Green Education?

An interview with Sheila Fowler at the Chicago High School for Agricultural Sciences - 02/04/2014Been a while since I've had something interesting* for you, however, the Paganics crew (in the persons of the GTC co-authors), were invited to be part of the opening program of the 2014 Job Shadowing outreach of the Chicago High School for Agricultural Sciences (we were having a bunch of kids come down to learn about Vermiculture), with Ed speaking about the whole "green city" thing.

Frankly, CHSAS is a significant part of what makes Chicago special on that level, as they are a major Ag school, and the only one (that I've been able to find) between Pennsylvania and Minnesota. While the school's campus is on the outer edge of the City (at 111th & Pulaski), it's amazing to think that this is still a CPS school, most notably with its 73 acres of land, of which about half are under various types of cultivation. One might be tempted to think that this was a hold-over from some "more rural" era, but CHSAS was founding in the mid-80's (opening in 1985), so it's a new venture by the City.

Of course, Chicago is a major nexus of the Food Industry, and the CHSAS Advisory Board reads like a Who's Who of local food, agricultural, manufacturing, and tech companies. Many students get to do programs at these sponsors, and they're fast-tracked into the top Ag college programs around the country. CHSAS offers five "Pathways" in their curriculum: Animal Science, Agricultural Mechanics, Food Science, Horticulture/Landscape Design, and Agricultural Finance ... which pretty much covers the gamut of what somebody going into the Ag field would need to know!

Here's a bit of how they define themselves, from the website:

The Chicago High School for Agricultural Sciences was founded in 1985 with a unique idea and an ambitious mission – to create a college preparatory high school that prepares urban students for professions and careers in agriculture. Since then, CHSAS has captured national attention as the premier model for secondary agricultural education.

Our valued partners and friends in business, industry, higher education and government have been essential in guiding us along the way. From the laboratories and classrooms to the 39-acre farm, to the well-maintained athletic fields, our campus provides superior resources for our students, and in turn, we expect from our students their very best.

We got to take a tour of the facilities before the Assembly, and were shown a wide array of "stuff you'd never expect in a highschool" features ... a selection of which are in the video below. Again, because it's Winter, there were a lot of things they didn't have going (like their Farm Stand, which offers vegetables and baked goods weekday mornings during growing season), but there was everything from barn cats sitting on desks, to a rooster (who clammed up when I got the camera on him) that was adding an "out on the farm" soundtrack and trying to drown out the kids' presentations.

Afterwards we sat down with Sheila Fowler, the Agricultural Department Chair at CHSAS, to get some background on the school, and have her answer some of Ed's questions about their operation ...

As a life-time Downtown city boy, I am amazed at the fact that CHSAS exists here, but it certainly makes sense in terms of grooming future leaders of the Ag industry, and related fields. My Mom grew up in rural Nebraska, so I heard stories of the FFA (Future Farmers of America), but it was certainly odd to see hundreds of urban school kids running around wearing that organization's "colors" in shirts, jackets, patches, etc.! Yet, it's a very Chicago thing, afterall ... if you're the hub of the farm states, you might as well own it.

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* Wow ... sorry for the long gaps on posts to this blog! We've had various sets of complications, which have made what had been our "usual pattern" in here very difficult to keep up. Part of the problem is likely that we'd relied a lot on doing interviews from events for content, and it appears that from Thanksgiving to Valentine's is not a big time for "green" conferences, etc.!




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