In rural school districts, farming isnt the only thing taught anymore, as now agricultural students learn high level science. In Lancaster County Pennsylvania, Pequea Valley is one of the more rural school districts. However, that doesn’t mean all its students come from an agriculture background.
Clair Witwer, an agriculture teacher at Pequea Valley High School commented “I don’t have farm kids. I’ve never had farm kids. Pequea Valley farms are (primarily) Amish”.
Knowing that, Witwer injects high-level science concepts and practices into his ag classes.
“For many years we taught the production side (of agriculture) — how to do it. Now we talk about how it happens. That’s biology,” he said.
Witwer’s not alone. Ag education programs at several local high schools include courses that sound like they could be found in the science wing.
At PVHS, students can take classes such as biotechnology, in which students learn about genetic engineering by inserting a jellyfish gene into bacteria to make it glow.
Or Foods Unwrapped, which gets into “the finer points of chemistry,” and what shows up on dinner plates, according to Witwer.
At Garden Spot High School in Elanco School District, a new environmental science course taught alternately by science and ag teachers was a popular draw this year.
Ben Martin, a senior at GSHS, said he didn’t realize that aquatics, forestry and wildlife was an ag class when he signed up for it his junior year.
Although he lives on a farm, it was that class that finally hooked him into joining his school’s Future Farmers of America chapter. He competed in local and state environmental contests through the club, and his team made it to the national FFA competition in November.
A group of teenagers discussing how to solve erosion problems on a farm with a growing town nearby isn’t too common, Martin said, but “back in the FFA wing, it’s totally normal.”