For the first time in its existence, the Rock Hill Local School District recently took a unanimous vote to implement an agriculture program for its students.
After a vacant position came open at the middle school this year, teachers gave input in suggesting different courses of study that could be implemented. After discussions occurred during a middle school building leadership team meeting, members decided agriculture would be the best fit.
“We found the program to be applicable demographically, since we are a rural school district,” Owens said. “Naturally, many of our teachers and administrators saw this as a challenging, yet fun opportunity for our students not only to learn about agriculture, but also use the concepts taken from it to reinforce achievement in other content areas. Likewise, the team felt this would add some excitement, since many Rock Hill students are in 4-H or participate in the Lawrence County Fair.”
According to Owens, he had been looking into an agriculture program for some time and had even wanted to suggest it himself. However, wanting teacher input on the open slot for programming, took a backseat to let them pitch ideas and new programming opportunities. He was ecstatic to see them gravitate towards a program he himself was so interested in.
“I always felt we needed to have a program like that. Our staff, along with the high school, talked about it. We let the staff look at different options and the staff felt like that was something that would be advantageous to the Rock Hill Local School District,” Owens said. “So, this wasn’t just a Jason Owens idea; this is something we all want in our programming for our students.”
Owens is happy to see many of his staff supporting the idea and says they will move forward.
“I’m excited because we live in a rural area. Our school is all rural for the most part. We have a neighboring school district that has had this program for a while. I feel like this will give our kids additional opportunities in terms of many fields of study,” Owens said. “They’ll be looking at elements of science, business, finance, marketing, different areas of mathematics, all of which give them a different approach than just the traditional classes that they have. They’ll continue to have the traditional subject, but this deepens that. A lot of people think of agriculture as just plants or cattle, but there is an entire business to the whole operation. We will be able to delve into many areas and then branch off to even more.”
According to the school district, other than the Collins Career Center, the only other public school in Lawrence County that has an agriculture program is Symmes Valley Local Schools. Having an interest in the program, Rock Hill obtained permission from Symmes Valley to bring multiple staff members there in order to observe their established program. This allowed the administrators and staff the opportunity to gain more insight into a potential program that was not yet decided upon. However, according to Rock Hill Middle School Principal Jason Owens, this was a program he and teachers already had their eyes on.
Since such a program would affect more than just the middle school, high school principal Dean Nance was asked his opinion and included on the matter. After further discussion, he felt this would give students additional options within the curriculum. The administration and members of the leadership team pitched the idea to Superintendent David Hopper and Assistant Superintendent Kathy Bowling, all of which were on board. They, along with support from a local university consultant, were instrumental in the development of the program. Collins Career Center was also consulted prior to any action being taken and was happy to assist.
There are numerous bands, or paths of study, a school can choose within a grade 7 through 12 agriculture program. Rock Hill plans to implement the band encompassing agriculture, food, and natural resources bioscience. The district has decided to start the program at the middle school first, with students continuing additional courses as they enter high school.
In order to get kids excited, a STEM course that encompasses pre-agriculture will be offered to 6th grade students next year.
The district anticipates the program to be a success, since it broadens the scope of the current curriculum by incorporating concepts such as, but not limited to business, finance, economics, and marketing.
“Everyone at Rock Hill has worked together to bring this program alive,” Owens said. “All in all, the district is ready to hit the ground running this upcoming school year, while looking forward to growing a concept that was once just an idea.”
Reach Joseph Pratt at (740) 353-3101, by email at [email protected], © 2022 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved