Plans for an agri­cul­ture-cur­ricu­lum ad­di­tion a ma­jor un­der­tak­ing

Prairie Post (East Edition) - - NEWS - By Ryan Dahlman

For­give Ni­cole Neubauer is she is a bit ex­cited about agri­cul­ture. Yes, her fam­ily’s multi-com­mod­ity farm near Medicine Hat has been quite suc­cess­ful but the chair­per­son of the Cham­pi­ons of Agri­cul­ture… aka the pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ment-spon­sored Agri­cul­ture In­dus­try Ad­vi­sory Com­mit­tee… is work­ing on a project which could stu­dents of all ages learn­ing more about the prov­ince’s most con­sis­tent in­dus­try and pos­si­bly change the way ed­u­ca­tion is ad­min­is­tered.

Neubauer is work­ing tire­lessly with the Farm @ School project which would have a base in Irvine.

Ac­cord­ing to the Ex­ec­u­tive Sum­mary of the plans, this “is an on-play­ground agri­cul­ture demon­stra­tion project that will con­nect rural and ur­ban stu­dents to deepen their shared un­der­stand­ing in safe, healthy, sus­tain­able food. Con­struc­tion com­mence­ment will be Oc­to­ber / 2020, with the demon­stra­tion project to be fully func­tional by April / 2021. Stu­dents will learn about large and small live­stock, plant a garden and crop demon­stra­tion plots, learn about hon­ey­bees, use a ver­mi­com­post­ing sys­tem to digest or­ganic school waste and trans­form into worm cast­ings, to be used as fer­til­izer. They will learn about syn­thetic fer­til­iz­ers, crop pro­tec­tion, growth hor­mones in cat­tle as well as vac­ci­na­tion and an­tibi­otic pro­to­cols.

“The key com­po­nent that sets this pro­gram apart, is the de­velop of a high-level on-line learn­ing plat­form (i.e. google class­room, so­cial me­dia, video logs) that will be ac­cessed by stu­dents in ur­ban com­mu­ni­ties across Al­berta. Covid 19 has demon­strated that virtual teach­ing is an ef­fec­tive way for stu­dents to learn. Prairie Rose School Divi­sion will work to de­velop on-line, agri­cul­ture-rich con­tent, that com­pli­ments the Al­berta Ed­u­ca­tion Cur­ricu­lum.”

It is ma­jor un­der­tak­ing but Neubauer who is over­see­ing the project, is ab­so­lutely com­mit­ted and ex­cited about want­ing all Al­berta stu­dents re­gard­less of where they live or what they know about rural life. The whole idea is to have stu­dents from all over the prov­ince learn about where food comes from, how it gets to the gro­cery store, what kind of im­pact agri­cul­ture has on the econ­omy, en­vi­ron­ment and peo­ple’s daily lives in gen­eral.

Neubauer is ex­cited about the pos­si­bil­i­ties of this ed­u­ca­tional com­po­nent to the school cur­ricu­lum as she feels there are a lot of un­knowns and mis­con­cep­tions out there about farm­ing that need to be di­rectly ad­dressed. Be­cause agri­cul­ture is one of the largest in­dus­try in Al­berta and im­pacts res­i­dents ev­ery­one on a daily ba­sis, Neubauer and oth­ers like her, more in­for­ma­tion about agri­cul­ture could be taught to them in school.

“It’s a great place to start hav­ing a di­a­logue about what is sup­port­ing lo­cal agri­cul­ture? What does it mean? I mean, I can’t just sell my wheat to some­one so they can make bread, there’s so many steps along the way and we need to do a bet­ter job il­lus­trat­ing and ex­plain­ing all the steps from gate to plate and cel­e­brate that,” ex­plains Neubauer.

