MURRAY — Murray State University’s Dr. Kimberly A. Bellah, associate professor of agricultural education, and Sara Edwards, agricultural education junior and Murray State Presidential Fellow, participated in the Southern Association of Agricultural Scientists’ (SAAS) research conference in Louisville, Kentucky.
Their posters were presented as part of the Southern Region American Association of Agricultural Educators’ section of SAAS. Bellah and Edwards presented an “Innovative Idea” poster regarding the entire “Challenge Me” 4-H spring program. They also presented a research poster featuring the results of the undergraduate students’ pre- and post-test levels of efficacy working with students with moderate to severe learning disabilities.
The “Challenge Me” program partnered a Murray State University Quality Enhancement Program grant authored by Bellah; the Murray State Show Pig Program, lead by Mr. Matthew Shultz; the Trigg County Cooperative Extension office, with agent Graham Cofield; Trigg County Intermediate and Middle Schools Special Education programs; and Hopkinsville Community College student, Jonathon Sink, to create this multiple touchpoint program.
The agricultural education students were provided experiential learning opportunities to see how they can implement Supervised Agricultural Education (SAE) programs with all of their students, regardless of ability, and the intermediate and middle school students demonstrated their ability to show and care for animals in a responsible and humane manner.
“These pre-sessions were critical because none of the agricultural education undergraduate students had previous experience working with swine,” Bellah said. “In having the professional development program ahead of each week working with the intermediate and middle school students, they were more confident in their skill acquisition before teaching it to somebody else. On each weekly session working with the Trigg County students, the MSU undergraduate students were fully engaged in experiential teaching and learning as they were paired with the Trigg County students to teach them about swine care and showing.”
Edwards’ undergraduate Honors thesis that she will defend later this semester is entitled, “An Analysis of Pre-Service Agricultural Educators’ Self Efficacy Working with Students with Exceptional Needs.” Those students who reported having participated in the Challenge Me Swine Show program indicated greater levels of success working with these unique students.
During the business session of the Southern Region American Association of Agricultural Educators’ conference, Bellah was nominated for and elected to the Program Improvement Committee and will serve a three-year term.