By Anne Laufe
For the Hollywood Star News
Just off Northeast 82nd Avenue, on a patch of land tucked between the red brick building and the football field, the Madison High School garden has taken root.
As summer draws to a close, the 1,500-square-foot plot is overflowing with every kind of vegetable imaginable, from beets to zucchini, along with showy cutting flowers such as sunflower and zinnia. Fruit trees laden with pears, apples, peaches and figs provide partial shade from the mid-day sun.
Under the guidance of garden coordinator Susan Wiencke, Madison students enrolled in a sustainable agriculture class planted the annuals last spring, and others participating in a summer internship tended and harvested them throughout the growing season. The summer interns also sold produce at the Cully Community Market and through a new online service, the Neighbor Market Project.
Building on the overwhelming success of the garden, Madison is launching a new career technical education (CTE) program in sustainable agriculture this fall, with Wiencke teaching two classes and spending less time as garden coordinator.
Career technical education programs aim to expose students to various career opportunities and involve them in real-world experiences to help them figure out what they’re interested in. Madison’s sustainable agriculture program joins other CTE programs in the district, including building construction and electrical engineering at Benson High School, digital media and design production at Wilson High School, and the existing health services program at Madison.
The sustainable agriculture program consists of two classes: Introduction to Sustainable Agriculture, which Wiencke co-taught in the past; and a new class, Urban Farming.
Wiencke describes the Intro class, as “a broad overview of various gardening and urban-farming techniques. It’s a hybrid between a practical gardening class and a science-based curriculum.”
In addition to studying botany and conducting experiments, students will learn how to build a compost pile and prepare a garden bed. Wiencke also will weave in food system curriculum, including study of local, organic, sustainable and conventional food production and the social issues involved.
In the Urban Farming class, students will learn how to propagate plants through both sexual and asexual methods. They will start seeds indoors and out, learn different grafting techniques and start new plants from cuttings. Students will also study marketing, branding and basic business skills as they prepare for a culminating plant sale in May.
Wiencke, who also owns a landscaping business, brings many years of industry experience to her new role as teacher. Because she is certified as a CTE teacher and not as a science teacher, students cannot earn science credit for the classes she teaches.
They can, however, earn college credits from Clackamas Community College, because the high school classes are aligned with the community college’s horticulture classes. Students can earn 6 college credits for the Introduction to Sustainable Agriculture class and 4 college credits for the Urban Farming class.
Madison principal Petra Callin is excited about the new program and hopes that students in all grades will take advantage of the opportunity to learn more about science, gardening, and how to run a business.
“In these kinds of programs, kids are really doing the stuff that people are doing out in the world of work. They’re visiting farms, growing their own food and working on marketing and selling their own product. It gives them a lot of real practical experience,” says Callin.