Youth Biosecurity Learning Modules Recently Updated

Six youth biosecurity learning modules

Livestock and poultry are susceptible to infectious diseases and many of these diseases are zoonotic, meaning they can be transmitted to people. A few more well-known zoonotic diseases include ringworm, rabies and soremouth. The most effective strategy for protecting farm animal health is to prevent or reduce the chances of introducing a disease into a herd or flock.

An online learning experience about livestock biosecurity was developed during a five-year livestock biosecurity grant project, directed by Animal and Veterinary Sciences Research Associate Professor Julie Smith. The result was the Healthy Farms Healthy Agriculture (HFHA) Biosecurity Learning Module Series. The learning modules are appropriate for students in grades 6 to 12, FFA and 4-H participants, college students studying animal science, and other agriculturally related youth groups.

The goal of the series is to create a new generation of biosecurity advocates. The first four modules help youth in agriculture discover biosecurity, the preventative measures that protect farm animals from the spread of infectious diseases. The last two prepare youth to communicate what they have learned with others.

The topics of the six modules include:

  1. What is animal biosecurity – an introduction to biosecurity concepts.
  2. Routes of infection and means of disease transmission.
  3. Finding sources of disease transmission – students become biosecurity inspectors.
  4. Farm biosecurity management plan – students learn how to develop a biosecurity plan.
  5. Public speaking for biosecurity advocates I – students create a persuasive public presentation.
  6. Public speaking for biosecurity advocates II – students learn how to deliver a persuasive speech.

A “SCRUB Kit” was also developed during the project, with hands on activities that complement the learning modules.

Updated learning modules were released in 2022. These incorporate improvements to interactive elements and accessibility.

Discovery learning is key to the design of the learning modules interactive curriculum. Students are presented with questions or tasks to complete in which they might not know the answers. They are also given supplemental information that introduces biosecurity concepts, and helps the students make logical decisions. A printable guide is available for instructors with additional ideas and activities, career suggestions, and sets of homework and quiz bank questions.

Three paths are available for interacting with the biosecurity learning modules:

  1. A self-guided experience for students where the modules are hosted at Wisc-Online through Wisconsin’s Technical Colleges system.
  2. Learn as part of a course – this option is for learners who are assigned one or more modules to complete on their own as a course requirement.
  3. Learn with a leader – for club and group leaders guiding learners through any of the modules.

A dedicated team of content experts including four veterinarians brought this project to fruition:

  • Jeannette McDonald, DVM, PhD, team leader and a distance education designer from Wisconsin.
  • Susan Kerr, DVM, PhD, livestock extension specialist and 4-H educator (emerita) at Washington State University.
  • Jeanne Rankin, DVM, animal health disaster preparedness and response specialist at Montana State University.
  • Julie Smith, DVM, PhD, research associate professor and grant project director, University of Vermont.
  • Tommy Bass, M.S., agricultural education and animal and range scientist at Montana State University.
  • Rebecca Sero, PhD, evaluation specialist, Washington State University.

Smith managed the USDA grant that supported this biosecurity initiative. She stated that, “students in agriculture need access to high quality online educational opportunities now more than ever. Our biosecurity modules offer the flexibility of teacher-guided instruction, or students can learn at their own pace and convenience.”

This work was supported by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), under award number 2015-69004-23273.

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