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Cultivating Nik’s Future

Pea Ridge, AR, students begin weighing career options, opportunities early in STEM

Published November 26, 2018

Additional Pea Ridge (AR) Public Schools articles:

PEA RIDGE, AR – Cultivating Our Future, a STEM Expedition® about agricultural food production and sustainable farming, could just as well be titled Cultivating Nik’s Future. An eighth grader at Pea Ridge Middle School, Nik had been exploring the Expedition for only about a week yet was already observing three- to four-inch growth in radishes he and his partner planted in a hanging glove garden.

Nik is fully engaged and excited not only because he enjoys learning in a hands-on manner but also because he wants to be a farmer. The Pitsco Education STEM Expeditions are Nik’s first experience in the school district’s new Pea Ridge Exploration of Pathways (PREP) program, which is designed to lead into the Pea Ridge Manufacturing and Business Academy (PRMBA) at the nearby high school. Based on his natural interests and the content-rich Expedition he was exploring, Nik is considering going down an agriculture-, science-, or engineering-focused pathway at the high school.

For now, though, he is totally immersed in Cultivating Our Future. He and his family raise chickens and ducks on their 20-acre farm, and his dad has discussed with him the risks and benefits of going into farming as a career. Perhaps those factors explain why Nik can vividly recall details of what he’s learned in just five class periods working at the Expedition.

He’s already learned about differences in seeds, pesticides, optimal growing conditions, germination, and sustainability. But that’s not all – integration of core subject areas makes the STEM lab the most future-relevant and practical class on Nik’s schedule.

“I’m at the point right now where we are starting to design a farm, and math and science are a huge part,” he said. “Science is in all the biotechnology and things, and math is about what kind of crops you want to grow because not only does each crop make a different income, it also has a different cost to plant.”

“The units have a really heavy engineering focus. My kindergartners build animal homes. My second graders build park rides. Right now, my second graders are building containers to protect four cookies and give them as a gift. . . . I really love that at the K-2 level, the kids get to think and create and engineer stuff.”

– Debra Rouse, K-6 STEM specialist, North Cedar Community School District, Lowden, Iowa

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