Episode 155: Dr. Lori Myers and Dr. Jan Bowers
When you think of family and consumer sciences, you might recall your middle school or high school home economics class and learning things like how to cook, sew or the importance of the nutrition pyramid. But this umbrella of education is so much more than that.
As Dr. Lori Myers, Senior Director with the American Association of Family and Consumer Sciences, puts it, “family and consumer sciences is the science and art of living and working well in our complex world. It’s learning how to feed a family, healthy food, learning the value of a dollar, learning how to navigate the complexities of life and juggling the demands of life and a career. From the classroom to the boardroom, we’re instilling the essential knowledge and skills to help individuals lead better lives, be working career ready, build strong families and make meaningful contributions in their communities.”
That’s what family and consumer sciences is all about.
Dr. Lori Myers and Dr. Jan Bowers, Executive Director at the Family and Consumer Sciences Education Association, are spearheading this project, which is funded through a higher education challenge grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture, to overcome national shortages in the family and consumer sciences education sector and improve the education system altogether.
“In the United States, there are unprecedented levels of childhood obesity. Student debt is at an all time high. And for the first time in our history, the life expectancy of our youngest generation is shorter than that of their parents. We have an opportunity to turn the tide with a simple solution that’s family and consumer sciences.” – Dr. Lori Myers (2:22-2:44)
There are family and consumer sciences programs all the way from elementary age, through middle and high school, and into post-secondary education, colleges and universities.
For years there has been a critical shortage of family and consumer sciences educators in middle schools, secondary schools and post-secondary education classes. There’s also been a sharp decline in the number of institutions that offer family and consumer sciences education preparation programs in the last 30 years. There’s been a national need that isn’t supported by enough infrastructure to address this issue on a local, state and regional level.
Even though there are multiple partners providing various levels of training and support for FCS educators, they’ve lacked coordination. Education efforts have been duplicated while some areas have left gaps in meeting the needs of students. To better meet the needs for recruiting, preparing and supporting FCS educators, a national partnership of 17 organizations has been formed to coordinate, collaborate, and serve as a model for family and consumer sciences at the state and district levels, as well as encourage and facilitate relationships with education, the community and the private sector.
How did the program get started? Dr. Jan started with what matters most by communicating with key stakeholders such as the national officers of the FCSEA who represent teacher education, the state department and public school teachers asking them what is needed most to support their profession. A slew of ideas in hand, she took them to Dr. Lori at AFC, met with the national student organizations, career leaders, tech education leaders, extension leaders and teacher educators to combine their input and see their excitement grow for the project. They then had to look at the 17 different national organizations and create an infrastructure to coordinate and collaborate with each other’s efforts and eliminate duplication efforts and maximize resources.
The three main goals of this project are to recruit new educators for one of the 17 national partners, the Family Career and Community Leaders of America, or with 4H to help get kids excited about a future career in FCS education, prepare new educators to ensure they’re qualified and ready, and support them long-term with resources, professional development opportunities and anything else they need since statistically educators leave within the first three to five years.
If it isn’t clear by now, this program is really creating a much-needed transformation to the family and consumer sciences education in America. Both Dr. Jan and Dr. Lori are proud of the impact and legacy the project is leaving. Dr. Lori says, “all of our organizations have harnessed their strengths and talents to really contribute to the greater whole. It has reminded me that it really is an investment of time and energy as we bring recognition, not only to the need for family and consumer sciences educators, but to the value of what these educators and their programs bring to the table.”
Dr. Jan says, “the key thing that we need to be doing next is getting this message out to people so that they understand and value the role of family and consumer science, and how it helps individuals and communities. Our next challenge is taking all the products that we’ve been developing and then getting them into the public and getting them into the hands of the education administrators, the community partners, the extension partners who can use this information to strengthen families and individuals in the community.”
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