It’s a pleasure for Urban Ag News to blog about and share the new short film from the group Nebraska Loves Public Schools* based in Omaha, Nebraska. The film details how more than 160 students from diverse backgrounds are now taking part in an Omaha Public Schools’ Urban Agriculture Academy. When one thinks of Nebraska, they often think of corn! After all, it is the Cornhusker state but surprisingly, there are many students in Omaha who have never been on a farm, never touched a plant or a chicken or have ever dug in the dirt. What the viewer also witnesses is how the teaching staff is able to incorporate a number of different subjects into the Urban Ag “classroom” experience. Beyond horticulture; biology, economics, anatomy and other collaborative disciplines are touched upon.
Omaha Bryan High School’s** Social Studies teacher Matt Pierson is one such example of a teacher making a difference and affecting young lives through Urban Ag. According to Matt, when the program was first introduced, he was afraid there would not be enough students interested in the subject but to his surprise, many were. Matt recalls on camera, “Well these kids are from the city, why are they going to want to do this?” Matt continues “They want something to be involved in and they want something different.” He continues, “The classroom is where everything starts, and then you take the classroom outside.”
For Bryan High School students the classroom consists of two raised planter beds and a chicken coop. For many of the students involved, the visual and tactile aspect to learning is right in front of them. They can touch, feel and witness with their own eyes how a plant grows once a seed is planted. A seed they themselves have tilled the soil for, placed in the ground, watered, nurtured and cared for. This simple act allows the students to see that vegetables, for example, do not just show up at the supermarket but in fact there is a process behind how the broccoli, or tomatoes or carrots are actually grown and produce…by people. This is real learning based on real engagement with the subject matter. It’s evident from the film that these young people are truly engaged and absolutely learning!
What’s also evident is the future of agriculture is not about overalls or cows and plows. It’s about Ag Tech which incorporates biology with agronomy, horticulture with computer science and economics with software applications. Think about the new Ag Tech which uses sensors and beacons and tablets. The new world of Ag Tech is coming and the young people of today will be the new farmers of tomorrow. Matt Pierson leaves the viewer with a salient thought “Public schools in Nebraska are willing to try. They’re willing to take that leap. It just shows that in public schools you can do just about anything.” From America’s heartland, where corn may be king but Ag Tech is awesome!
*For more information on Nebraska Loves Public Schools, a documentary project dedicated to supporting public education one film at a time, visit: nelovesps.org
**For more information on Omaha Bryan High School's Urban Agriculture Academy visit: bryan.ops.org