With a reach of nearly 3,000 classrooms across Texas, the program introduced elementary-aged students to wildlife research.
Texas Tech Quail took part last Tuesday (Sept. 26) in a widespread learning opportunity for elementary-aged students across Texas.
Hosted by the Texas Farm Bureau, the Farm From School program partnered with Brad Dabbert, the Burnett Foundation Endowed Professor of Quail Ecology in Texas Tech University's Davis College of Agricultural Sciences & Natural Resources, to stream a class from the Pitchfork Ranch.
The Pitchfork is a primary study site for Texas Tech's quail research where Dabbert and his group are working on a long-term project to better understand the management conditions needed to sustain a healthy bobwhite quail population in a semi-arid region.
As such, it made for an ideal spot to host a Farm From School program, which the Texas Farm Bureau uses to introduce students to the agricultural industry by partnering with institutions of higher education and producers.
“The Farm From School program thrives on the partnerships built with producers who are willing to help us at Texas Farm Bureau educate students about Texas agriculture,” said Jordan Bartels, Texas Farm Bureau's associate director of educational outreach. “Without the great individuals who are also committed to education, we cannot so effectively connect students to such unique opportunities to learn about agricultural topics that many students have never thought about.
“We're truly grateful for partners who are devoted to helping us connect agriculture to the topics and concepts being taught in classrooms across the state.”
Thanks to the program, Dabbert and his Texas Tech Quail cohort were able to introduce their research to nearly 70,000 students across Texas.
“We broadcast for 30 minutes and showed the students what we do as scientists and biologists to monitor quail,” Dabbert explained. “We walked up to a trap and showed them that we had captured a quail. Then we showed the students how to tell the gender of the quail and its different body parts. Next, we showed them how to fit a quail with a radio transmitter and we released the bird.
“Finally, we showed them our drone that we use to monitor quail locations. We also discussed the concept of habitat, what bobwhites eat and what the predators of bobwhites are.”
The importance of highlighting a small portion of the agricultural research being done at Texas Tech to so many students was not lost on Davis College Dean Clint Krehbiel.
Having been in his position less than a year, Krehbiel believes outreach to younger students is critical in highlighting the importance of agriculture and the potential career paths available.
“The earlier we can connect with students, the better off we are,” Krehbiel said. “There is a plethora of career opportunities in agriculture, but if they don't end up in an ag career or natural resource career, it builds awareness and connection to them.
“One of the elementary schools in Lubbock now has an ag focus and we are hoping to connect with them. We've started those conversations already because we want to establish clear career pathways for students.”
For Dabbert, the rare chance to interact with such a large group of young people gave him the chance to pass on what he sees as a crucial piece of advice for those interested in the type of research he and his team are doing.
“I answered many questions that teachers and students sent to me through Jordan Bartels, the TFB educator,” he said. “It was a great experience and I really enjoyed interacting with the students.
“One special question from students was how a younger student could get involved in doing science like this. I suggested they find a mentor at a local university, college, or scientific business they could interact with. I also suggested a science fair as a great way to get started.”