Agriculture and Farm School

Agriculture-based schools provide students with farm know-how that complements their more general academic education.

| March/April 2017

  • Students attending an ag-based school enjoy the coursework and completing daily chores together.
    Photo courtesy The Farm School/Erik Jacobs
  • Students at the Walton Rural Life Center learn how to utilize compost for gardening.
    Photo by Diana West
  • Local farmers come to the Chicken Coop to teach students about livestock care and more.
    Photo courtesy The Farm School/Erik Jacobs
  • The Farm School also hosts students from other schools for extended visits.
    Photo courtesy The Farm School/Erik Jacobs

Going to school may feel like a chore for some children, but not for the students of the Walton Rural Life Center in Walton, Kansas. Each morning they come bouncing off the bus, don rubber boots and work gloves, and head to the barnyard behind the school’s building.

Students work in teams as they feed, water, and clean up after chickens, calves, pigs, goats, and sheep, all the while utilizing their math, science, and reading skills in the process. Rotating weekly, one grade performs barnyard tasks each morning. The children may not realize it, but this program has helped to keep the school open.

Back from the brink

Nine years ago, the school had less than 90 students and was facing closure. Since becoming an agricultural-themed charter school in 2007 — one of the first in the nation — enrollment has more than doubled with two classes of each grade, kindergarten through 4th grade.

Wyatt Monaghen, 10, who attended the school for five years, says his favorite chore was collecting eggs. He says some kids are afraid to reach under the hen to retrieve eggs. “I just went up and did it,” he says, adding that his family has chickens at home. His sister, Gillian, 7, also enjoys gathering eggs and cleaning the cow pen.

Their father, Sean, a high school teacher, says, “Even after school was out for the summer, both kids were excited to attend a morning ag camp there for two weeks.”

Agriculture doesn’t just stay in the barnyard. It’s presented in every classroom and activity. In science class, first-grade students watch a video called “The Needs of Animals and sing along as they learn that every animal needs water, food, and shelter.

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