Interactive Curricula for the Future


In the spring of 2021, Rick Koelsch and Leslie Johnson shared these activities with a number of educators across the U.S. and encouraged them to download electronic copies of all resources, which were adaptable for their state, in order to begin sharing a highly interactive and peer-to-peer educational experience. This workshop will continue that education. This workshop will again share the original curriculum for teaching animal manure management and will highlight adaptations of the exercise for teaching similar concepts to the same and different audiences. Part of the workshop will be a train-the-trainer on how to use the original mapping exercise. Additionally, participants will preview variations on the exercise that have been developed for different audiences including crop producers that may not have their own livestock and women in agriculture. Finally, we’ll brainstorm other ideas and plant the seeds of development for future similar curriculum development and adaptation.

What Did We Do?

An educational curriculum was pilot tested in 2020 by Extension professionals in Nebraska and Minnesota. The curriculum includes a 25-square mile map, scenarios set up for six animal feeding operations (you pick one for your group), four fields for land application with simplified information cards, worksheets, and one-page information sheets for each of the six scenarios. These activities often lead to lots of peer-to-peer teaching. As participants work through these discussions, they add their happy and sad face emojis to the map to weigh the benefits and concerns connected to individual fields. The curriculum has been utilized across the state of Nebraska with livestock producers, and in Minnesota with custom manure applicators, livestock producers, and county feedlot officers.

In Michigan, an adaptation was developed with scenarios for three locations looking at the environmental, economically, and social aspects of manure and fertility management. Then, with the help of farm business educators, the scenarios were integrated with a new tool developed to look at the costs of different fertility programs to determine what is best for participant farms.

Minnesota took the activity and made digital versions of the game pieces to be used in an online activity. They utilized Jamboard and breakout rooms in Zoom to work through the scenarios.

In Nebraska, the water quality scenario part of the curriculum has been updated slightly to include water quality concerns not only about manure, but also about commercial fertilizer and nitrogen leaching. This was done as part of an adaptation for use in Nitrogen Management Trainings that are hosted by various Natural Resource Districts (NRDs). Other scenarios were developed to teach how to calculate a realistic yield goal and various nitrogen credits that should be considered when determining a nitrogen fertilizer rate.

Another variation in Nebraska took the manure credits exercise from the nitrogen management variation and reworked it for teaching how to determine a manure application rate on both a nitrogen and phosphorus basis to learners that had not previously utilized manure as a fertilizer, but rather were primarily spreading manure to dispose of it.

What Have We Learned?

Since beginning use of the mapping exercise, participant discussion throughout our annual land application training program has increased dramatically. This increased their satisfaction with the program as well. Because the mapping exercise requires active participation in the program, very few trainees feel comfortable sitting back to passively learn the materials, but rather they are discussing with their neighbor and attempting the exercises. Most notably, participants are usually surprised when we get through the exercise and they have completed their training. They’re busy working and forget to watch the clock, which is a wonderful complement to the program. Evaluations at the end of the program indicate that the favorite part of the program is the interactive map, group work and discussions and the ability to “visualize and understand nutrient application”.

While we expected there to be a need to have a facilitator at each table initially, experience has shown that a facilitator can handle multiple tables. Facilitators are helpful to keep participant discussions on-track and progressing through the exercise, often needing to point out instructions within the exercise. Room setup matters as does the size of the group. To make this curriculum work, large round tables with up to 8-10 participants are ideal, but 2 rectangular tables pushed together can work well too. Smaller groups work better but the nitrogen management variation has been used successfully with up to 85 participants at a time, surrounding multiple maps.

Future Plans

Continued updating of the curriculum and additional scenarios will be necessary as land application training for Nebraska livestock producers is required every 5 years, and the Nebraska Extension manure team attempts to not do the same program for the same audience more than once. This workshop will hopefully lead to future collaborations and ideas for additional or modified scenarios.


Presenting authors

    • Leslie Johnson, Animal Manure Management Extension Educator, University of Nebraska – Lincoln
    • Todd Whitney, Water & Cropping Systems Extension Educator, University of Nebraska – Lincoln
    • Sarah Fronczak, Environmental Management Educator, Michigan State University

Corresponding author

Leslie Johnson, Animal Manure Management Extension Educator, University of Nebraska – Lincoln

Corresponding author email address

Additional authors

    • Aaron Nygren, Water & Cropping Systems Extension Educator, University of Nebraska – Lincoln
    • Chryseis Modderman, Assistant Extension Professor, Center for Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources, University of Minnesota
    • Michael Sindelar, Water & Cropping Systems Extension Educator, University of Nebraska – Lincoln

Additional Information


The original mapping exercise was developed in partnership with Nutrient Advisors, Ward Laboratories, Settje Agri-Services, and University of Minnesota Extension with funding from the North American Manure Expo and the North Central Region Water Network. Partners for the development of nitrogen management variations included the Lower Platte North and Upper Big Blue NRD.


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