March 13 – The MacArthur High School auditorium was packed Tuesday afternoon with members of the community to hear about the progress of the Dwayne O. Andreas Ag Academy in Decatur Public Schools.
The Ag Academy was announced in December of 2017, and will launch this fall in Eisenhower and MacArthur High Schools. A panel discussion was held to share details about the program, the impact it will have on the local community, and the “It Starts With Ag” (SWAG) campaign effort to get students signed up with Ag coursework.
As part of the $1.65 million gift from the Howard G. Buffett Foundation to start the program, there will be two new Agriculture Educators in the high schools. Ashley Austin will serve at Eisenhower while Andrew Klein will be at MacArthur. Both Austin and Klein are excited to get their programs started in the fall.
Austin said during the first year of the Ag program, both she and Klein will have similar coursework for students. “There will be multiple sections of AgriScience, which will be more of the introduction to agriculture. It will be more of about the different facets of it, what consumers of agriculture look like. Then we will also have an Ag business class. That will be the capstone and the highest level of learning.” Austin added that she and Klein will also be throwing in their own field expertise to create unique forms of the teaching material.
Austin’s area is centered on Livestock and Animal Sciences while Klein is focused on Business and Policy. Klein said he is looking forward to bouncing ideas off of one another. “What’s exciting so far is that just with working with Ashley for a little bit, I think it’s going to be great because I can stay focused on what I really enjoy spending time on and Ashley can do that same thing. Then we can share curriculum, materials, and ideas. Especially with a lot of the community projects, I think we are going to be able to work well with each other.” Those projects will involve activities like working on an orchard and garden at Enterprise Elementary School.
The whole Ag program stemmed from idea-sharing among a group of Decatur community members and staff at Bryan High School in Omaha, Nebraska. Mary Miller, Curriculum Specialist with BHS, said they were happy to show off their program. “We showed them around our school. They met our kids and met our teachers. We were able to tell them about our program which was nice because I could tell them what we were doing really well and where we needed to grow.”
Miller said that her students in Omaha were similar to Decatur students because of their limited exposure to agriculture. She said not all students involved their program goes into an agriculture field, but all fields have some sort of Ag component. “Any career that our children are interested in-even healthcare, because a lot of our kids want to go into healthcare- we can tie that back to agriculture as far as nutrition, dietetics, and public health. Our teachers do a really good job of always tying any career back to Ag.” Austin and Klein both agreed that many jobs can be tied back to agriculture. They also said this program will allow students to have the opportunity to serve their community, a big value within the Future Farmers of America program.
If your child is interested in learning more about the Dwayne O. Andreas Ag Academy, there will be two different information nights they can attend this week. The first one will be on Wednesday, March 14 from 6-7 p.m. at Eisenhower and Thursday, March 15 from 6-7 p.m. at MacArthur.