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Staff Blog: Buy a chicken, support innovative education

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Posted on June 20, 2011 | Blog Category:
By Ian Trombulak



Just two weeks from the July 6 slaughter date, participants in the "Chick to Plate" project at the Hannaford Career Center are becoming concerned that they won't be able to fulfill the "to plate" part of their project — in other words, that they won't find takers for all 150 or so chickens they have lovingly raised on the north campus of the HCC.

Even if you don't eat chicken, I urge you to buy one from Janice Bosworth's agribusiness class. They have been raised humanely from birth as part of a collaboration between Bosworth's Hannaford Career Center students and fifth graders from Mary Hogan.

Chicken is tasty. Any questions?

If so, check out the Chick-to-Plate story here, or in our Monday, June 20 print edition, to read all about the project!

So, if you don’t eat chicken, buy one as a gift for someone who does. If you don’t buy into the “eat local” school of thought, then at least consider supporting a unique and exciting project that makes you say, “now that’s what education is all about.” At $3.00/pound, you can’t afford not to.

There are so many great things about this project that it’s hard to keep track. First, Mary Hogan fifth graders spent a month incubating the eggs in their classrooms, using the opportunity to learn about everything from nutrition to puberty, the merits of eating local food to the science of actually making it happen. All the while, they were immersed in the excitement of having a “classroom pet” — or rather, 40 classroom pets — to keep them consistently engaged.

After the chicks hatched, they were moved to the Career Center, where agribusiness students have spent over a month learning first hand about the challenges of raising and selling meat birds for profit. Not by reading about it, or by simulating it, but by actually doing it. Any teacher — and most students, for that matter — will tell you that there is no better way to learn.

But the aspect of this project that really merits your unconditional support is its relevancy to the realities of life in Addison County.

During the Chicano Movement of the 1960s, tens of thousands of Latino high school students in Los Angeles walked out of school to protest the Euro-centric curriculum being taught in their History and English classes. That same racial inconsistency between curriculum and student population has been put forth as a theory for why inner-city African Americans continue to underachieve compared to their rural white counterparts to this very day.

The composition of Vermont schools is obviously more racially homogeneous than in many urban schools, but the idea of cultural consistency within the school curriculum is just as powerful. It took me awhile to realize that not all white students necessarily share the same cultural values — for example, the values, priorities, and goals of a child whose family owns and operates a farm may be vastly different from those of a child whose parents do just about anything else.

If you went to college after high school, you probably felt that most of what you learned in school had at least marginal relevance to your educational path. Imagine for a moment that instead of going to college, you knew from a young age that you would work on your parents’ farm after graduation — now how relevant is that knowledge? Now, imagine that you had the choice — college or farming — and you were on the fence. In what direction would the school curriculum have pushed you?

Of course, once students reach high school they can enroll at the Hannaford Career Center and learn a trade, but by that point their decision has often already been made. Teaching the importance and relevance of the farming industry from an early age can only be a positive influence on students — and all residents — in Addison County.

For students who live on farms, it will increase their engagement with school by making curriculum material more relevant to their daily life. Students who don’t live on farms will still benefit by learning more deeply about the factors and industries that have led to the vitality of Addison County. For residents of Addison County at large, it will lead more bright and able students to choose a career in farming, thus ensuring the continued strength of the industry that is so crucial to our county.

Without support from the community, the Chick-to-Plate project — despite its many brilliant successes — is in danger of being deemed a failure. All you have to do to avert that unfortunate outcome is go to www.hannafordcareercenter.org/news and order a chicken. Your satisfaction is guaranteed.

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