Seed to Stem News

Ag-focused academy planning underway in Newton

As school starts up this fall, a new kind of ag-focused educational program is taking shape in Newton, Kansas. The Newton High School Ag Career Academy will be planning for the 2018-2019 school year. Career and Technical Education Director Melinda Rangel said, “This is a planning year. We have been taking field trips, educating ourselves, working to align curriculum.” The team is working to infuse ag into the standards already being taught.

The Ag Career Academy will be housed in Newton High School. Students and parents will hear about the opportunity at this year’s open house and parent-teacher conferences, and they’ll be able to register for the program in February. Rangel would like to see 20 to 25 sophomores ready to go next fall.

As part of the planning and preparation, Rangel and several teachers attended the Kansas Corn Growers-sponsored Seed to STEM workshop. Lacie Fair, science teacher in the academy, is a Seed to STEM Lead Educator. Rangel said, “For me, the networking at Seed to STEM was awesome. I appreciate the opportunities and I’m excited about the partnerships that can develop from that. And the set of classroom supplies we received was great!”

Why ag? “Newton is just north of Wichita, so we’re close to a large city, but surrounded by ag. It’s a big industry in our area, providing lots of jobs,” said Rangel. Walton Rural Life Center in the district is a charter ag-based school for K through grade 4 that has had consistently high enrollment, indicating a community interest. Finally, Newton High School has good numbers in their ag program, and good partnerships have been established to provide resources, supplies, and guest speakers.

Rangel said the success of the program would be indicated by enlisting and maintaining a cohort in the program, as well as demonstrating student proficiency on state tests. “We want to be intentional about having a group that represents the total Newton High School population—kids that shine, kids that struggle, and everything in between.”