|Mitchell, Robert - Rob|
Submitted to: Journal of Natural Resources and Life Sciences Education
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 4/29/2004
Publication Date: 7/1/2004
Citation: Mitchell, R., Allen, V., Waller, J. 2004. Mobile classroom approach to graduate education in forage and range science. Journal of Natural Resources and Life Sciences Education. J. Nat. Resour Life Sci. Educ., 33:117-120, Interpretive Summary: Grazinglands occupy more than half of the land area in the United States, and private grazinglands occupy more than one-third of the land area of the lower 48 states. Grazinglands are central to conservation of soil, clean water, wildlife habitat, recreation, and open space, and they provide the major portion of the diets of domesticated ruminants and equines. Graduate education in forage and range science in the United States is becoming increasingly computer-based and disconnected from producers and the resources. From a classroom perspective, distance education and communication via the internet is becoming more common. From a research perspective, computer modeling of historically field-based disciplines is increasing. Although these changes are neither good nor bad in and of themselves, they represent a loss of contact with the land. This manuscript discusses a graduate course developed to train students in forage and range science using a mobile classroom approach. We discuss the objectives of this field-oriented graduate course that takes participants into diverse ecosystems during a 2-week period. Students get first-hand information from local experts about the components and functions of grazinglands and how these vary ecologically and culturally in different regions of the U.S.
Technical Abstract: It is becoming increasingly difficult to keep graduate students in forage and range science in the United States connected to producers and the resources. Students must take an integrated systems approach to understanding the complexity of our grazinglands and their role in addressing critical issues. This can best be conveyed to the student by bringing together an array of expertise and providing exposure to a broad range of sites for these learning opportunities. Thus, a multi-disciplinary graduate course was developed for students at universities across the United States that transports students to professionals in different ecoregions, providing a hands-on approach to grazinglands education. In the first four years of the course, 46 students from 11 countries have represented seven universities in the U.S. and Mexico. Student responses to the course have been very positive. We believe this course fills a niche currently lacking in most graduate programs, and provides a unique opportunity for students to interact with experts in every aspect of forage and range science. The personal and professional contacts, cross-cultural interactions, photographs, and potential for career direction are tangible items seldom attained in graduate education.