Us­ing her farm as an ex­am­ple which has had ap­prox­i­mately 20,000 stu­dents roll through since 2005, but con­struct­ing a site in Irvine would be used a base. The plans for im­ple­ment­ing this in­clude:

Oc­to­ber 2020:

• Con­struc­tion Com­mences – 40x60 Hi Qual en­gi­neered fab­ric struc­ture will be erected;

• 5 calf shel­ters with por­ta­ble cor­ral sys­tems in­stalled;

• Chain-link se­cu­rity fence will be in­stalled;

• Chicken Coop will be de­liv­ered;

Win­ter 2020/2021:

• Shop stu­dents will build raised garden beds;

• Shop stu­dents will build sig­nage (school shop has metal laser cut­ting equip­ment - a spe­cial sign will be made to rec­og­nize the Rural Com­mu­ni­ties Foun­da­tion Grant);

• Prairie Rose will de­velop con­tent, com­plete credit map­ping, de­sign eval­u­a­tion met­rics and part­ner with ur­ban schools to de­liver pro­gram­ming Spring 2021:

• Mid- April – Live­stock is added to the pro­gram.

• Irvine School stu­dents be­gin in­ter­act­ing with the Farm @ School pro­gram.

• May / 2021 Irvine School stu­dents and teach­ers be­gin pro­duc­ing ma­te­rial for the on-line learn­ing plat­form

• The idea is not to have farm­ing or agri­cul­ture as a sep­a­rate course re­quire­ment but as an ad­di­tion to cur­rent reg­u­lar cour­ses.

What Neubauer is think­ing is that this would be in­ter­twined with what Al­berta Ed­u­ca­tion’s cur­ricu­lum is right now. In­stead of see­ing some old stock film or read­ing about it in a book, they can see first hand in their own prov­ince or near their home what farm­ing is all about. It will meld in so it is not another whole en­tire course that needs to be de­vel­oped. The plan is to make make it fit ac­tu­ally what the kids are al­ready learn­ing by bring­ing the cur­ricu­lum alive.

Neubauer cites the en­vi­ron­ment and some­thing like com­post­ing as an ex­am­ple as some­thing that is im­por­tant to many. The Farm @ School pro­gram would have ex­perts in the field of agri­cul­ture and en­vi­ron­ment be able to help make sense of com­post­ing and then de­velop strate­gies and school projects.

“(For ex­am­ple) What can be com­posted, what com­posted items can be turned into fer­til­izer and then we take it one one step fur­ther and do meth­ane eval­u­a­tions what meth­ane is re­leased by wastes that head to the dump and can we mit­i­gate that by com­post the waste and turn that into burnt cast­ings and use that as fer­til­izer,” says Neubauer. “That fits and ties into the sci­ence cur­ricu­lum and we would make it re­ally mean­ing­ful be­cause the kids could cre­ate a pro­gram of a waste re­cy­cling pro­gram right into their class­room. And they see it hands on, rather than watch­ing it in a video or read­ing it in a text­book, it would ac­tu­ally be live and in­ter­ac­tive.

“The kids would raise some steers they would learn all about the animal’s di­ges­tive sys­tem works and again have that sci­ence cur­ricu­lum link. Heavy fo­cus on en­vi­ron­men­tal stud­ies cli­mate change sus­tain­abil­ity and the kids would learn about the so­cial eco­nomic and en­vi­ron­men­tal im­pacts about agri­cul­ture and con­sid­er­a­tions made within how they start and how they raise live­stock and that is a page right out of the grade 10 so­cial cur­ricu­lum… see con­sump­tion in cat­tle, see the per­cent­ages of pro­tein ver­sus en­ergy a cow needs to make in or­der to make a pound of beef. We could tie into math that way... be­sides just sci­ence, so­cial (stud­ies and of course Cana­dian his­tory). We could do the in­tro­duc­tion of mod­ern agri­cul­ture and how much more we can do on an acre of land than we did 20, 50 or 100 years ago. So rather be a sep­a­rate agri­cul­ture course, we would find ways of hav­ing the stu­dent ev­ery day while they are at school where they can spend time in that en­vi­ron­ment.”

