Agriculture Education in Schools
Wayne Tomorrow! assisted in reintroducing agricultural education into the local school district curricula, with educators hired to begin the program in the 2017 to 20 18 school year. The creation of the Agricultural Sciences program also led to the creation of a local chapter of the Future Farmers of America.
Wayne Highlands School District received a grant for an Educational Greenhouse to provide srudents with hands on horticultural and food production experience. The pride and joy of the 100 or so students in the program , the 2,300-square-foot greenhouse made of plastic panels and an aluminum frame sits just outside the cafeteria.
Instructor Kayla Hack said the freshman students are learning some of the plant basics on the soil side of the operation, while the third-year Horticulture students often work independently in modeling a commercial greenhouse operation.
“They make more of the decisions than I do,” she joked, sort of. “They have really taken ownership of this greenhouse” and what it produces.
The planting began just after Christmas, when the greenhouse was completed, and students cycled through two four-week harvests of lettuce, kale and a variety of herbs, before the school was shuttered in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Horticulture students operate, manage and troubleshoot the Aquaponics System. Unlike hydroponics, which adds nutrients that sustain the plants, Aquaponics systems get their nutrients from fish waste. Specifically, hundreds of medium to small Koi fish, whose ammonia-rich waste is used to produce the nitrate that feeds the plants.
The students, with Ms. Hack’s help, plan out what plants will grow best where, and how many should be propagated, when they may need to be transplanted and how and when they should be harvested.
Like any commercial greenhouse, the goal here is continuous harvest, which would be required to meet contractual obligations for the products. Real world experience is the name of the game for Ms. Hack, who is a member of the Science Department and the Career & Technical Education Department.
The Horticulture Class consists of 10 students, who have been divided into three groups – Marketing, Fish and Plants. They cycle through them, so each student has a chance to learn about all three facets of the operation, which includes responding to circulation alarms, weighing the koi to be sure they are eating as well as caring for the plants.