State Of The Ag: Top officials tour SHS Pathway

Strathmore High School hosted two state representatives on campus Friday and toured them around the Strathmore Technical Agriculture Research Center to help them gain a better understanding of the Porterville Unified School District’s Ag Pathway program and what type of learning works best for the students.

PUSD was contacted by the California Labor and Workforce Development Department who requested a closer look into PUSD’s agriculture-based learning pathway. Stewart Knox, Secretary of California Labor and Workforce Development, and Derek Kirk, Assistant Deputy Secretary of Climate Economy and a graduate of the first Harmony Magnet Academy Engineering Academy class, were led around Strathmore High’s expanding farm and were given an inside look at the learning that happens in the classrooms as well. Dee Dee Myers, Director of Business and Economic Development (GoBiz), was slated to be among the distinguished guests, but a last-minute emergency called her away.

Myers served as the White House press secretary for President Bill Clinton.

Knox and Kirk were greeted by a team of five students who led the tours and spoke personally about the advantages learning in a PUSD Pathway has given them. Fernanda Cardenas, Brenda Valdovinos, Alexandra Marin, Diego Ramirez, and Jayden Thomas were the students who led the tours for Knox and Kirk, explaining the technology and equipment the school uses within its Ag program.

“It's a good opportunity for students to have and pick up skills they can use outside,” said Cardenas.

The visit from Knox and Kirk wasn't unwarranted as they were at SHS to expand their knowledge of potential ways the state can focus on providing more quality education while starting to brainstorm for the next state master plan in education. One advantage of touring SHS is the technology the school possesses and the hands-on experiences the students receive outside of the classroom walls.

Thomas, a senior at SHS, shared a lot of his knowledge on the school’s CropBox and hydroponics systems. Thomas opened the CropBox door to reveal lettuce growing under lights that simulate the sun’s rays. He invited Knox and Kirk into the box to take a closer look before ushering them into the greenhouse where the students have created a complex hydroponics system. With the use of live fish, SHS students have built a system that uses the fish’s waste to deliver nutrients to their plants through a water line that also recycles all of the water used to nourish the plants. The system feeds a steady flow of nutrient-packed water to plants whose roots float freely.

John Corkins, someone who has had a long history in the local ag industry and sits on a PUSD advisory board, explained the Pathways programs create opportunities for students to get a decent education while focused on a topic that truly interests them. As Knox and Kirk explored one of the Ag learning lab classrooms, Corkins talked about the benefits of learning in a Pathways program.

“I think our objective here is to make sure we prepare them so when they leave high school they have a chance to succeed,” said Corkins. “That's all we can do is prepare them to go out. They want to go to college, they want to go directly to the workforce, or want to go get a Career Technical Education somewhere which is great and they should. So I think that's the biggest thing with the Pathways is to prepare them to be successful and give them the basic skills they need.”

Knox, who will take his newly acquired knowledge and share it with his colleagues, said he was rather impressed with the showing from the students and was encouraged by their accessibility, public speaking, and general program knowledge.

“Public relations are so important to the worker, especially in agriculture, to explain to others this is how this works and let's not bulldoze over the land but use it for something else,” said Knox. “Let's actually use it for food production. That's always a better thing. I just appreciate the students and all their work. It's amazing.” Source: Porterville Recorder