requires long-term educational efforts that provide youth with hands-on experiences in the form of field excursions to increase interest and participation in Agriscience topics. The Ag Adventures program, an annual venture between UF/IFAS North Florida Research and Education Center (NFREC) and Florida 4-H, was created in response to this need. It aims to immerse students in the diverse and rich world of agriculture through experiential learning.

A group of children wearing casual clothing and sneakers are gathered under an orange canopy tent, attentively listening to an instructor speaking. The tent is set up amidst tall, dried cornstalks that stretch into the background, suggesting an agricultural learning environment.

Ag Adventures connects youth from urban and rural areas to a large-scale farming research center, offering a firsthand look at agriscience topics in action.

Program Overview

For years, Ag Adventures has been actively engaging 4th and 5th graders from counties across the Panhandle. This program introduces students to several key subfields in agriculture, with an emphasis on sustainability:

  • Soil Science: Students learn about the critical role of soil in natural ecosystems and agriculture. Hands-on experiences, such as exploring a soil pit, help youth gain a deeper understanding of soil science topics.
  • Agricultural Technology: Students explore the latest innovations in precision agriculture, including drones and sensor technology, and their role in promoting sustainability and economic growth.
  • Entomology: Focusing on the vital role of pollinators, students learn about the impact of insects on the ecosystem and our food supply. Field activities, like insect collecting, offer practical understanding of the importance of these animals and the need to protect them.
  • Agronomy: By learning about crops such as corn, cotton, and peanuts, students gain insights into the economic and historical significance of agriculture in North Florida. Through this section, researchers and agents are able to showcases the diversity and complexity of plant science in a tangible way.
A group of children in yellow shirts gather around a soil pit, engaged in an educational activity. An instructor stands in the background, overseeing the experience. The foreground shows a close-up of the textured soil and straw, highlighting the hands-on aspect of the learning environment.

Students explore a soil pit, uncovering the hidden wonders of soil science and gaining hands-on insight into soil formation in our region.

Benefits of Field Excursions

Engagement in programs like Ag Adventures offers a multitude of benefits, equipping students with valuable insights and experiences that go beyond the traditional classroom. Such field excursions are important for:

  1. Strengthening STEM Appreciation: By contextualizing STEM concepts within the framework of agriculture, Ag Adventures bridges the gap between classroom learning and its practical applications. This approach not only enriches students’ understanding of STEM but can also spark their curiosity about agriscience.
  2. Facilitating Career Exploration: Ag Adventures provides a platform for youth to explore various careers in STEM. Through interactive experiences and exposure to academic pathways, the program demystifies agriculture, making it more accessible and relatable. This engagement broadens their career horizons and helps them envision a future where they can apply their learning in diverse ways.
  3. Bridging the Urban-Rural Divide: Ag Adventures offers youth from all backgrounds a chance to experience large-scale farming firsthand. By connecting youth directly with the source of their food, the program fosters a deeper appreciation for agricultural contributions and the interdependence between urban and rural communities.
A photo of a lab setup showing four potted plants on a table. In the foreground, a thermal imaging camera is mounted on a tripod, its screen facing the camera. The real plants are in focus in the background, while the thermal image shows them in bright contrasting colors, indicating temperature variations across the plants and pots.

Ag Adventures enables young learners to engage with faculty members and discover cutting-edge agricultural research. For example, NFREC researchers demonstrate the use of thermal imaging technology to detect drought stress in crops, showcasing practical applications of science in farming.


The Ag Adventures program enhances the educational experience of 4th and 5th graders by merging classroom learning with real-world agricultural practices. This initiative by UF/IFAS Extension deepens their appreciation for STEM, opens new avenues for career exploration, and introduces them to the unique aspects of rural life and agriculture. We hope students develop a more comprehensive understanding of the world, laying the foundation for them to become informed and engaged members of society.

This program occurs annually in the fall. If you are interested in your school participating, please contact your local UF/IFAS Extension office.


Behrendt, M., & Franklin, T. (2014). A review of research on school field trips and their value in education. International Journal of Environmental and Science Education, 9(3), 235-245.

Jean-Philippe, S., Richards, J., Gwinn, K., & Beyl, C. (2017). Urban youth perceptions of agriculture. Journal of Youth Development, 12(3).


Meet the Author- Valerie Mendez

Valerie Mendez is the 4-H Agent in Leon County, Florida

My name is Valerie Mendez, and I am Leon County’s newest 4-H Youth Development agent. I was born in Colombia and was raised in Jacksonville, Florida. I received my bachelor’s in microbiology and cell science and will be graduating with my master’s in soil and water sciences from the University of Florida this upcoming December. My passion for science and education was nurtured throughout my childhood by many community leaders. It is my hope now, as an adult, to empower youth to reach their fullest potential in a safe, creative, and inclusive environment.

As a 4-H agent, I help implement educational curricula that develop critical thinking skills, leadership, and self-efficacy for youth through community clubs, school programs, and summer camps. I recruit, train, and support a team of volunteers as club leaders and 4-H advocates. I also collaborate with local businesses to encourage greater participation and visibility of 4-H in Leon County.

Valerie hopes to help youth learn to love science as much as she does!

One goal of our 4-H program is to increase youth knowledge and skills relating to science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). With the help of our wonderful volunteers, we have developed clubs, camps, and workshops that include a wide range of STEM topics youth can participate in. For example, our horticulture club and workshops introduce youth to topics that are relevant to urban gardening such as plant propagation, succession planting, and detection of beneficial insects. Our Wild about Woods club focuses on native plants and wildlife identification with the option to participate in the Forest Ecology Contest at the North Florida Fair. I look forward to continuing to support existing STEM topics and expanding the topics we provide to include microbiology, soil science, and artificial intelligence. Apart from STEM, our program also focuses on developing communication skills, leadership, and civic engagement using 4-H’s famous learn-by-doing approach of teaching.

Valerie is fluent in English and Spanish and volunteered as a translator for 4-H prior to becoming a 4-H extension agent.

Our program would not exist without the help of our wonderful volunteers. They truly are the heart of our 4-H program. We are always in search of caring adults that are passionate about teaching youth new skills. If you are interested in becoming a volunteer in Leon County, feel free to contact me by email at or by phone at (850)-606-5204. Please make sure to follow our Facebook page (@ UF/IFAS Leon County Extension) to stay up to date on all things Leon County Extension!