School ag departments get $25,000 grant

MIFFLINTOWN – Technology in the classroom was once a unique privilege, but local teachers now say it’s essential to providing quality education.

The Juniata County School District agriculture departments at Juniata and East Juniata high schools recently received the America’s Farmers Grow Rural Education Grant for $25,000, sponsored by Monsanto. Jessica Morgan, grant writer and JHS agriculture teacher, said the money will be used to bring more technology into local agriculture classrooms.

“Many think that agriculture is just about planting corn and raising a beef animal, but that is not true,” she said. “Agriculture is a living science.”

Morgan said her students often see a crossover between their biology, science and agriculture classes.

Funding from the grant will provide the district with a classroom set of 30 Google Chromebooks for research and a set of five PASCO probes to measure water quality, pH, soil quality, photosynthesis and respiration.

“Having laptops in the program will allow students to be equipped with updated information,” Morgan explained.

She said textbooks typically are outdated by the time they are printed, especially in the agriculture industry. The new technology provides an opportunity for students to collaborate with others across the state, nation and world. Morgan said Juniata High School FFA has a strong relationship with Midd-West School District FFA, which currently has a one-to-one laptop program in their schools. Students at both JHS and East Juniata High School also may have the chance to communicate with students in South Korea, where Morgan and Cortney Booher, EJHS agriculture teacher, traveled to teach.

David Graybill, an alumni of EJHS and current dairy farmer in Mifflintown, nominated the county to receive the grant and other industry representatives followed his lead. Morgan said his involvement in the process was essential – eligible school districts must be nominated by a farmer in the county in order to qualify for the grant.

“I have a love for agriculture education,” Graybill said. “I enjoy watching agriculture grow.”

Graybill said Juniata County has a tremendous amount of agriculture production and generates large quantities of commodities each year.

“It’s great to help out,” he said, “and provide students with the tools they need.”s

Morgan said the district’s grant application first was reviewed by math and science teachers from ineligible school districts, then by the America’s Farmers Grow Rural Education Advisory Council. Juniata County was the only school district in Pennsylvania to receive the $25,000 grant, which is meant to enhance education in the areas of math and science.