Agriculture program more than cows, plows

June 15, 1998|By DON AINES



Agriculture program

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - "It's cows, it's plows, it's sows," Mimi Lufkin said last week of the perception many students have of the Chambersburg Area School District's Agricultural Education Program.

Cloistered away in a group of classrooms and offices in the northwest corner of Chambersburg Area Senior High School, the Agricultural Education Program doesn't have the visibility it needs to attract more diverse students, the consultant from Christiana, Pa., told the school board last Wednesday.

That was one conclusion reached by a committee appointed one year ago to find out how to bring the program into the mainstream for students such as Megan Cummings.


"They don't tell you anything at CAMS about what's going on," said the 15-year-old from Fayetteville, Pa., referring to Chambersburg Area Middle School. She entered the Agricultural Education Program last year at Faust Junior High School, where it is offered to ninth-graders.

"We are not doing anything at the middle school," Blaine May, an agriculture teacher for 24 years, said Friday.

While ninth-graders at Faust can take agriculture classes, they have to travel to the high school for many of them. May said that will change in the upcoming year, when an agriculture science classroom is to be added at Faust.

The committee report reviewed last week by the school board also recommended building a small greenhouse at the junior high school.

The report also recommends agriculture be integrated into the curriculum, beginning at kindergarten, to bolster recruitment of students. Lufkin said 70 percent to 80 percent of the junior high students in the program drop it in high school.

Cummings, who wants someday to live on a farm and work with pre-schoolers, said many ninth-graders get into the agricultural education program "because their friends do it. And they get to go to the high school."

Lufkin was hired in October to assist the committee. Part of her work involved interviewing students and "one of them didn't even know there was an ag program."

"Production is a very small portion of the agriculture industry," she told the board. Students have to know that there are career opportunities in processing, marketing, bio-technology and other fields, Lufkin said.

"Build an agriculture program that's more a science-based program and brings in a different type of students," Lufkin told the board. That includes more students planning to attend college.

During the past year, May said the program had 127 vocational and students and another 56 taking elective courses.

"By vocational, we're assuming these students are going to take six or more courses before graduation," he said. "About 50 percent go on to some other kind of training," he said.

Developing a curriculum to heighten agricultural awareness could take a year, Lufkin told the board. Improvements to facilities could take three to five years.

"The issues of image and retention will probably take the longest," she said.

One facilities improvement the district is counting on is acquiring about 250 acres from Letterkenny Army Depot for an agricultural and environmental education center. The district has applied to the Letterkenny Industrial Development Authority for the land.

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