The National Center for Agricultural Literacy (NCAL) is a collaborative effort supported by the USDA - National Institute of Food and Agriculture, the National Agriculture in the Classroom Organization, and Utah State University. The overarching goal of the National Center for Agricultural Literacy is to change how the world thinks about agricultural systems related to science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), their quality of life, and our environment.

The NCAL Team Leader is Dr. Debra Spielmaker, Professor at Utah State University. Current members of the NCAL team include researchers from the USDA Agricultural Experiment Station Multistate Agricultural Literacy Research Committee, a team housed at Utah State University: assessment development researcher (Max Longhurst), two education specialists (Andrea Gardner and Lynn Wallin) focusing on instructional resource development, e-learning, and professional development, a web developer/graphic designer (Yasuko Grow), and a Resource Coordinator/eStore Manager (Alisha Hill). Currently three USU graduate students are working on agricultural literacy related research.


National Center for Agricultural Literacy Objectives & Developed Resources


  1. Develop or modify existing K-12 curricular resources and focus on secondary STEM within the context of agriculture for inclusion in the National Agricultural Literacy Curriculum Matrix.

  2. Develop evaluation instrumentation that can be used to assess the success of agricultural literacy curricula and programming to meet identified outcomes. (See the AITC Program Evaluation Wiki, the curated Zotero database of influential research, and the Research & Instruments for Measuring Agricultural Literacy.)

  3. Provide professional development for strengthening collaboration between agricultural literacy programs, stakeholders, and the public.

For more information about how you can become involved with the National Center for Agricultural Literacy or the AES Multistate Research Committee, please contact Debra Spielmaker, debra.spielmkaer@usu.edu.

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The Center objectives are three-fold:
  1. Develop secondary-level curricular resources focused on STEM in agriculture and natural resource systems;
1. In 2014, NCAL staff solicited multiple surveys and requests for information from the national AITC community about needs for instructional resources in the National Agricultural Literacy Curriculum Matrix Based upon this input, four topics for curriculum development were identified: biotechnology, invasive species, pollinators, and water systems. To develop effective, standards-aligned lesson plans, NCAL designed and facilitated a novel program in the summer of 2015, entitled Translating Applied STEM Research into Secondary Science (TASRs). The TASRs program provided an opportunity for 8 high school science teachers to collaborate with 4 groups of IANR faculty and graduate students engaged in applied STEM research around agriculture and natural resources. Teams collaborated to develop a series of high school level lesson plans aligned with science standards (Next Generation Science Standards) and suitable for use in a high school science (biology, physics, physical science, etc.) classroom. These instructional materials are currently being finalized and reformatted to contribute to the Curriculum Matrix.
  1. Develop an evaluation framework and associated measures that can be used to assess AITC program outcomes;
1. We have been working to articulate an overarching program evaluation framework that can be used nationally to evaluate AITC programming. Center personnel conducted a comprehensive review of the literature on agricultural literacy(click here for annotated bibliography) Since AITC curricula are aligned with National Agricultural Literacy Outcomes, and the NALOs describe outcomes for K-12 students, NCAL efforts have focused on developing measures of students' agricultural literacy. At current levels of funding, NCAL is positioned to develop student assessments for a subset of NALOs for the 3-5 grade bands: 1) Agriculture and the Environment and 2) STEM. We draw upon the evidence-centered assessment design framework (e.g., Mislevy & Haertel, 2006) to engage in a comprehensive assessment development process. In the fall of 2014, draft items were developed to align with target NALOs. In the spring of 2015, interviews were conducted with students to inform the design of assessment items. In summer, 2015, items were revised and finalized in preparation for piloting in grades 3-5 classrooms in the fall of 2015. Pilot data will be used to assess validity and reliability of the assessment and refine, add, and/or delete items for future use..
  1. Build capacity of state-level AITC programs by strengthening collaboration and partnerships between AITC and higher education institutions.
1. NCAL staff members have participated in theAITC National Meetingand NAITCO fall fly-in in 2014 and 2015. Professional development will be developed in 2015-2016 in support of NCAL's first two objectives.;
2. These efforts are grounded in the National Agricultural Literacy Outcomes. The Center's long-term mission is to serve as a clearinghouse for evaluation of agricultural literacy programming, a leader in agricultural literacy research, and as a hub for communication between researchers, educators, producers, policy-makers, and other agricultural literacy stakeholders.