Redwood Valley High School offers summer agriculture education program

Troy Krause
Lisa Orren, Redwood Area School District ag educator, leads a discussion about communication earlier this summer.

While most high-school students were enjoying the summer away from the classroom, a number of Redwood Valley High School students opted to enhance their education by participating in the summer agriculture education program.

According to Lisa Orren, RVHS ag education teacher, the implementation of a summer learning program is something she has wanted to offer for the past few years.

“Agriculture really takes place in the summer months. There is so much that we can see and do during the summer months. It just makes sense,” explained Orren. “This course is also designed to directly link our area careers to student learning. “We wanted to showcase what career opportunities are available in the Redwood area. Due to the extended hours of the class, we were able to get more hands-on experience and dive deeper into some of the content.” 

A few field trips, which are normally hard to fit into a 45 minute period, were also planned as part of the summer program.

According to Orren, in order for a student to become an FFA member for the school year they must be enrolled in an ag class that year.

“This course then allowed a little bit more flexibility for those students who are committed to the fine arts and AP/Honors classes during the school year. In the future we are hoping to also allow seventh- and eighth-grade students to enroll in the program, so we can start middle-school membership,” added Orren.

A total of 14 students enrolled in the summer program, with a mix of students in Grades 9-12.

“We had to teach in multiple sections to abide by the one to nine ratio rule that was set for summer programming. So we ran three sections. One was created to accommodate for a few students who worked in the mornings,” explained Orren.

The topics covered included:

• Animal Systems – Mixing animal feed rations and performing common vaccine injections and blood draws

• Food Products and Processing – Testing different lipids “fats” in chocolate chip cookies

• Ag Technology – Under-standing the advancement of ag technology and how it has shaped the way farmers can make informed decisions

• Environmental Systems – Evaluating soil structure and the environmental impacts on soil

• Ag Business – Students created a product or service and had to come up with a sales pitch much like the TV show “Shark Tank”

• Ag Communications – Learned about the different types of media and the basics of each form, dissected a press release and then students had to create their own based off of an FFA event that it normally hosts during the year.

• Plant Systems – Basic landscape design principles, students got to draw out a rough landscape design for the front of the Career Center entrance

• Power, Structure, Technical Systems – Mixing concrete to make garden pavers

The agriculture, food and natural resources (AFNR) Career Cluster Content standards provide agricultural educators with a high-quality, rigorous set of standards to guide what students should know and be able to do after completing a program of study in each of the AFNR career pathways.

Strong, relevant AFNR Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs that are informed by industry and education stakeholders are one way communities can meet workforce needs now and in the future.

According to Orren, “we wanted to highlight these pathways for our students and showcase local careers in each of those pathways. It was also our mission to present the information by using as much hands-on learning as we could in our lessons. We were able to create hands-on lessons that took place both in the classroom and at home.”

A passing grade in the program would allow a student to earn .25 high-school credit. The main goal for this class was to highlight career options.

“Oftentimes I get students who come into my classes and think agriculture careers only include growing their own crops and raising animals,” Orren explained. “However, there are over 300 careers involved in agriculture, food, natural resources pathways. Furthermore, many of the careers that these students could go into are not even created yet, since so much of what we do is always evolving.”

Another outcome is getting more students involved in FFA. The plan is to offer this course every year, but the content is going to be different.

“We want to include more field trip experiences, so students can get out in the field, barn, businesses and college campuses. I also try my best to tailor the lessons based on the students’ interests, so if we have more students who are interested in animals then perhaps we can go out to a cattle farm and get to see and do more things on the farm or vet clinic,” Orren added.

Orren worked with three students (Maggie Wertish, Ella Fuhr and Kate Ahrens) throughout the school year to come up with a plan.

“Our first action item was to conduct interest surveys to both the high-school (9-11th grade) and middle-school (6-8th grade) students. This survey then determined there was enough initial interest for us to move forward with planning,” Orren explained. “We then gathered our information, and the girls pitched the idea to Mr. Jorgenson, Mr. Ellingworth, and Mrs. Josephson. They were able to answer questions and get feedback from administration. From there we worked out more of the technical details of the course and the girls then presented the idea to the school board, which then was approved. I am very proud of all the time and hard work those girls put into designing and creating the class. It’s awesome to see students that invested in their learning that they come to me wanting to create a new class that we have never offered before.”

According to Orren, the students were excited to see their friends again and be back into something that seemed “normal.”

“Normally, it seems like students dread school, but this was a neat opportunity to show them how much they have missed the school environment. They also really liked how hands-on the lessons were. We purposely made activities hands-on in the classroom and at home,” added Orren.

Part of the program’s mission was to introduce community leaders to students to help them make those career connections right here in our area. In four weeks students were able to network with 14 professionals. Orren feels the program has been a success.

“When COVID finally hit and changed our spring semester I was not very hopeful for this summer class. However, because I knew students were still interested we persevered and made the changes we had to make in order for the class to continue on. I was happy with the number of students we also got involved with nearly half of them being incoming freshmen. I also thought this class allowed us to connect with our community and industry leaders a bit differently than what we normally think of, which in return will benefit our classes in the future,” she added.