Teacher Field Trip Bolsters Horticulture Careers in the Classroom

Teacher Field Trip Bolsters Horticulture Careers in the Classroom

"The horticulture industry is a multibillion-dollar global force, boasting numerous STEM careers ranging from cultivation to cutting-edge automation. Yet, regrettably, it often remains a hidden gem, unrecognized by many. It's unrealistic to expect educators to address careers in an industry they're unfamiliar with. Hence, Seed Your Future developed Seed to STEM, a transformative initiative. Through immersive experiences, we aim to unveil the breadth and depth of opportunities within our field, one cohort at a time," expressed Jazmin Albarran, MBA, Executive Director of Seed Your Future.

Dozens of teachers are taking a summer field trip to horticultural destinations around Indianapolis to broaden their understanding of careers in the industry and take those insights back to the classroom.

Thirty high school science teachers were selected from 153 applicants in 32 states to get hands-on experiences and tours. They’ll also develop curriculum that they and other teachers can use in the classroom. The all-expense paid immersive professional development program, Seed to STEM, is the work of Seed Your Future, an organization working to increase awareness of careers in the industry.

The program will expose the teachers to more than 20 careers, says Erin Nessmith, who is leading the event June 2-6, 2024. “It’s not about finding a specific [career] pathway but showing that horticulture careers can span academic interests and are not all laborious,” she says.

The teachers will tour wholesaler Kennicott Brothers Company’s distribution center, where they will learn about the supply chain and design a floral arrangements with the guidance of a local florist.

“We know the industry needs to do something to increase awareness of who we are in the business and what function we have,” says Lenny Walker, vice president of sales and operations at Kennicott. “We are a business that is underrated but has a lot to offer and getting teachers exposed to that is important.”  

The teachers will also visit the Newfields, a 152-acre campus that is home to the Indianapolis Museum of Art including gardens and artscapes. That stop will include visits with the horticulture art curator, an irrigation specialist, and an architect, Nessmith says.

A tour of the Indiana Corn and Soybean Innovation Center at Purdue University will delve into drone technologies, soil and erosion systems, and plant breeding technologies. The packed agenda also includes a lesson in the science of greenhouse technologies, methane capture, and water systems at Heartland Growers. And at Corteva Agriscience Plant Propagation Building and the Classroom Laboratory, the teachers will hypothesize and then calculate the dosage of a chemical product.

“Everything we’re doing is something hands-on that they can take back to classroom,” Nessmith says. “The overarching goal is to train teachers with current lessons from the industry and have facilitators to help update and modify lesson plans to incorporate a plant science focus and reflect the many careers. We want to highlight all the people they encounter.”

Adrian Carter, one of the teachers selected to attend, is hoping to bring back stronger curriculum and career connections in horticulture. Carter moves among 23 schools in south Florida teaching food forest classes, which focus on mimicking the relationships found in natural ecosystems to sustainably grow fruit- and nut-bearing plants that provide a food source for humans and wildlife.

“I applied because I believe plants are a universal language that can connect everything, especially curriculum,” Carter says.


Sarah Sampson is a contributing writer for the Society of American Florists.