Thorp School plans to incorporate sustainable farming into it curriculum sometime next school year by utilizing an empty two-acre plot of land on school grounds.

Thorp Superintendent Andrew Perkins said although Kittitas County is an agriculturally driven county, he believes there are still many students who don’t experience farming hands-on or don’t make the connection of where crops come from, which he believes is a missed opportunity.

Perkins said incorporating the soil into the curriculum has many benefits for student learning, that learning how to farm encompasses real-world aspects like hard work and patience, but Perkins said a bigger component of the farm is to teach students it’s OK to fail.

Perkins said he wants to let students be in charge and learn through trial and error what crops are more insect prone and what attracts beneficial insects like bees or ladybugs.

“What I don’t want is to have adults planning this out, I would jump right in and know exactly what we need to do,” Perkins said. “That’s not the purpose of education. I want the kids to design and model what crops we’re going to grow and have the adults step back and let them fail.”

Perkins said it’s going to be a two-pronged effort to put a small farm in with a greenhouse, and then have the students build a small micro-greenhouse to grow food that will later be sold back to the community and use that money and recapitalize.

“I really want them to understand our modern economy,” Perkins said. “I think most Americans don’t know is there’s this filtering process for food that they don’t see and so when they walk in, they expect perfection.”

Perkins wants to also show his students that it’s not easy to grow to produce, that something as simple as a tomato with a little scab or a cherry with a little breakage from rain doesn’t make it to the market.

According to Perkins, when it comes to the farm, what jobs the students are assigned will be grade specific. Seventh- and eighth-grade students will be focused on the architecture and construction of farming and learning basic woodworking skills, while nine through 12th-grade students are primarily working with agriculture technology and power concepts.

“We do have a lot of complex theoretical ideas and I think we have too many of them,” Perkins said. “I want them to have a complex, practical application, and have them struggle through it together.”

Thorp is also partnering with Central Washington University and their farm-to-school project that is up and running east of Campus. CWU will play as an advisory role with students and staff hosting field trips at both sites and acting as a positive model for the students.

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