Core Academics in Kentucky Ag Classes
Andrew Fritsch's ag math class at Bourbon County High School standing on the stage platform they designed and built in class for a school play. Fritsch co-taught the hands-on class with a geometry teacher.
Kentucky agricultural educators are effectively mixing core academic instruction into their daily curriculum in a variety of ways. We interviewed two central Kentucky teachers to find out how they are tackling this hot topic.
Mary Jennings is an agriculture teacher at Jessamine Career and Technology Center in Wilmore, Kentucky. She teaches principles of Agriculture, Agriscience, Floral Design, Carpentry, Greenhouse, Small Animal Technology, Leadership Dynamics, and Landscape Design. Her school is somewhat unique because they get students from both of the regular high schools in their district.
“My department does a great job of ensuring that our students are getting core curriculum within our elective classes. We have several assignments that consist of reading, writing, and mathematics- just with an agriculture emphasis” said Jennings.
Many of the unit assessments in Jenning’s classes include a writing component. She also integrates English and writing through lab reports, article writing, and personal writing about agriculture experiences.
Jennings covers a variety of core curriculum content with real world applications. For example, her carpentry classes focus on mathematics, while animal science lessons deal with nutrition and feed rationing. She uses the Kentucky State Occupational Skills Standard Assessment, KOSSA, to make sure students have mastered the agriculture curriculum, which includes writing components taught in class.
Partnering with Core Curriculum Teachers
Andrew Fritsch teaches ag mechanics and animal science at Bourbon County High School in Paris, Ky. The school has approximately 900 enrolled students, of which 300 are involved in agriculture classes, and Fritsch teaches more than 150 of them each day.
After noticing a need for students to know geometric formulas and angles to complete their assignments and repeatedly directing them to ask their math teacher for help, Fritsch decided to approach that teacher with the idea of collaborating to create an ag mechanics course that also fulfilled a math requirement for students.
The result was an agriculture math course where Fritsch and the math teacher co-taught students geometry formulas, then took them into the shop to give them the opportunity to apply what they just learned in class to real life, hands-on tasks.
One of the hands-on projects involved Fritsch’s students building a platform with steps leading up to it for the school play. In class they focused on the volume and dimensions of cubes, angles, and proportions, so they were prepared to figure out how to make the steps when they went into the shop.
Another project involved creating items for the school prom. Students in the class submitted a proposal for materials, went to Lowes to calculate prices, and then a winner was chosen from those proposals to build props. The winning team acted as the project managers and everyone else in the class built their winning project, poker tables (the prom had a casino theme), to their specifications.
“It was a great project that gave students responsibility and ownership over what they learned” said Fritsch. He added, “By using real projects, not just fabricated ones for homework, I believe it encouraged them to take more pride in their work and contributed to school spirit.”
Capitalizing on Student Interest
Realizing that many students in his classes are very interested in the trucks they drive, Fritsch utilized that as another learning opportunity. Together, he and the students looked up engine specifications for their trucks and used formulas and the volume of cylinders to figure out their engine displacement. Students took an active interest because the subject matter directly applied to something they already care about.
Students in Fritschs’ agriculture math class take the same tests that other geometry students in the school take. Fritsch is proud of the way students performed saying, “The test scores from students in my classes and traditional geometry classes were very similar and in some cases my classes outperformed the traditional students.”
If you’re an educator looking to incorporate other core academics into your lesson plans, Fritsch encourages you to get to know those other educators, build relationships with them, and combine your talents to create a mutually fulfilling curriculum for your students. He looks forward to offering that ag mechanics course again next school year, since scheduling conflicts prevented it from being offered this year.
Both Jennings and Fritsch show that subjects from writing to geometry can be incorporated into the agriculture classroom in ways that are directly applicable to the subjects you’re teaching. Often, that incorporation strengthens the curriculum and garners more active interest from students. It isn’t difficult to work writing exercises and math equations into your current curriculum, and Communities of Practice is a great resource to get that process started. Find out what other educators are doing to bring core academics into their classrooms and share your own experiences.
Email Jennings and Fritsch to learn more about the ways they incorporate core academic subjects into their curriculum.