Journey 2050 is a one-of-a-kind program that is receiving rave reviews from teachers and supporters who say it is having a profound effect on students, opening their eyes to everything from food security to new career options.
The program’s founder and major sponsor, Nutrien, developed Journey 2050 along with community partners, including Alberta Canola and the Calgary Stampede, to teach students about the importance of agriculture and help them understand how agriculture is inextricably connected to broader sustainable development challenges, both locally and globally.
“Nutrien and the Calgary Stampede have collaborated for decades on youth education programs largely geared to elementary students,” says Rose Lecky, senior manager of community relations & investment at Nutrien. “In 2012, Nutrien and the Calgary Stampede formed a steering committee to brainstorm a junior/senior high education program that would engage youth in agriculture in a way that’s never been done before.”
What followed that early brainstorming was two years of planning and development that brought together a diverse group of agriculture industry specialists, educators and professional game developers by combining curriculum-linked and science-based materials while featuring real farm families alongside a virtual farm simulation game. They created a program like no other.
To ensure the program would engage its target audience, the committee engaged youth and teachers, including Lecky’s own family, to test-drive the materials along the way. Lecky says continuous feedback has allowed the program, which was originally conceived as a field trip to the Nutrien Western Event Centre at the Calgary Stampede, to grow and evolve to meet the needs of students and teachers, and reflect current industry practices. The program’s delivery model continues to encompass the field trip in Calgary but has expanded to include guest speaker opportunities across North America, and online lesson plans for teachers around the world to deliver the program.
Through these various applications, Journey 2050 has been delivered in-person to over 55,000 students in 933 classrooms. Nearly 10,000 teachers, parents and industry professionals have signed up to access the online curriculum to share with their students. In 2020 alone, the Journey 2050 app has had over 100,000 active users with even more accessing the program online.
The Journey has Already Begun
The “2050” in Journey 2050 refers to the year 2050, the halfway point of this century when the global population is estimated to reach 10 billion. A steadily increasing world population counter on the Journey 2050 homepage drives home this point. Beside it, a second counter soberly keeps track of arable land that is being lost – roughly one hectare every seven seconds.
The material is presented in a way that the kids can understand, and they love the technology.
“We have an incredible challenge ahead of us,” says Lecky. “We will require at least 60 percent more food and it will have to be produced on the same amount or even less land than today. We will all need to work together to meet this challenge and it starts with education.”
Using the gaming aspect to draw students in, Journey 2050 engages participants with an inquiry-based discussion about sustainable agriculture and wraps up with support for teachers and students to take on their own project. Lecky says inspiring youth to take action can be as simple as launching a food waste campaign or building a school garden. The intention of the program, she says, isn’t to get students interested in starting their own farms, it’s to develop an appreciation for growers and inspire them to join the industry in finding solutions.
“I believe it is imperative that everyone understands how our present-day decisions impact our future lives and to showcase the importance of agriculture,” she says. “There are thousands of opportunities, a constant stream of new innovations and a network of people who will help us feed the world by 2050. Engaging and empowering the next generation in the discussion is more important than ever.”
Although they are heavily involved in the development and sponsorship of Journey 2050, Nutrien itself doesn’t deliver the program to classrooms. For that, they rely on agriculture experts and educators from non-profit organizations such as Agriculture in the Classroom Canada (AITC), National Ag in the Classroom (NAITCO), Nutrients for Life (Canada and USA) and the Calgary Stampede.
Journey in the Classroom
Middle-school teacher Curtis Prescesky has welcomed Zach Fellows, AITC Saskatchewan’s sustainability program coordinator, to his classroom three times to deliver the Journey 2050 program to his grade six students. Prescesky says the combination of Fellows energetic presentation style and the technology aspect of the program engages the kids in a way that he says is rare.
“The kids are engaged for the whole amount of time that (Fellows) is there,” he says. “The material is presented in a way that the kids can understand, and they love the technology. That game really entices them – they love it.”
Every action we take now to find sustainable solutions will impact our future.
Prescesky says it’s a highlight for him to see his students learning and engaging with the material in such a meaningful way. In addition to getting his students thinking about things on a global level, he sees the concepts learned in Journey 2050, like population growth and water conservation, spilling over into other assignments and conversations. He says that the program has also opened their eyes – Prescesky’s included – to the many diverse opportunities that agriculture offers, especially where technology is involved.
“Learning about the different avenues for future jobs in agriculture was a little bit of a surprise even for me, and for sure for the kids,” he says. “I think when a lot of urban kids think about ag, its maybe not something they see as a future career. But, when they see all the different areas that they could explore, and it includes something that they’re interested in, like technology, I think
that’s pretty interesting to them.”
Journey to Success
Lecky, who was on the original team that brainstormed the project and brought it to fruition, says that it’s incredibly fulfilling to hear success stories like Prescesky’s. Ultimately, she says, the win for Journey 2050 is to have informed decision makers who are supportive of sustainable agriculture.
“Every action we take now to find sustainable solutions will impact our future,” she says. “The next generation is our future consumers, decision makers and employees. It’s vital they understand the important role sustainable agriculture contributes to feeding the world.”
Start Your Journey, Anywhere
Journey 2050 was offered online before the COVID-19 pandemic, but online resources have become more important than ever. To help support teachers, parents, and students, Journey 2050
has created additional materials to support any school situation.
First, the Guest Speaker presentation option continues to be offered virtually to classrooms across North America. To meet the needs of students homeschooling or learning remotely due to COVID-19, a special “at home” section has been added to the Journey 2050 website. J2050 At Home includes additional resources and guides to assist teachers, parents and students in accessing and understanding how to use the lessons and tools outside of the classroom.
Finally, the Student Experience page has been redesigned to incorporate an innovative e-learning model, created by NAITCO and the National Center for Agricultural Literacy. The model includes a student-led experience option, plus additional lesson resources and tools for delivering the program. Since launching in March 2020, the eLearning video lessons have received 45,000 views.
Teachers, parents and students are invited to visit journey2050.com to begin a journey that fits their current learning needs.
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