Crops on campus

“I’ve always wondered why they had corn here.” Now it’s clear to the students in Chuck Crawford’s AP Environmental Science class: The soybean and corn patch at Dublin Jerome High School is part of their studies. Crawford has attended agriculture education workshops for the past three summers, leading him to incorporate ag science into his classes. “Because of the Ag Biotech Academy and the GrowNextGen website, my knowledge has grown exponentially,” said Crawford. “Everything that we’re learning about has a real-life application to the agriculture industry.” The students are in a suburban school where agriculture opportunities are not normal dinner-table conversation topics.

Last year’s students planted the demonstration plot in the spring with the help of Dupont PIoneer’s Rebekah Peck. Peck and the field support staff gave technical assistance regarding specific cultivars of soybeans and field corn, used for things like livestock feed, ethanol and corn syrup. The class planted five cultivars of corn and several types of soybeans, with a goal of understanding yield potential based on genetic makeup. Crawford monitored the plot over the summer. Although deer ate the soybeans, the corn plants did well. This spring, he says, students will work on experimental plots to see the effects of seed planting depth and fertilizers on soybeans and corn.

The students harvested in October, finding the ear’s diameter, counting rows and kernels and weighing the yield. Student teams will use their information to create large data sets, then process the data and see what they can learn from it. They’ll learn about calculations, market prices and futures markets. Then they’ll go on to extract protein and do protein analysis before making ethanol. Crawford said, “They see the commodity from time of planting through to its final use.”

Student Gunther Beall said he’s not sure what career he’s interested in, but this activity has increased his interest in the field of agriculture. “This class takes what we’ve learned in other science classes, as well as some history and economics, and applies it to the real world,” Beall said.