For our last school spotlight of the season, I wanted to shine light on East High School (KCMO) for their award-winning agriculture program! In 2015, science teachers Andrew Killen and Zac McCullough revitalized the program with the help of the East High students. This meant long hours of organizing greenhouses, classroom spaces, rebuilding garden beds and planting a mini orchard. East High’s program has grown to become the largest high school agricultural program in Western Missouri!
65 students enrolled in the program and were ready to learn about aquaponics, animal science, fruit tree maintenance, greenhouse management, and gardening. Recently, I had the opportunity to tour the facilities guided by 4 interns working on the urban farm this summer.
Summer interns: Christian, Nehya, Isabella, Ofelia
First, we stopped by the classrooms and met rabbits, Peanut and Thumper. Students share the responsibility for the health and well-being of the rabbits by observing their anatomy, behavior, reproduction, nutrition while troubleshooting any issues they might develop in their care.
We walked outside to meet the motley crew of farm animals that are taken care of in the Animal Science Program.
The interns all agreed that taking care of the baby goats are their favorite responsibility. Hands down.
Students also learned about square-foot gardening and crop rotation in the large garden plot built in collaboration with the Lincoln University Coop Extension. To celebrate the harvest, students made applesauce, cherry cobbler and sold salsa with the harvested jalapenos. The extra produce is sent home to student’s families and donated to North Kansas City’s YMCA food pantry.
I asked Christian about his experience on the farm and he explained the newfound joy for gardening. “Honestly, I would recommend the agricultural program to any classmate at East High. When I first started out I didn’t have any interests, but the agriculture program helped me realize that I really like working in the greenhouse. This kind of work is very peaceful to me.”
In the greenhouse, Nehya discussed the process of growing plants from seed to seedling as well as propagating tropical plants, cactus, and other flowers. All of which are then sold at East’s annual plant sale that is open to the public. All proceeds are filtered back into the agricultural program.
I was so glad to get the opportunity to learn more about East High School’s thriving program and I can’t wait to see what they do next!