ANDERSON, Ind. — Carrying a map of the rows of beans, lettuce and carrots planted, teacher Andy McCammon goes from student to student to show them which sign needs to be affixed to a stake identifying what grows in the plot behind Highland Middle School.
“That one’s kale. We’ve got to plant radishes here pretty soon, too,” said McCammon, a part-time teacher with an agriculture, landscaping and golf course background. “We could only plant stuff that’s good for a short season like kale, beets and radishes.”
The garden tended by 14 tweens and teens, including eighth-graders Ja’mya Jackson, Makyra Dixon and Matt McCord, is part of a new project-based agriculture class offered to Highland’s students.
The yearlong, interdisciplinary class will include introduction to livestock, lessons on renewable resources and hydroponic gardening in the winter, McCammon said. But the students learn far more than academics, he added.
“We’re trying to teach a little responsibility,” he said.
But along with that comes a lot of fun – and a little bit of freedom, McCammon said.
“It’s a little bit of a release for these students to be able to get out of the classroom,” he said.
Though the school is surrounded by cornfields, the city-raised students said they’d never been to a farm and had no prior experience growing even as much as a houseplant at home. But Makyra said she might be interested in having a vegetable garden at home when she grows up.
“The lady who was talking to us about it made it sound interesting, and it’s for high school credit,” Matt added.
The lessons in the class provide an alternative way to teach students the usual lessons in science, health and nutrition, and math. For instance, Matt said one of the lessons was on how carrots are good for the eyes.
Ja’mya said she really enjoyed the activities, such as starting peas in a wet cotton ball placed in a bag.
Highland Middle School Principal David Tijerina said middle school is a platform for helping students identify the talents and interests that will help them shape their career goals as they enter into high school. Among the careers emphasized by the agriculture class, he said, are veterinary technician, building trades and culinary arts.
“Our kids don’t realize all the different careers that are available to them. They think in generalities like ‘business,'” he said.
The school started developing the class about the middle of last school year, Tijerina said. Though the curriculum for the agriculture class is built to the state standards, it remains a work in progress, he said.
Students were selected based on their known interests and strengths and their success on standardized test scores, he added.
“They get to see the direct results of something they did. They will be able to take the vegetables home, and for middle school kids, that is really powerful,” he said.
Tijerina said he expects the popularity of the class to grow.
“When other kids get to see them out there with a full-grown steer, they will want to take the class just for the experience,” he said.
And for those who may not enter an agriculture-related career, the class may develop an interest leading to a new hobby, Tijerina noted.
“(McCammon) wants them to know having a garden at home doesn’t have to be a long, drawn-out commitment. With a few minutes here and there, a little bit of dirt and a little bit of work, you can sustain your own garden,” he said.
Source: The (Anderson) Herald Bulletin, http://bit.ly/2bPt7DT
Information from: The Herald Bulletin, http://www.theheraldbulletin.com
This is an Indiana Exchange story shared by The (Anderson) Herald Bulletin.