ASAS brings agriculture to city kids
By Madeline McCurry-Schmidt / ASAS Communications
John Bowne High School is the only New York City public school with row crops and a farm lab.
You can hear clucking chickens, along with honking cars. You can spot shiny vegetables, next to gleaming skyscrapers.
Every morning, students head to the Queens campus for agriculture and animal science classes. Students in the honors animal science tract devote their senior year to research methodology and experiment design.
For these city kids, the American Society of Animal Science publication Journal of Animal Science offers a window into agricultural research. Students learn how scientists improve animal health, well being and food safety. Studying the Journal of Animal Science has even helped John Bowne students earn recognition from the FFA.
“They see that what they are doing is real-world stuff,” said Steve Perry, assistant principal of agriculture at John Bowne. “It’s an invaluable tool.”
At the beginning of the school year, Deby Gottfried, an animal science teacher, picks a Journal of Animal Science paper to “dissect” with her class. Students learn about the parts of a scientific paper and study animal science vocabulary. Gottfried then asks students to use resources in the Journal of Animal Science and Animal Frontiers to write their own research papers.
Starting this year, Gottfried’s students entered their research papers in the New York State FFA Agriscience Competition. Perry said watching the students prepare for the competition was like watching graduate students prepare their theses.
“The kids really rose to the occasion,” Perry said.
Gottfried’s students won in every category they entered. In the fall, the winners will travel to Louisville for the competition at the National FFA Convention. The American Society of Animal Science and AnimalSmart.org will help fund their travel. Several student papers will also be published on AnimalSmart.org.
Gottfried said all of her animal science students will go on to college next year. About 85 percent of her students plan to major in animal science. Gottfried said she has students who want to be geneticists and dairy scientists. Some students lean toward careers in businesses like landscaping, which requires knowledge of plant science.
“They have an idea of problems in the industry,” said Gottfried. “It opens up new jobs for them.”