This could also in­clude field trips to a va­ri­ety of places which serve a pur­pose in agri­cul­ture, every­thing from a farm, to spend­ing time with those in agribusi­ness or food pro­cess­ing and even re­search for both the grain and spe­cialty crop side to live­stock. The list is long and there have been some who have al­ready ex­pressed a de­sire to as­sist. Neubauer through her own farm work, her ties to mar­ket­ing groups, cham­bers of com­merce and gov­ern­ment ties, Neubauer has built quite a list of con­tacts.

In fact, th­ese roles “put her in a po­si­tion of con­nec­tion with 39 com­mis­sions and pro­ducer groups, ap­plied re­search bod­ies, academia, and lo­cal Cham­ber-mem­ber busi­nesses.”

“We are go­ing to en­list every­thing from agron­o­mists, vet­eri­nar­i­ans, grain buy­ers and fer­til­izer man­u­fac­tur­ers, trade vet­eran… we are go­ing to bring our in­dus­try ex­perts and al­low us to ask ques­tions and un­der­stand their roles and what their re­spon­si­bil­i­ties are in agri­cul­ture and what they do to help fill­ing out of the blanks,” ex­plains Neubauer. “Years ago, Al­berta Agri­cul­ture did a re­ally in-depth study on of where there are cur­ricu­lum op­por­tu­ni­ties K to 12 to blend agri­cul­ture in to the teach­ing and I have that in­for­ma­tion and then we are go­ing to use the in­dus­try ex­perts on to tell us how does it work, how can we sup­ply that in­for­ma­tion and def­i­nitely the key un­der­lin­ing this is sci­ence based knowl­edge. Sci­ence is such an in­cred­i­ble dif­fer­ence maker in our world and of­ten times we don’t un­der­stand sci­ence, and quite of­ten, what we don’t un­der­stand, we fear. So what this pro­gram is go­ing to be all about is dis­pelling the myths and ex­plain­ing the sci­ence in such a way that it can be un­der­stood by a child in Grade 5 and is al­lowed to ask the dif­fi­cult ques­tions and then they can share that in­for­ma­tion with their peers in ur­ban set­tings (for ex­am­ple).”

The project will take money. Ac­cord­ing to the plans, “Prairie Rose School Divi­sion No 8 will serve as banker board for this project. They will ad­min­is­ter and be ac­count­able for all funds re­ceived and all ex­penses in­curred. The Co­or­di­na­tor of this project is pur­su­ing funds from the Medicine Hat Com­mu­nity Foun­da­tion, The Cal­gary Com­mu­nity Foun­da­tion as well as funds through the Cana­dian Agri­cul­ture Part­ner­ship (CAP) grant pro­gram – Agri­cul­ture Ed­u­ca­tion.”

More in­for­ma­tion and de­vel­op­ments will come forth in fol­low­ing weeks.

Photo courtesy Ni­c­hole Neubauer

Ni­c­hole Neubauer is co-chair of the Cham­pi­ons of Agri­cul­ture and this was from their ini­tial face to face meeting in Cal­gary ear­lier this year where they had a lot to dis­cuss. At left is the other co-chair Jill Harvie from Olds and to her left is Ma­grath-farmer Gary Stan­ford.

File photo

The Neubauers have hosted fam­i­lies and school chil­dren for many years on their farm. Here dur­ing Open Farm Days in 2015, two-year-old Hay­den Baker, gets some help from dad Cameron Baker, af­ter hav­ing a tour of the in­side of a com­bine from Lo­gan Neubauer.

File photo

Neubauer Farms hosted pre­mier Ja­son Ken­ney, Ni­c­hole, Mark, Evie and Lo­gan Neubauer and with lo­cal MLA Michaela Glasgo on the right as part of 2020 Canada Day visit.

File photo

Evie Neubauer demon­strates how you milk a goat for Brooks MLA Michaela Glasgo and Pre­mier Ja­son Ken­ney as part of a Canada Day visit this year.

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