You can test drive a new car before you make the commitment to buy one. You are offered free samples of food when trying new products at the grocery store. You can rent a movie before you decide to buy it. In a world of “try it before you buy it,” we are often given a chance to have hands-on, interactive experiences before we make a final decision. However, when it comes to choosing a college major or a career path, there aren’t many chances to try on the different hats before we make the big commitment.
More and more high schools across the country are working to prepare students for their futures in college and careers. This includes changing curriculum, restructuring schools and putting a greater emphasis on interdisciplinary learning. Locust Trace Agriscience Farm is one such high school.
Locust Trace Agriscience Farm, outside of Lexington, Ky., allows students the opportunity to gain exposure to various careers and fields in agriculture before graduation. Not only does this help students make the decision of what they want to do with their lives, it also gives students the knowledge and skills it takes to enter the field.
“Career readiness is the focus so that our students are the most employable once they graduate from high school,” says Brian Miller, the administrative dean at Locust Trace Agriscience Farm. “We want to give them a set of skills so that they are more marketable in the workforce.”
Agriculture and Arithmetic
Locust Trace Agriscience Farm groups student schedules by interest area, including small and large animal sciences, agriculture power mechanics, equine science, veterinary science, and an introduction to agriculture, plant and land sciences. These emphasis areas are then used as starting points for core classes. Rather than wondering, “When am I ever going to use this,” students at Locust Trace learn the basic reading, writing and arithmetic in the interest area of their choice.
“Career readiness is the focus so that our students are the most employable once they graduate from high school.”
Along with real-world education, these students are gaining marketable work skills and experiences. The 82-acre farm-school boasts an on-site vet clinic, a 6.5-acre garden, a state-of-the-art greenhouse, aquaculture facility and much more that are used for classroom instruction and student learning. Classes and curriculum are supplemented through organized field trips, business partner job shadowing experiences and industry-based internships.
“We have guest speakers who come in to teach us about the different programs,” says Danielle Milbern, a senior involved in the veterinary science program. “They show us things we normally don’t get to see in the different horseback riding disciplines.”
Developing relationships with local businesses and professionals is another goal for the program. Recently, Dr. Chris Johnson of Woodford Equine Hospital performed a free x-ray of an abscess on one of the school’s horses while teaching the students this vital, technical skill.
Having top-notch facilities right on the school farm also makes a major difference in the hands-on opportunities available to the students.
“The on-site vet clinic gives students first-hand job shadowing and internships experiences in the world of veterinary science,” says Miller. “Having an 82-acre farm gives students a real world opportunity for experience with livestock and machinery, especially for the students who come from an urban background and might never experience such things. Our greenhouse and gardens give our students another unique perspective on learning where their food comes from. Students have the opportunity to apply for internships and attend guest lectures on a regular basis on a variety of visiting industry professionals and graduate students from the University of Kentucky, College of Agriculture.”
Combining relevant coursework, on the job experience and real-world skills, students at Locust Trace Agriscience Fair are graduating more prepared for college and the workforce. Being allowed to “test drive” a future career and college pathway is allowing students at Locust Trace Agriscience Farm the opportunity to make better informed decisions for their future.
– Beverley Kreul