The Lenawee Intermediate School District (LISD) hosts three programs at the Center for a Sustainable Future (CSF) in Adrian, Michigan. This campus is part of the LISD TECH Center, a Career and Technical Education school for eleventh and twelfth grade students in Lenawee County. The CSF campus is Michigan’s first net-zero energy, LEED Platinum Certified school that is continually helping students prepare for college and careers. Programs offered at CSF are Agri-Tech, Natural Resources, and Horticulture. The instructors of these programs are constantly in contact with their advisory boards, which are made up of local agriculture professionals, to ensure that curriculum is aligned with real-world agricultural issues. Instructors also have great relationships with area colleges and universities, allowing them to stay connected and prepare their students for their futures.
Students enrolled in any of the three programs through the LISD TECH Center at CSF have an opportunity to learn about environmental science and sustainability practices through hands-on activities, projects, and on-site work. Some activities that the students participate in include soil sampling, creating water filter strips, variable rate technology, and water quality testing.
Work with soil sampling is done on the 75 acre CSF campus where students are able to use grid sampling techniques and test their results for organic matter content and nutrients. This process exposes students to careers in agronomy, soil science and biology, and crop and environmental consulting. Students are also introduced to work with the Michigan State University Extension and the Soil Conservation District through the installation of water filter strips, which are agricultural run-off buffer strips that are created to mitigate the effects of agriculture residue run-off.
Variable rate technology is taught in collaboration with local farmers as a part of program curriculum. This process allows producers to vary the rate of crop inputs so that they apply products only where they are needed in the field. Community members partner with the Agri-Tech program to provide the equipment needed to complete these tests in the campus’s fields. The benefits of cover crops in managing soil erosion, suppressing weeds, and improving soil fertility are also studied at CSF.
Another great example of students conducting field tests on-site is through water quality testing. With the use of high-tech water quality testing equipment, students are able to go through the whole process and gain valuable hands-on experience. Through these experiments, students are able to test and correctly identify good or bad water quality indicators, putting them a step ahead in the next stage of their life, either in a college or career setting.
Other ways students are being prepared for college and careers are through learning about animal husbandry, composting, indoor water gardens, and going through the MAEAP (Michigan Agricultural Environmental Assurance Program) Verification process. Several MAEAP technicians for Lenawee County have visited the program over the past two years and students worked with these technicians to review information on obtaining the verification. This included getting soil samples and creating buffer strips or conservation strips. Whether they are in the fields, forest, barn, greenhouse, or classroom, students enrolled in the programs at CSF are getting valuable learning experiences that will benefit them in their college or career goals and set them steps ahead of students not attending LISD TECH Center programs.
Besides working toward their future in program curriculum, students involved with Agri-Tech, Natural Resources, and Horticulture also have an opportunity to participate in the intra-curricular student organization, the National FFA Organization (FFA). FFA’s mission statement, “FFA makes a positive difference in the lives of students by developing their potential for premier leadership, personal growth, and career success through agricultural education” speaks volumes to what the organization does for Lenawee County students. Through their work in FFA, students gain immeasurable leadership experience that will greatly benefit them in college and careers, no matter which field of study they choose. Being involved in FFA teaches students about agriculture and the skills needed for agricultural careers, as well as important life skills. Students learn how to identify and solve agricultural issues while forming relationships with like-minded peers at competitions and in the classroom. They also gain non-career specific skills in areas such as leadership and effective communication. Since FFA is taught in each of the three programs at CSF, all students who attend are members of the organization. Professionalism and communication are important attributes that a student takes away from being in FFA and can transfer to either their college experience or career choice to be successful.
All of the practices that are used and tied into the curriculum at CSF can be utilized on campuses around the nation, no matter the size. At LISD, students and instructors are lucky to have such a large, well equipped campus to execute all testing on-site, improving education for students daily. Being connected with advisory board members, colleges, and universities helps keep practices up-to-date and relevant, bringing the best curriculum possible to students at CSF. Students are being prepared not only to succeed in high school programs through the LISD TECH Center, but also are taught important lessons and skills that will help them excel in the next stage of their life, whether it be college studies or going directly into a career.
About the Authors
Emma Brooks graduated from Adrian College in 2013 and grew up in Onsted, Michigan. She received her Bachelor of Arts in Communication Arts, focused on Public Relations. Emma currently is the Marketing Manager for the LISD TECH Center and has held this position for 3 years.
Johanna Lentz grew up in Britton, Michigan, living on a small family farm with greenhouse crops, vegetables, and 4-H animals. She received her Bachelor of Science in Horticulture with a concentration on Landscape Design and a specialization in Environmental Science.
Casey Muck, a graduate of Michigan State University, grew up on a cash crop and livestock farm in Shiawassee County, Michigan. She currently co-owns/operates a cash crop and livestock farm with her husband in Lenawee County. She has over twenty-five years experience in FFA including serving on two FFA State Council Boards. Casey began her career at the LISD TECH Center as the Teaching Assistant in Agri-Tech.