With a commitment to providing hands-on learning opportunities to students, the agriculture department at Hollister High School is making substantial improvements to its on-campus livestock facilities. Featuring a full practice show ring, multiple new pastures and shelters, and a sprinkler irrigation system by Brigantino Irrigation, the upgrades to the campus farm open the way to a more complete hands-on curriculum.
Built by the intermediate and advanced mechanics classes, the improvements are the result of hours of work by Hollister High students and the guidance of agriculture teachers, community members and Hollister High alumni. These efforts have been supported by a grant from the K12 Strong Workforce Program and a Career Technical Education Incentive Grant. Since the project began last school year, mechanics students have used a wide variety of skills to realize the improvements.
“For them this is a large-scale project, not just something that they’re building in a welding booth or in a classroom,” said mechanics teacher and Hollister FFA advisor Joseph Martin. “This is something that takes multiple skills. It incorporates a lot of standards into one project that the kids take pride in.”
Students worked together to master techniques in project layout and design, concrete, torch cutting, flux core welding and measuring. Under the guidance of Martin and dedicated community members, students learned both attention to detail and the ability to step back and look at the big picture.
“This gave them the opportunity to get real life experience as well as build something that should be here for a very long time,” said Martin.
Senior agriculture student Austen Underwood is a prime example of this.
“Last year I helped set posts and I’ve been welding the panels onto the posts and hanging gates,” said Underwood. “I’ve used my experience that I learned here at the high school. I learned how to weld and cut here at the high school but I used it over summer at a job where I was building fences.”
The livestock facility project is a prime example of the type of career technical education curriculum that high school agriculture departments are working toward. Classified as work-based learning, it aims to give students practical experience and connections to industry opportunities by introducing skills and supplementing with classroom guest speakers, trade shows and field trips.
“Having this project right here on campus has really allowed for work-based learning in that our ag mechanics students are getting the real-world experience of making a plan, being involved in the design process, and the fabrication of the actual project,” said Grace Erikson, Hollister High School agriculture teacher and FFA advisor. “They’re learning how to build fences from start to finish—all skills that they will be able to take out into the real world and into industry.”
The influence of these facilities can extend beyond the mechanics classes and lead to new opportunities for animal science and veterinary curriculum students.
“The goal is to have a flock of small ruminants here on campus, primarily for the animal science and vet science classes to have hands-on lab experiences without having to travel or bring new animals onto campus,” said Erikson.
Students will have the opportunity to learn proper animal handling techniques and procedures for animal husbandry such as vaccinations. This would bring the animal science curriculum closer to that of an introductory college course. The on-campus flock has the potential to serve students in search of a Supervised Agricultural Experience (SAE) project, an element required of agriculture students in all FFA programs across the country.
“We are trying to figure out some opportunities we can include in this flock for students that might want to get involved in an animal SAE project but maybe don’t want to raise animals to go to the fair, or don’t have the finances or time,” said Erikson. “Having an opportunity for a small flock here on campus would give them some management SAE opportunities.”
The pastures are set up in a way that is conducive to a small-scale rotational grazing format, enabling animal science students to learn animal husbandry and management techniques.
“It would really open the door to bringing in some experts in rangeland management, holistic rangeland management, and rotational pasture grazing,” said Erikson. “I know there’s quite a few people in our community who are already doing that on a production-level scale. Having a small-scale opportunity for kids to see and experience here and then bring in those industry experts into the classroom to share their practices and their experiences, I think will just continue to advance the program overall.”
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