Jan 10, 2023
Kansas school system to build vertical gardens

Public schools in Washington, Kansas, are participating in a project constructing vertical gardens.

A $150,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institutes of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) is funding a pilot education program in Washington County in north-central Kansas. The Career Awareness for Rural Agricultural Sciences Through Tower Gardening, or Project CARAT, will pilot the use of a vertical gardening curriculum to teach a range of agricultural sciences career-related skills to high school students.

USD 108 Washington County Schools is the pilot location for the project. While Project CARAT is beginning in a rural school district, researchers state they are planning to share the curriculum online, making it available to any school, according to a news release. Following the pilot program’s completion, researchers will offer professional development through telepresence or in-person for schools interested in implementing the curriculum as soon as fall 2023, according to the release.

The Rural Education Center in Kansas State University’s College of Education and the center’s Rural Professional Development Schools Network are participating.

“This project directly supports the foundation’s mission of connecting classrooms to Kansas agriculture by developing resources for educators that incorporate agricultural concepts into core curriculum using experiential learning,” Nancy Zenger-Beneda, the project’s lead principal investigator and executive director of the Kansas Foundation for Agriculture in the Classroom, a K-State affiliate.

“These resources will lighten the burden of lesson planning for educators while providing high-quality learning for students in our rural schools and others interested in educating youth about agriculture.”

Debbie Mercer, dean of the College of Education, believes there is power in unifying strengths.

“What’s so effective about Project CARAT is that it will amplify the results of the otherwise siloed efforts of our organizations, and by working together, this program will introduce and entice students to consider careers in these much-needed fields,” Mercer said in the release. “This project will support rural secondary teachers who are on the front line of students making decisions about their majors.”

The rural education center agriculture in the classroom received the grants to attract students to degrees in agriculture and food science. The NIFA funding originates via the Secondary Education, Two-Year Postsecondary Education and Agriculture in the K-12 Classroom Challenge Grants Program.


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