Community members may have noticed the newly-erected fenced-in area on Willard Street near Washington Middle School and been curious as to what is going on in that area. The Record-Herald sat down with Washington Court House City Schools Superintendent Dr. Tom Bailey as he discussed the purpose of that area.
“We’re really excited to be venturing into agriculture education,” Bailey said. “You know, as a rural school district, even though we are the city school district, there’s no doubt that we live in a very rural community. It’s a very rural county and our kids need to learn some of these skills, they should be in tune with some of these skills, and they should be aware of their surroundings. The fact is that we are surrounded by 400 square miles of farmland, so they need to know a little bit about it.”
Dr. Bailey spoke about what will take place in the fenced area that the district is calling a “Land Lab.”
“The land lab itself is created so that we can this fall, put raised beds in there so that we can do gardening. We can teach kids about crops; we can teach our kids about just the basics of agriculture. We can get kids involved in that process. The longer-term plan is that in September, we are going to have an agriculture day. It’ll be the first time we’ve had an agriculture day in probably 70 years. We’re guessing sometime in the 1950s was the last time that Washington Court House City Schools had some kind of agriculture program.”
He continued, “We are going to have the Ag Day on September 16th. We’re going to have all our students, K through 12, on campus that day. This is going to be pretty big to do, so we’re inviting the local farmers to be a part of this. If there’s any farmers in the county that we have not talked to that would like to be part of this, they can still contact me. We are going to have farm equipment there. We’re going to have some very large farm equipment so the kids can see what that looks like. We’re going to have some community partners there such as the master gardeners, so that they can have some presence there and do some teaching to the students about what they do. We’re going to have a lot of animals on campus that day. I think so far, we’ve committed rabbits, cows, horses, miniature horses, goats, and sheep.”
Bailey spoke about wanting to feature the 4-H students that attend WCHCS.
“We want to highlight our 4-H kids. For a rural community, we don’t have a lot of kids in 4-H per se. We have, I believe, 84 of our students that have done 4-H this past summer. We obviously want to increase that. We want more kids involved. We’re going to be working with the state 4-H club in providing information to them. We’re working with some community partners, such as Family Farm and Home, to increase participation for 4-H by getting the kids just in tune with what 4-H is and what you can do with it. It’s not all about taking large animals. You can take small animals, or you don’t have to be involved with animals at all. There’s actually a lot of 4-H projects that are non-animal based and we’re going to be highlighting some of those during this time.”
Bailey said, “We’re hoping to get our students who are in 4-H to discuss with their peers what it takes to be in 4-H so that we can get more participation. I’m working with a few of our teachers who are very interested in getting some city 4-H clubs started. We’re going to need volunteers to step up to run these clubs. For a lot of our students, especially our economically disadvantaged students, it’s hard to get a ride out to the county to go to a weekly 4-H club meeting and have the resources available to do that. So, we’re hoping to be able to provide a lot of that through the school district and set up some clubs here, so that kids can participate and we can get our numbers up.”
Finally, Dr. Bailey spoke about the potential of adding agriculture education as a class for students, as well as possibly starting an FFA chapter at WCHCS.
“We’re going to be talking with Great Oaks here in a couple months to start the process to evaluate if we can start an agriculture education program here at WCHCS. I’m very interested in providing Ag Ed to our sixth through 12th graders, and I’m also very interested in starting FFA for seventh through 12th graders, so that they can have that experience and learn the same skills that the program offers for students around America. We’re going to need to partner with vendors, companies who are agriculturally-based, as well as farmers to make this happen. We have a heavy lift in the next five months to get that done. We need some more fencing, especially if we’re going to have any livestock on campus. We’re going to need some protected areas like sheds for tools and such as we move forward. We also are looking at building some kind of structure, a pole barn of some sort, so that we can have some classroom space out in the agriculture area of our secondary campus.”
Stay with the Record-Herald as we continue to feature more Capital Improvement Projects within Washington Court House City Schools.