AgVentures with Bakersfield College

This blog post is authored by Salvadore Cruz, a communication students at BC and now interning with us.  Let’s hear from Salvadore:

During the first two weeks of July, the Bakersfield College Agriculture Department
held its first “Ag Ventures Summer Agriculture Education Camp” in collaboration with
Central-Valley-based Paramount Farms.

07 - Ono does the quotGangnam Style Dancequot

Lindsey Ono

The Paramount Farming Company has a notable history of supporting education
in the Central Valley. In 2009 it partly founded the “Paramount Academy”, a Grades 6
through 12 charter school in Delano, CA with a nine-hour school day. They also operate
“Paramount Education Programs” (PEP), which grants funding and assistance to
traditional high schools to operate their own “Ag Academies”, as Wasco and McFarland
High School have done.

Starting this incoming year, students at these high schools’ Ag academies will have
the option to participate in “dual-enrollment” courses in Agriculture, which will be taught by
college faculty. As a result, when a student completes one of these courses they will
get both high school and college credit— at no extra cost to the student’s family. All this
is thanks to the new partnership with Bakersfield College. “They had done academies
with high school and industry focus, but not with the college presence as well,” says BC
Ag professor and camp administrator Chris McCraw, “So we’ve really taken that concept
up a significant level.”

12 - Prof McCraw and student mentors

Chris McCraw

By introducing students to college education earlier, we hope that they will
be better prepared when the time comes to attend college full-time.  “If a student at
Paramount Academy, which offers the most time follows the coursework at the rigor it’s
been outlined throughout their four years of high school, they could leave school with
their A.S. in Ag Business done,” said Chris, “Even at one of the other schools,
AgVentures where a student may not get as much time, they could graduate and start at BC with
only one semester to go.”

In anticipation, Paramount and Bakersfield College held the Ag Ventures camp to
introduce 8th grade students to Agriculture, and perhaps spark an interest in joining the
academy program when they enter high school. “We were asked to work with the 8th
graders to teach them about Agriculture and expand their horizons— it’s not all raising
animals and growing crops,” McCraw explains, “There’s a lot of high end stuff:
technology, science, research; So we’re trying to help paint that picture for them.”

Over 100 8th-Grade students from Delano, Wasco, McFarland, and the
surrounding rural communities attended one of the two sessions, which were each a
week long. The students were picked up in their respective communities on buses and
taken to California State University Bakersfield. The program aimed to give students the
most realistic and immersive ‘College experience’ possible, so they spent their nights in
CSUB’s dorms, attended lectures in BC classrooms, and ate in both campuses’
cafeterias. In doing so, the program hopes to clear some of the “mystery” of higher
education, and help the students feel more familiar with the idea of college and more
confident when the time comes to attend.

These kids had a hectic schedule: Students woke up at 6:45 AM,
showered, had breakfast, and left to the BC campus at 8:00 AM. From 9:00 AM to 12:00
PM, the students would break up into three groups and cycle between three different
classes, demonstrations, or team building exercises. Lunch was from 12 to 12:45, after
which the students would listen to Ag Industry guest speakers from Paramount Farms
from 1 to 3. After a quick nutrition break, students would again break into three groups
AgVentures and cycle between sessions until 5:30 PM. After this, the students would usually get a
few hours of recreation after returning to CSUB. One of the nights, however, they all
went out for bowling (a few kids mentioned that it was their first time ever bowling!)
Another, they got to use the rock-climbing wall at CSUB, which was another brand new
experience for many of the students! The biggest deviation from the regular schedule
was on Thursday, however, when the students spent the whole morning and afternoon
touring one of Paramount Farms facilities in Lost Hills, where they got to observe firsthand
the many real-life jobs that are available in the world of Agriculture.

I got to personally observe one of the morning classroom sessions: “Ag
Marketing”, taught by Professor and Ag Department Chair Lindsay Ono. By its title, I
was originally expecting a lecture on the different strategies used by Ag businesses in
successfully marketing their products. However, what happened was much more handson,
engaging, and fun!

Professor Ono started the class off with a slide show, just as I had expected. He
went over what marketing was, and how important it was for Ag businesses to utilize it
correctly to sell their products. He showed the students a couple of ads for Wonderful
Pistachios, which is one of Paramount Farm’s main products. He showed the students a
commercial for the pistachios, featuring Korean pop artist PSY’s dancing to his hit single
“Gangnam Style” along with a group of human-sized pistachio suits. The kids
immediately perked up, recognizing the song. This is when things started getting
interesting: Professor Ono proceeded to mimic the famous “Gangnam Style” dance,
hopping up and down feigning holding the reigns to a horse, and then twirling is hand
above his head. The classroom erupted in excitement, with students laughing and
AgVentures clapping their hands. I remembered, then, something Professor McCraw had mentioned
to me earlier. “They are full of energy, and one of the things we recognized is that we
need to have a different approach than we’re used to with adults in order to engage
them.”

After finishing up his brief presentation, the “Mentors” (Bakersfield College
students from McCraw’s Ag Leadership class) assigned to the group passed out little
paper cups and packs of almonds to the groups of students. He explained that one of
the most important parts of marketing foods was coming up with the best combinations
of flavor and appearance. They then passed out bags with different powders in them,
and the students took turns applying and trying out the different flavors on their
almonds. The room was again abound with enthusiasm and excitement, as students
tried flavors with differing reactions. Some liked what they tasted, but others let out an
“Ew!” or a “What is that??”. Overall, the students really seemed to respond positively to
the hands-on experience, each wanting to try the good and not-so-good flavors. I could
see exactly what Professor McCraw meant about engaging young students, and it was
working swimmingly! Students may not have left the classroom knowing the definitions
of different marketing terms, but they experienced first-hand what marketing was really
about— something that, no doubt, resonated much more with them than any number of
notes could have.

After the class was over, it was lunch time, and I got to spend a little time with a
group of boys from Wasco and McFarland. All smiles, they expressed to me how much
fun the camp had been for them, and how much they enjoyed the experience. The
group told me about a specific activity they were involved in, where they used a tool to
AgVentures make a small hole into a tree and pull out a stick, which then allows them to count the
number of rings in the tree and gauge their age. They couldn’t wait to pull the stick out
of one of their backpacks and show it off to me. One student, Abraham, mentioned how
he had wanted to study Engineering, because he had been around cars and motors his
entire life. After a Water Engineer came and spoke to them and showed them all the
many different applications engineering had besides actual engines, Abraham said he
was more excited about getting to college and learning all the different aspects and
possibilities of Engineering.

It was in this conversation where the idea of the camp, and the overall Ag
academy program, really came to life for me— to spark in young students a sincere
passion for learning and discovery. To show them that school isn’t just about getting
qualified for a job to earn a paycheck, but about exploring new ideas that excite and
inspire them.

One thought on “AgVentures with Bakersfield College

  1. […] Read the full article at Edsource.org and check out this post on my blog featuring the Ag Ventures Camp at Bakersfield College! […]

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