Aquaculture in Public Schools

Farm living requires far greater cultivation
By Erin Elaine Mosely
Montgomery Advertiser

WETUMPKA -- Agriculture classes are part of the fabric of America, a nation built on farming and producing raw goods. But over the years, agriculture classes in high schools have given way to new studies collectively known as agriscience.

"It's not teaching cows, plows and saddles," said Jacob Davis, executive secretary for the Alabama Future Farmers Association. "It's teaching the concept of forestry management or aquaculture and how to manage a fish pond or fishery."

Growing up in a small town doesn't necessarily mean kids know about agriculture.

"A lot of kids don't grow up around animals, so (learning about agriscience) opens their eyes to something different," said Michael Hutto, an agriscience teacher at Wetumpka High School.

Billingsley High School will open a 1,500-square-foot aquatic center this summer. It will be one of only two schools in the tri-county area and one of just 40 in the state with facilities to raise fish.

Teacher Clayton Spencer said the new aquatic center, which will house tanks for raising tilapia, isn't just for agriscience students.

"Every part of the curriculum can use it -- math, science, social studies and English," he said.

"You can teach math because it's hands-on. You can take fish out and weigh them on Monday and take them out and weigh them again a week later. You see the percentage of weight increase. That's not just numbers in a book."

Joe Brown, a teacher at Wetumpka High School, said the curriculum and demographics have varied since he started teaching 30 years ago.

"We have changed an awful lot," Brown said. "Horticulture still has a lot of interest here, but our program has diversified. We have building construction, animal science, floral design, aquaculture and fish and wildlife."

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