The federal government is spending nearly $200,000 to teach older farmers about safety using "reader’s theater."
"Farm Theater: A Novel Safety Strategy Approach for Agricultural Communities" is a new project funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The University of Kentucky began the four-year study in September.
"Excessive worker injury rates continue in agriculture," the grant for the project begins. "Adult and senior farmers in the Southern U.S. region experience the highest occurrence of agricultural occupational injury and mortality in the nation."
"In this community-based, translational intervention effectiveness research study, we will work with established farm community organizations in Kentucky, Tennessee, and Mississippi, to develop and test a novel intervention: didactic reader's theater, with 450 adult and senior farmers, and their family members, to positively change farm work culture and safety behavior," the grant said.
Reader’s theater productions rely on voice acting, and generally use no sets or props. The study is still costing $191,995 for the first year.
"Readers Theater is readers reading a script adapted from literature, and the audience picturing the action from hearing the script being read aloud," according to Scholastic.com. "It requires no sets, costumes, props, or memorized lines. Instead of acting out literature as in a play, the performer’s goal is to read a script aloud effectively, enabling the audience to visualize the action. Performers bring the text alive by using voice, facial expressions, and some gestures."
The researchers have high hopes for the project.
"We expect, given our pilot data, that this intervention will have a substantial impact on decreasing injury risk in the target states and other southern states, with generalizability to multiple rural areas in the United States," the grant said.
The target demographic for the study is "vulnerable workers," or "older farmers." The theater intervention will also be tested on younger farmers during the final year of the study, in 2018.