Waterloo High School Adds Two Agriculture Electives This Fall
Agriculture has been a part of Robin Allen’s life for as long as she can remember.
“My dad had a John Deere dealership in the front yard and my uncle had a dairy farm in the back yard,” said Allen, who grew up in Washington County.
Allen, who is entering her third year as a science teacher at Waterloo High School, will share her passion for Agriculture Education by teaching two new electives this fall.
Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources, also known as AFNR, is geared mostly toward ninth and 10th graders and provides an overview of several topics, including plants, natural sciences, agricultural power, animals and careers.
The AgriScience course curriculum combines agriculture with science and will include lessons on growing plants and crops utilizing hydroponic towers for hands-on learning.
“I really like the Agriculture program because it takes what students have learned all through school and uses that knowledge to apply to everyday life,” said Allen, who taught Agriculture in Montana before returning to New York in 2020.
About 30 students have enrolled in the courses and Allen has also applied for – and received – $10,000 grants from the New York Agriculture Education Association each of the past three years.
The Mission Statement of the Waterloo Central District’s Strategic Plan states, “We put kids first every day. We support each student on a personalized journey to realize their goals. Our caring community develops learners and leaders.”
These new courses align with the Strategic Plan.
“We live in an area that is rich in agriculture and we believe that providing students with the ability to expand their knowledge of agriculture while in high school is beneficial,” said Jennifer Hayden, Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction. “Agriculture touches so many aspects of our daily lives and we hope that our students are able to learn more about agriculture while also learning to support our local businesses and exploring career opportunities that support local businesses in the agriculture industry.”
Allen said she is working towards making the courses “dual credit courses,” so students will have the opportunity to receive college credit. She also said interested students will have the potential to receive industry certifications such as a private pesticide applicator license.
“I always try to find something that kids can take with them beyond high school at the end of the class,” Allen said.
Unlike some agriculture programs in the past that may have had a narrow focus, Allen said these courses will contain topics of interest for everyone.
“In an ag program you want a diverse class full of students with different experiences,” Allen said. “We will be looking at the agriculture industry as a whole, not just production agriculture. I don’t want someone to say, ‘I don’t want to be a farmer, so I am not going to take that class.’”
Allen has also been instrumental in re-establishing an FFA chapter and the group received its national charter on June 21.
FFA is one of three main components to Agriculture Education, along with classroom teaching and Supervised Agriculture Experiences, and helps students develop their leadership skills.
“I think that the FFA part is the fun part because that is where you get to travel around the state and compete,” Allen said.
Allen said that she has proposals for four more courses ready and hopes to see more opportunities for students interested in Agriculture in the future.
“I can’t stop with one class,” she says. “I want a whole program.”