Students, staff and officials with Prairie Rose Public Schools celebrated the one-year anniversary of Irvine School’s Ag Discovery Centre on Tuesday by visiting the site and learning about newly implemented features.
“Over a year ago, plans were put in place, proposals drawn up and ideas, dreams and visions defined,” program co-ordinator Nichole Neubauer said. “Then, we ran into all of the challenges associated with supply chains and COVID. And trying to secure all of the infrastructure we needed to get to this place.
“It’s still a work in progress (but) it’s been a wonderful year.”
The Ag Discovery Centre provides rural students with learning opportunities connected to agriculture, infrastructure and technology. The centre contains an indoor learning space, several animal pens, a chicken coup and a small produce field.
While Neubauer co-ordinates the program and shares expertise with students, the students largely operate the centre. Students independently designed and constructed most of the centre’s structures, they provide daily care to the animals, and they have largely determined how the centre will operate fiscally.
“The kids have been coming out in spades,” Neubauer said. “Whether it’s coming out and planting 150 strawberries, or looking after the needs of our animals … They are taking ownership of this program, and I couldn’t be prouder.”
Reid Vossler, president of the ADC’s student board of directors, says he’s glad to have been part of the program since it was launched in September.
“It’s a big learning experience. There’s definitely problems to fix and things to overcome but it’s been fun. The students are just loving it,” Vossler told the News. “I’m really excited to see the outcome of it. I would like to see how this solves issues and teaches people how food gets to the table.”
Student board of directors secretary, Paige Munch, is looking forward to when the centre opens for public education tours, as she is eager to share what she’s learned.
“I like just coming out teaching kids how to work with the animals and what these animals are used for,” Munch told the News.
A large focus of the program is how to successfully marry agriculture with other factors, like newly emerging technology and sustainability. Neubauer hopes the program’s intersectionality will aid students as they continue their educations and, eventually, transition into careers.
“We know we need to feed 9 billion people by 2050. How are we going to do that? We are going to use science and technology filled with innovation so we can grow food in ways we never have before. So, what we need to do now is inspire our students to explore careers in agriculture,” said Neubauer. “Maybe they’re not interested in driving a tractor or riding a horse across the range checking the cattle, but there’s fantastic careers in the technological field, drone research data gathering and all of the tech support to take us to the next level of how we farm.
“Information management is going to become key … and these brilliant young leaders of tomorrow are going to be the ones who are going to get us there.”
Prairie Rose Public Schools superintendent Reagan Weeks is proud her division offers such alternative programming.
“Chances like this to bring place-based learning to life, where students really get to interact with their environment in a meaningful way, is something our division always likes to jump at,” Weeks told the News. “This kind of environment allows us to bring to life all different sorts of opportunities for students and really let them engage with their rural roots. This is a chance to also celebrate a way of life we know helps feed the world.”
KENDALL KING, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Medicine Hat News