Mary Francis George Junior High Ag
Location: Springdale, Ark.
Teacher: Eric Smith
History: The Springdale School District started its agriculture programming at the high school level, and later added agriculture classes to junior high school course offerings.
“While no ag classes are available at the middle schools, students in the East Initiative computer class have completed many agriculturally-related group projects, such as teaching urban students and parents how to manage a container garden,” teacher Eric Smith, a 20-year Marine Corps vet, explained. “As it stands now, junior highs offer two introductory classes as electives, which prepares those students interested in agriculture for the more specific and diverse high school curriculums.”
Programming: “I teach two agriculture classes,” Eric explained. “One is Introduction to World Agriculture for eighth graders. This class focuses on population growth and how that relates to agriculture. Because there are fewer and often smaller farms but with more people to feed, agriculture must achieve higher yields per acre to feed the world. One highly instructive activity is using donuts cut into small pieces which are then divided out among certain countries such as the United States, China and Third World countries according to their population and access to resources. Survey of Agriculture is for ninth graders and includes information on FFA, ag careers, and broad introductions to animal science, breeds of livestock and plant sciences including soil science and how soil components affect production. We also look at ag mechanics, which includes basic woodworking and learning how to use tools, such as a bandsaw and table saw, with a few additional students introduced to welding.
“The purpose of this course is for students to identify areas of interest and to gain important prior knowledge before entering the diverse agriculture curriculum at the high school level. One of the biggest challenges is that George Junior High is very urban with students only knowing about buying food in grocery stores. I try to encourage students to compete at the Washington County Fair, pointing out that competing is not only with animals and that they can compete in areas such as floral design and woodworking.”
Future: “Population in our area is growing very quickly and with that comes the possibility of me teaching ag full-time at some time in the future. At one time, the district may have considered purchasing an off-site farm for more hands-on exposure but the logistics would have been difficult. I would like to see a set up here at George for small animals such as rabbits in order to increase student interest in pursuing agriculture classes at the high school.”