The agriculture education department at Waupaca High School was named Wisconsin’s Outstanding Agricultural Education Program.
Waupaca ag teachers Jenifer Erb and Renè Lehman were recognized at the annual Wisconsin Association of Agricultural Educators Conference, June 27-30, in Green Bay.
Erb said an average of 245 students take 15 ag science classes at Waupaca High School. She noted the program receives extensive support from the community, alumni and the school district.
The department consists of one classroom filled with computers, a second classroom with a flow hood and kitchen area, an animal exploration lab, a headhouse and a 30-foot by 60-foot greenhouse.
The ag courses taught at Waupaca High School include introductory-level classes, forestry, taxidermy, entrepreneurship, biotechnology, floriculture and hydroponics, greenhouse operations, aquaculture and wildlife, large and small animal care, vet care and food processing.
Over the years, Waupaca students have earned transcripted credits with Fox Valley Technical College for courses in greenhouse management and gardening, landscape and floral design, ecology and outdoor management, natural resources and outdoor recreation.
“The foundation of our teaching philosophy revolves around serving the needs of all high school students within the walls of the classroom and throughout the community,” Erb said. “Our main goal is to provide students with the knowledge, skills and competencies to successfully transition into the workforce or postsecondary education with ease. It is vital to provide students with a comprehensive education, which will enable students to lead satisfying lives as lifelong learners and productive citizens.”
Erb and Lehman seek to provide both academic learning and real-world scenarios in an atmosphere that encourages students to be creative, explore careers, investigate agricultural concepts and expand personal growth.
The curriculum is based on Wisconsin agriculture education state standards, while integrating math, science, social studies and communication skills into the program.
Lehman and Erb have developed a program that encourages FFA members and entrepreneurship students to make management decisions and work at Comet Central, a school store cooperative owned and operated by the agriculture education department.
Horticulture students are responsible for all facets of the six greenhouses and floral shop. Students select seed and plugs; propagate, display and market 32,000 bedding plants; and create corsages, seasonal arrangements, holiday wreaths and homecoming court flowers.
They use computers to design landscape plans and construct models to scale, and build bridges, trails and birdhouses. The students also work in the Animal Exploration Lab, where they monitor births, administer medications, groom, feed, train and exhibit large and small animals, as well as observe animal surgeries and learn to assess animal health.
Waupaca ag students learn to process brats, beef jerky, salsa, cheese, butter, ice cream, yogurt, soda and dried fruits and vegetables. They must complete a 45-day market research project that includes product revisions, consumer surveys, promotional activities and cold sales. As part of the class, they invest money into a selected product and earn the net profit.
Other ag class projects include the biological control of purple loosestrife, cloning plants, performing electrophoresis and DNA extractions. Students learn about genetic engineering and food biotechnology, construct hydroponic and aeroponic units, perform plant micropropagation, complete horticultural grants, and construct and design landscape stones.
Among Waupaca FFA member’s accomplishments have been 177 Wisconsin FFA degrees, 22 Wisconsin Star finalists, three Star American Degree finalists, three Wisconsin FFA officers, 102 American degrees, 39 state speaking contestants, seven years as a Model of Innovation finalist, 38 state proficiency winners, 298 Wisconsin gold proficiency winners, 14 national proficiency finalists, four national proficiency winners, one national agriscience student finalist, three national Star finalists, one national Star in Agriscience winner and one Million Hour Challenge national winner.