A new Rocky View Schools (RVS) program, The Farm, is providing students across the division a hands-on chance to learn about agriculture.
“[The Farm is] a community-based school where most of our teachers are people from outside [RVS] who can come and visit us and explain or give their perspective on the ag world, or we go and actually do a field trip to a wide variety of different places,” said teacher Mark Turner.
The Farm launched its inaugural year in September after, according to Turner, a parent in Rocky View County suggested the division offer an agriculture-focused program.
Having worked on another alternative program offered at RVS – Building Futures, which see students fulfill their curriculum requirements while building a house – Turner and his teaching partner, Matt Chomistek, were called in to design The Farm.
“The premise was really simple,” Turner said. “It was basically, ‘Teach kids their core classes in the higher levels of school…and then get our kids in front of or checking out or field trips to anything that has to do with the ag world.’”
Students across the division applied last year to take part in the year-long program, with 35 students in Grades 9 and 10 selected to participate. Applicants ranged from those with a background in agriculture to those, according to Turner, “who didn’t know where carrots came from.”
“We have kids from Indus, we have kids from Kathyrn, we have kids from Langdon, we have kids from Chestermere,” he said. “We have students from Crossfield, and then we have a whole bunch of students from Airdrie, as well.”
The program is based on a plot of land near Airdrie, which Turner said allows teachers to not just tell the students about agriculture, but to show them and help them apply what they’re learning.
“Wayne Hanson, who owns Your Local Ranch…has offered a 15-acre acreage for us to actually have a hobby farm,” he said. “We can actually do the hands-on learning to try and show kids, so we will have chickens and egg production, we’ll have growing vegetables indoors and outdoors.”
Core classes like math and social studies are interspersed with daily chores and agriculture tasks, Turner said.
“A lot the curriculum does tie really nicely into, what does it mean to operate a farm,” he said.
Alternative programs like The Farm, Turner added, give students a chance to draw connections between school subjects and their daily lives.
“I think the cool part of alternative programs is trying to get kids to see the curriculum through a different lens that lets them engage with a little bit more depth to it,” he said.