Ag program expands to include Animal Science in HS

For the animal lovers and the farming families, the future vets and agricultural engineers, Elkhart’s newest science course is introducing high school students to the impact of animals on our economy, magnified especially within our agricultural-based area.

With its growing importance within our community, the middle school Agriculture program is now being continued within the walls of both Elkhart Memorial and Elkhart Central, offering animal science, and the community’s School Without Walls program, offering Agribusiness Management.

“It’s really an extension of the learning that takes place in 8th grade,” said Elkhart Central’s animal science teacher, Eric Jantzen. “It takes the smaller portion of the 8th grade class and expands and deepens their knowledge of how animals are used in agriculture.”

With a total of exactly 100 students enrolled in the animal science course, the class will provide a more hands-on approach to learning than the average Biology course.

Aimed towards exposing students to agriculture, animal science, and other career options within each field, the course will cover aspects such as animal anatomy, physiology, behavior, nutrition, reproduction, health, selection, and marketing. It will also focus heavily on direct exposure to the everyday activities and problems animal science specialists would have.

“We live in an agricultural area, and because of that there will be jobs available, especially in the supporting careers,” said Jantzen. “Most importantly, I think this class will help students be able to understand how the animals that contribute to our diet are used to give us the food that we eat.”

The class however, also shows appeal to those interested in caring for animals. Interested in becoming a Veterinarian Technician, Elkhart Memorial senior, Sydnie Schultheis, currently takes the course.

“I’ve always liked working with animals and being around them. Not only helping out with them at a future job, but out in the community as well,” said Schultheis.

Animal Science will focus equally on the physical and mental aspects of the animals themselves, and the economic aspects of taking care of individual animals and livestock.

“The course is focused on both project-based and inquiry-based learning. It’s like the best of both worlds,” said Elkhart Memorial’s animal science teacher, Brenda Mueller. “I lead them to the information, I don’t give it directly to them. It’s their job to not only learn, but to share what they learn with their classmates.”

The curriculum comes directly from CASE  (Curriculum for Agricultural Science Education), an agriculture curriculum resource, set with course pathways for different areas of agricultural interest i.e. animal science, plant science, agricultural business, agricultural engineering, and natural resources.

“It’s not only a challenge as a teacher, but once the students acquire the basic information needed, they’re able to make their own lessons and explore different aspects on their own,” said Mueller.

This course introduction however, is only the beginning. Director of Agriculture Curriculum, Cyndy Keeling, talks of Elkhart’s plan to integrate more opportunities for students.

“I would like to expand the program next year to include plant science or Natural Resource Management at the High School and to expand on the foundation that we have laid at the middle school,” said Keeling.  “The students have been exposed to the opportunities that the agriculture industry has to offer in the fields of science and research and it is important to allow them to continue to explore those opportunities first hand with real-world project-based learning activities in the classroom.”