It all began in 1854 when the Pennsylvania State Agriculture Society persuaded the General Assembly of the State Legislature to establish a school dedicated to agriculture education and teaching scientific practices in agriculture. The school was then built in 1855 on 200 acres of land given by James Irvin. Throughout the rest of the 1800's the school underwent a few name changes; 1862 the name was changed to The Agriculture College of Pennsylvania and in 1874 it was changed again to The Pennsylvania State College. Another piece of history that can not be left out is what happened in 1889. This was the year the first creamery was built on campus. This is just a brief overview of the beginning history of Penn State, and in no way the complete story.
Agriculture Education in high schools in the state of Pennsylvania began in 1910-1911 when the General Assembly of the Pennsylvania Legislature mandated that one year of agriculture must be taught in every rural high school. Interesting to mention that in 1910 the first agriculture course was taught. This influenced The Pennsylvania State College, at that time, to create a four year baccalaureate degree major in the area of agriculture education which began in 1911-1912. Interestingly, Penn State had conferred their first Master of Agriculture Education in 1914 when the first bachelors degree had not been conferred. The first two bachelors degrees in agriculture education were conferred in 1915, and between 1912-1918 there were 23 students who had received their bachelors degrees in agriculture education. In 1917 federal legislation known as the Smith-Hughes Act was passed to allow vocational education to be taught in public schools. In 1935 the agriculture educators of Pennsylvania created a professional organization called The Pennsylvania Vocational Agriculture Teachers' Association which was later changed to The Pennsylvania Association of Agriculture Educators (PAAE). By the late 1940's the practice of student teaching with a faculty member supervising had become a part of the curriculum. The early stages of agriculture education were busy, and not all the information included is the full version.
Throughout this span of 50 years the agriculture education program at Penn State advanced in becoming more diverse and expanding their coverage of opportunities. The program had started offering international opportunities to students both coming from different countries and students traveling abroad from Penn State. Also in the 1950's, the agriculture programs in high schools were advancing their opportunities to prepare students for college instead of just educating them for a job right our of high school. In the 1960's there was a movement to provide ornamental horticulture programs in area vocational technical schools as well as creating environmental education learning at high schools. In 1967 the beginning teacher program at Penn State was developed which this program is now called The Center for Professional Personnel Development. Throughout the 1970's the program became more inclusive with the first two women receiving their degrees in agriculture education and becoming teachers in 1970 and 1972. Throughout the 1980's there was several changes of names with one of them being The Department of Agriculture Education changing to The Department of Agriculture and Extension Education.
Over the course of the past 17 years Penn State Agriculture and Extension Education has become more advanced in bring the best knowledge to students in major as well as training educators with the best resources. The opportunities for the students to get involved have advanced including the Penn State Teach Ag Society, studying abroad in different areas of the world, etc. The rich history of the Agriculture and Extension Education department has certainly made an impact on many lives and will continue to do so.
The History of The Department of Agricultural and Extension Education at The Pennsylvania State University, Summer 2005.