"When I was looking at classes I wanted to take, I saw that this class was at the farm. You don't see that every day! I instantly became interested, especially because I'm very interested in agriculture and dealing with animals. It's amazing here at BHHS!" shares 12th grade student Asher Moskowitz, who transferred to BHHS for senior year.
Moskowitz, along with 23 other BHHS students, is enrolled in Introduction to Agriculture, one of two BHHS classes that is hosted at Bowers School Farm. Another 15 BHHS students take Animal and Veterinary Sciences, a course that builds on the skills learned in the Introduction to Agriculture class. Teacher Jessica Lynn explains, "The Introduction to Agriculture class teaches the foundation, and all the facets of agriculture, including different careers. We often think a career in agriculture means being a farmer, but in fact there are so many opportunities. Students can explore careers related to food science, entomology, forestry, and bio-engineering. We begin to explore vet science, do projects in the greenhouse, animal husbandry, and agricultural mechanics. We do sheep physical exams, how to do injections and needle safety, and how to work with animals safely. Our next lab will be to practice those injections on fake injection pads. Come lambing time, the students are able to do that themselves, give sheep their physical exams, and work under the guidance of experts in the field. In the Vet Science class, things take another step up. I challenge them to think about how those illnesses work, instead of just doing the care. The Animal and Veterinary Science class will build on the veterinary profession and animal science professions. Both of these classes are for a full year, and are double blocked in the schedule, so each takes two class periods and three hours total."
Each farm class begins in a classroom, for about an hour, before students go outside for hands-on exploration. BHHS junior Emerald Perry explains some of their learning: "In the classroom, we've learned about nutritional terms. Right now in our sheep unit, we've learned how to determine how healthy the sheep is based on their body condition. We examine the sheep and give a body condition score depending on how much fat and muscle the animal has. We've also learned how much they need to eat if they're pregnant, or a baby. We're learning how to give vaccinations, because once the babies are born, we're going to give them vaccinations, and learn what the schedule is. The value is in learning so much about things that you wouldn't otherwise ever know. I've learned so much already, like the fact that sheep have such a thick layer of fat, and how animal scientists need to monitor their health. And it helps you learn about nutritional values for animals, and for yourself. It's about being more mindful. It's not about being vegetarian; it's about being mindful of how you consume, what the value of animals is, and how we need them to survive. I love this class so much - it's my favorite class!"
Senior Emma Ramsey reflects on her experience taking Introduction to Agriculture: "I've been wanting to take this class at the farm for a while. What we've focused most on learning about is farm to table, and how it works, since we have chickens here and learned how to raise them and sell them. I didn't know anything about farm to table before. I'm learning about how to take care of animals and plants. I've always loved animals, but haven't had much opportunity to learn about them before now. You learn how much and what to feed the animals, and what to do if they're sick. One of our horses, Missy, was injured and tore a tendon. We had to create a special pen for her to heal and put sand down so that it's soft for her to stand on."
Learning about the farm to table process is an enriching and powerful experience. Moskowitz explains, "When you're in a grocery store, you don't realize where half the food comes from. By doing the broiler project where we raised the broiler chickens from one day old to then being processed at the butcher that we took them to, you get to learn that farm to table process, which is really awesome. After they came back from the processing plant, I actually bought three of the chickens, after they were frozen, and used them in a chicken soup. It's sad, but it's real life, and the fact that you get to learn where your food comes from is really special."
Students in BHHS agriculture, food and natural resources classes have a variety of chores once they head outdoors. BHHS senior Darren Mack reflects on the chores: "It's hard work, but it's very entertaining. We learn about what you need to do in order for the animals to live, and their day to day needs. I was in the horse barn last time, and we learned about their body parts, and how similar they are to us, like their similar bones. It's fun - it's not like a normal science class where you're sitting at a table. It's real life stuff that's hard but fun!" Chores include rotations through three different spaces: the poultry barn, the lower barn, and the horse barn, and students switch rotations each month. Another recent chore included the construction of a sheep shelter, made by BHHS students as well as Bowers Academy students.
BHHS students who enroll in these classes have a unique opportunity to explore careers in animal sciences and agriculture. Junior Claire Tumicki shares, "This is my first class here, but I've been involved in 4H Club at Bowers Farm for nine years. I've learned in this class how to work collaboratively with other people, and I'm learning how animals behave. I'm planning to do the Vet Science class next year as a senior, and am thinking of being a vet tech." And senior Ayah Alshami reflects, "This class lets you explore new career paths. I've been looking into agriculture as a possible career."
Teacher Jessica Lynn expounds upon the college and career opportunities: "FFA is a student organization that is part of a rigorous agriculture education. If students stay with the program long enough, they will engage in a supervised agriculture experience (SAE) project which is like a job shadow or internship, only more robust. Students are required to show that their experience connects to the real-world, either by earning money, authoring a plan, or impacting their community. By completing an SAE, students can earn six science credits to be applied at Michigan State University. FFA has a lot of great opportunities for scholarships as well. We compete in career development events, which are competitions geared towards preparing students for future careers. In the springtime, we will take teams to compete against other chapters from across the state in areas such as dairy foods, environmental and natural resources, and vet science. Each agriculture classroom has three key components just like other career focused education programs: rigorous classroom learning labs, authentic, real-world experience through SAE's, and leadership development through the student organization FFA. To have a rigorous agriculture program, you need to have all three. The SAE gets them into career pathways, by placing them outside of school hours at a job or project they're interested in, and the FFA hones in on those experiences and builds transferable leadership skills. In increasingly competitive work environments, employers want more than just content knowledge. They are looking for critical thinkers that can communicate ideas. The program at the farm is a holistic approach to learning and sets up students for their futures."
Senior Sebastian Franco shares, "I enjoy this class - it's so hands on. You learn how to take care of the animals and learn about what you eat, how it's all processed, and the economics of it. Kids at Bloomfield should definitely give this class a shot. You just have to be willing to understand that you're going to learn how to work." Is there any better way to prepare our students for the future?