SEE VT Curriculum Project
Writing the Rural Food-Energy-Water Nexus
The Summer Enrichment Experience at Virginia Tech (SEE VT) Curriculum Project is requesting funding support from ICAT. SEE VT, a grant funded by the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation grant, is directed by Dr. Amy Price Azano in the School of Education. SEE VT will pilot a new residential summer enrichment experience for approximately 80–100 gifted rural students in grades 6 and 7 living in high-poverty rural Appalachian communities, with its first summer program scheduled to launch in 2021.
For this application, we are proposing the development of a critical, place-based, engineering curriculum which centers on the engineering design process--a process used by engineers to define and scope problems, and to develop and test solutions. This proposed project will be led by students from the School of Education (College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences) and from Engineering Education (College of Engineering). This interdisciplinary collaboration aligns with the goals of ICAT, and is guided by Virginia Tech’s land-grant mission and by its motto of Ut Prosim (That I May Serve). With this proposed curriculum, students would explore authentic rural community challenges around the Food-Energy-Water
Nexus (FEW) and create innovative strategies to resolve specific issues as they relate to their rural communities in our region. The curriculum is designed to address opportunity gaps brought about by structural challenges such as poverty and poorly resourced school districts in rural Appalachia. The engineering curriculum offers an investment in talent with enrichment opportunities to interact intellectually with peers of the same age while residing on a renowned university campus.
The curriculum is supported by a critical pedagogy of place framework to increase educational opportunities in rural Appalachia. Responsive to the region, this curriculum focuses on sustainability in agriculture and engineering and aims to mitigate existing academic opportunity gaps for rural students - aligned with the mission of SEE VT.
This work is especially crucial due to the documented scarcity of educational opportunities in rural areas and limited number of rural students in higher education (Ardoin, 2018). For example, in Appalachian Virginia, only about 20% of the population over the age of 25 holds at least a four-year degree compared to non-Appalachian Virginians at almost 40% (Appalachian Regional Commission, 2019). One way to provide resources and access to higher education is through intentional outreach, in this case, outreach focusing on engineering and place-based education (culminating in a summer enrichment experience in 2021).