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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).