Teaching kids about Ag
With all the talk lately about introducing tech type classes at the high school level, it is interesting to note the Ag Science curriculum is alive and well at Blue Earth Area High School and has been for some time.
In fact, it is thriving.
“I’m going to have 38 students in my Introduction to Ag Science class this next semester,” Ag teacher Holly Stevermer says. “I am not sure where I will put them all, but I have until Monday to figure it out.”
Stevermer has been the Ag teacher at BEA for 12 years, having come here in the fall of 2007. She is the only Ag teacher, and she keeps plenty busy.
“We have eight different course listings in the BEA Course Directory,” Stevermer says. “We don’t fill out all eight each semester, but I?do have six of them over the course of each year plus I have an eighth grade Intro to Ag class and an eighth grade career explorations class on some semesters.”
As if that is not enough, Stevermer is also the FFA advisor at Blue Earth Area. And that takes up a lot of her time after the regular school day ends.
The eight titles of the Ag classes that are listed include Agribusiness and Marketing, Animal Science, Intro to Ag Science, Large Animal Wildlife, Leadership Development, Nursery Landscape and Horticulture, Small Animal Wildlife and Work Based Learning.
“The Work Based Learning class is a little different,” Stevermer says. “Students actually get jobs out in the community that are ag-related in some way. They have to keep track of what they do, how many hours they work, like that, and then we have a one day a week class to go over their goals, reflect on how they are doing. At the end of the semester, they give a presentation about their job and what they learned from it.”
Some of the work is closely related to agriculture, such as working at Yeager’s or Kibble (John Deere) Equipment, she says. Other jobs can be at hog barns, veterinarians, or even cooking at a restarant such as Blue Earth Hometown Restaurant or Double Play.
Sometimes the ag connection is just how important food is, and learning where it comes from and what to do with it, Stevermer says. Some students are working at Juba’s as their work experience in the food system.
The class called Agribusiness and Marketing is also quite interesting, and well attended, Stevermer explains.
“We focus a lot on bringing outside community people into the classroom,” she says. “They tell the students about their real-life experiences in the
The students are responsible for finding people, inviting them with a formal letter and then following up with a thank you letter.
“We do get a variety of guest speakers to come in, some from as far away as Minneapolis,” Stevermer says. “The students learn a lot more about the many possible job opportunities and what they are about, more so than just listening to me tell them about it.”
There have been speakers from local grain elevators, John Deere dealerships, Seneca, Compeer and many other agribusinesses. A variety of farmers have also come in to explain what they do and how a farm operation actually works.
“One student invited a John Deere technician from Truman to come to the class,” Stevermer recalls. “The next year, that student was working there, and then was sent to John Deere tech school in Iowa. Now they work together.”
The Animal Science class is also popular and is quite interesting, Stevermer says.
“We look at topics, trends and news about the livestock industry, mainly,” she explains. “We study how to raise healthy animals and humane care of animals. We study the history of livestock agriculture and we even get into genetics.”
Large and Small Animal Wildlife class studies animals and their habitat, locally in Minnesota and around the world. It involves information on natural resources, the environment and its impact on wildlife.
The class does a project together and this semester it is building their own fishing poles. They are customizing them in a variety of ways.
The Nursery Landscape and Horticulture class is another one that is very popular.
The students learn landscape design and then take on some projects.
“We have helped landscape out at the Riverside Golf Course, helped with planting the pots on Main Street in Blue Earth, creating rain gardens, things like that,” Stevermer explains. “The kids just love to plant, and we have many plants in our classroom, some of which have been alive for many years.”
The kids have gotten into planting “space tomatoes” which are grown from seeds that were up in space.
“Not all of them have been in space, and they have to document the growth and figure out which ones have been,” Stevermer explains. “We have been doing this for two years now.”
The ag department had a wonderful greenhouse which they had received a grant for. But, it was destroyed in a storm the same one that destroyed the Trinity Lutheran Church Stand at the fairgrounds a few years ago.
“We did get a replacement, which was not quite as nice,” Stevermer says. “The weather was not kind to that one either. Now we have another one we are going to try and get up and running this spring.”
Stevermer points out that not all of her students live on a farm.
“Overall, more of them do not live on farms as do live on farms,” Stevermer says. “But many have a connection to farm life, such as a parent or relative who does or did live on one. Sometimes they try and use that as an excuse not to do a project, they say ‘I can’t do that because I don’t live on a farm,’ and I say ‘Oh yes you can.'”
Stevermer stresses that agriculture is a part of every day life. It involves so many aspects of everything around us, she says, especially our food.
And in her classes, students learn about all those things, themselves and the world around them.
Call it Agriculture plus a whole lot more.