Ag program growing at high school

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An example of a habitual nest for birds that was created by a student.

Rewriting the previous notion of agriculture consisting solely of “cows, plows and sows,” two Granville High school teachers are introducing potential career interests to the youth roaming the halls.

In the 2021-2022 school year, 43.4% of the student body in the high school level took at least one class taught by Debora Cahan or Catlin Goodwin.

The Ag program duo prides themselves on introducing students to the “world of interconnected systems” while guiding them to the best road for each respective student post-high school.

The two pathways through the Ag program are animal science and food systems, which were described as interdisciplinary in nature in that information can be applied to different fields of concentrations like business, engineering and horticulture, among many more.

·         : In the high school level of the Ag program, students in the animal science pathway get hands-on experience working on a medical evaluation table, keeping records on file and more.

“We’re trying to prepare students for opportunities for the future and whatever it may bring,” Goodwin said. “We know agriculture is growing, there’s a lot of technology that’s necessary in agriculture. Highlighting those opportunities for students as well as ways they can combine food and plant, or animal and plant or animal and food.”

The Ag program is still in the process of obtaining Career and Technical Education (CTE) credit that would mirror the same accomplishments of a student going through the BOCES program. A review-process by an appointed committee of local industry leaders is currently underway.

“The two years that a kid spends at a BOCES program, leaving the school and spending all that time in travel and different groups and educators, instead they get to do it here in-house,” Cahan said.

Cahan spoke on the interest of students typically being drawn by the study of animal science, with a common response being that students want to become veterinarians. However, the classes offered by Cahan and Goodwin at the high school level provide real-world career experience in areas a student may not have known they are skilled at or passionate about.

“Animal science is what gets kids in the door,” Cahan said. “Kids want animals, they want the hands-on (experience) with it. Adults like animals. It gets a lot of people interested and involved but what they forget is that every animal that is in my classroom and that is in this world relies somehow on another area of Ag.

“Whether it’s environmental sustainability for habitat resources for wild animals or it’s livestock that we’re raising based off of an agronomist’s work of raising the corn that the cows are eating. There is no separation, so we talk about these disciplines as if they are different because for sanity sake we need to for classes and clarification. One of the reasons why Catlin and I have always made such a great team, my animals don’t exist without anything else. We as humans do not exist without plant science.”

One example of a class that will be offered by Cahan this fall is an agriscience research class that culminates in a college/graduate level research paper on studies conducted by the student.

“The kids are starting from scratch with an interest,” Cahan said. “This student in particular likes large animals and she likes psychology. My guess is that she is going to come in and her basic research is going to look at different ways of studying animals’ brains and different ways of testing and how cognitively different they react to things. She’ll write her research experiments based on that, run the research and write an entire thesis on that.”

Cahan added she taught this specific class in a previous school and it allowed students the opportunity to obtain grant scholarships and participate in state and nationwide competitions.

Between 2018 and 2028, the New York State Department of Labor projects growths of 19.9% in agriculture and food science technicians, 11% in biochemists and biophysics, 10.9% in food scientists and technicians, 6.8% in food service managers, 4.2% in supervisors of food preparation and serving workers and 1.6% in food processing workers.

At the 6th grade level, teacher Jen Rhodes is laying the groundwork of the vast scope of agriculture and what it has to offer with hands-on learning while Cahan and Goodwin expand upon the fundamentals.

Rhodes recently had students collect sticks and create a habitual nest for birds based on their findings and make an “Agricultural Pathways” board game to show real-life careers and activities.

·         Middle school students were responsible for creating agriculture-based board games to establish the fundamentals of agriculture in this area.

Already secured for the animal science program taught by Cahan is college matriculation credits through SUNY Cobleskill, where students can attend with up to nine credits through their education at Granville. The matriculation program for food sciences is still being worked on.

Cahan and Goodwin credited administration members Lisa Meade and Tom McGurl specifically for their support and willingness to back their dreams and goals of providing an alternative for students in an agriculturally rich area.

New high school assistant principal Tammy Treen said she is already impressed by Granville’s Ag program and ability to show students exclusive teachings special to their classes like hatching and raising chicks and baby peacocks, analyzing the compounds of a specific food item or understanding the mechanics to a tractor’s motor.

“As a former farmer myself and going through the Project Lead the Way core courses and boot camp training and knowing what they do here. I am not a proponent of ‘let’s get everybody ready for college.’ That needs to stop because all of these kids are living in their parents’ basements with hundreds of thousands of dollars of debt and they still don’t know what they want to do.” Treen said.

“The knowledge and excitement is palpable from these two,” she said. “Honestly, they make me miss the classroom. It’s those moments where the kids find something they are passionate about and find other avenues.”

“We just want to help our students be the people who make this world a better place,” Goodwin said.