Rocky View Schools (RVS) will not be renewing its “The Farm” educational program for the 2023-24 school year, the division confirmed on June 6.
The alternative education program, which launched in the 2019-20 school year, provided 40 RVS students a year in grades 9 to 11 the opportunity to learn about agriculture in a hands-on environment and explore a variety of farming practices throughout the school year.
According to statement released by RVS to the Airdrie City View, the division no longer feels the program can meet the educational needs of its students in its current form and capacity.
“RVS considers many factors when making decisions on optional programming, such as student needs, enrolment numbers, government funding, space and facilities available, special resource requirements, staffing, costs and others,” the statement reads. “RVS appreciates the opportunity we have had to explore a new educational offering for students on the property. We are taking this time to explore the needs of our students across the division more broadly to consider what a new program might include in the future.”
The Farm was operating on a 15-acre plot of land, roughly three kilometres north of Airdrie on 24 Street/Range Road 12. Daily classes took place in two portable classrooms.
But in addition to their classroom learning, students enrolled at The Farm helped build a variety of farm-related infrastructure on the site, including a storage shed, a chicken coop and pens for the program’s small herds of goats and pigs.
In tandem with core subjects like math, social studies and science, students learned how to operate a farm, including daily chores like milking goats or gathering chicken eggs. The students also learned how to grow their own produce using indoor lamps.
“Students in Grade 9 and 10 achieved curricular outcomes through study and experiences on a small farm just outside of Airdrie,” the statement from RVS goes on to read. “Students explored agriculture through environmental research projects, tended to small livestock and engaged in vegetable and grain production.
“Supported by community partners and teachers, students gained an understanding of how to operate, manage and market farm products, and an appreciation for the environmental impact and economic and social sustainability of agriculture.”
The program also included field trips to farms and ranches throughout south-central Alberta, as well as tours of agricultural facilities like feedlots, processing facilities, and visits to educational institutions which specialize in agriculture such as Olds College and the University of Alberta.
—With files from Scott Strasser