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C magazine

Educating students on ag biotech

Amelia Hayden, an ag instructor at Osseo-Fairchild High School, Osseo, Wis., hopes to inspire students to consider ag careers by teaching biotechnology.
Matthew Wilde
Jun 1, 2023

First-year teacher Amelia Hayden at Osseo-Fairchild High School, Osseo, Wis., received a $20,000 first-place grant to help educate students about ag biotechnology.

Hayden was one of 15 teachers to receive CHS Foundation grants during the 2022 CHS Annual Meeting to provide students with ag education and skills to help feed a growing world. The foundation celebrated its 75th anniversary by awarding $75,000 in grants to teachers to bolster ag education programs at their respective schools. The foundation’s focus is to develop ag leaders.

Three top grants of $20,000, $15,000 and $10,000 were given to support experiential agricultural education and projects that align with the foundation’s purpose. Another 12 honorable mention finalists received $2,500 each.

Learn more about how the CHS Foundation is helping develop future ag leaders.

As an agriculture instructor, Hayden says she has the best job in the world. Dairy science, horticulture and ag mechanics were traditionally taught (and still are) in her rural school district. Hayden introduced a biotechnology course in 2022, hoping to inspire students — even those without ag backgrounds — about opportunities in agriculture.

“By providing students with biotechnological skills and knowledge, they are better equipped to work in every aspect of agriculture, from farming to agronomy to marketing to research,” Hayden wrote in her grant application. “It will open up agriculture to a diverse set of students who never before considered agriculture careers.”

Hayden’s grant proposal was aimed at introducing students to CRISPR (clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats) gene editing. Scientists use the technology to selectively modify the DNA of living organisms. For example, researchers use CRISPR to genetically modify crops to influence yield or become more drought tolerant.

The grant will support the biotechnology curriculum and buy materials and laboratory equipment, including a thermal cylinder to make millions of copies of specific DNA sequences, upgrades to the school’s greenhouse and a medical freezer. Students will perform plant science, gene editing and evaluation experiments.

“I’m so grateful for the CHS Foundation for offering up this opportunity to ag teachers to allow us to [help] students and give them once-in-a-lifetime experiences and opportunities,” Hayden says.

The foundation develops ag leaders for life by investing in innovative cooperative education projects, ag leadership programs, scholarships and university partnerships.

“It’s a true privilege to support the incredibly important work of agriculture teachers as they educate and inspire the next generation of leaders for our industry,” says Megan Wolle, CHS Foundation president. “The CHS Foundation has invested $84 million in developing a robust agricultural talent pipeline over its 75-year history, and we look forward to continuing those efforts for the next 75 years.”

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