SCA gets agriculture grant
CATAWISSA RR - Southern Columbia Area School District was awarded a $25,000 grant to develop a program to expose students to career opportunities available in agriculture and agribusiness and to allow technology and science teachers to work with students in a project-based lesson.
Southern was nominated by 16 local farms to be considered for the Monsanto America's Farmers Grow Rural Education 2013 Grant.
"To compete in today's global economy, businesses need a skilled workforce and our citizens need increasingly advanced training and knowledge. The engagement of students in rigorous studies provided by this project will allow them to hone and refine skills needed for success within the 21st century workplace," Superintendent Paul Caputo said.
The district's proposals is entitled "The Use of GPS and GIS in Precision Farming," and is expected to foster inter-department collaboration among instructional staff, strengthen school and community partnerships, and allow the district's students to engage in hands-on projects which enhance their critical thinking skills, analytic abilities and communication skills, said Caputo.
Matthew Williams, who owns and farms 300 acres of land in Roaring Creek Township and Locust Township with his family, was one the 16 farmers who nominated Southern, and he said it's important for the younger generation to know where their food comes from.
"Children today have no idea," he said. "There's no agriculture programs and they (school districts) need something to educate children."
Students don't understand how much it costs to feed an animal or what it takes to harvest a crop.
"If you think your food comes from a grocery store, that's ridiculous," he said.
His farm has dairy cows, corn, beans, wheats and oats.
The students' introduction to this project will entail lessons about GPS/GIS technology, what it is, how it works and how it is used by the agriculture industry. As this knowledge is acquired, the students will engage in a variety of hands-on activities culminating with the testing of soils and developing recommended treatments, he explained.
"Project farmers and representatives from the local conservation district will serve as guest presenters and consultants throughout the project," he said. "Under the guidance of these expert presenters, the students will gain a greater understanding of soil testing and they will use the GPS/GIS technology secured through the grant to create soil maps."
The project will become a core activity in the district's middle and high school education and environmental science/biology courses. While maintaining its traditional industrial arts base, the technology education curriculum has more STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) activities as well.
"The proposed project will facilitate this district initiative by providing teachers with powerful tools allowing the implementation of this and other integrated projects, which utilize GPS/GIS technology," Caputo said.
America's Farmers Grow Rural Education awarded 181 grants totaling $2.3 million across 39 states. Southern was one of four districts in the state to be awarded grant money from the organization.
Training for the program will occur from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday. The computer-based activities for the training will occur in the high school's tech education classrooms, and the additional training will be done outside on campus grounds. High/middle school students and teachers will receive the training.
High school science teacher Kristen Vitkauskas and high/middle school technology education teachers Chris Brown and Josh Grozier have been involved in the project also.
Check presented tonight
The farmers who nominated Southern are Bradley Kreischer, of Catawissa, Chris Britch, of Catawissa, Daniel Knoebel, of Elysburg, George Richard, of Elysburg, Kenneth Rarig, of Catawissa, Lois Klinger, of Catawissa, Melissa Richard, of Catawissa, Nathan Richard, of Catawissa, Allen Helwig, of Catawissa, Christine Richard, of Elysburg, Donna Helwig, of Catawissa, Edith Miller, of Catawissa, Frank D. Levan III, of Catawissa, Gene Miller, of Catawissa, Matthew Williams, of Catawissa, and Ruth Williams, of Catawissa.
A check presentation with the 16 farmers will take place at 6:45 p.m. today before the home football game against Bloomsburg Area High School.