By Rick Morwick
Soon, online students will have an opportunity to step away from the keyboard and literally get their backs into their education, thanks to the innovation of a new public charter school.
Created in September 2017 and launching July 30, the Indiana Agriculture and Technology School is a tuition-free school that combines online learning with hands-on lab projects on a real farm.
“Our primary goal is to directly address the existing workforce challenge in Indiana’s diverse agricultural economy by providing pathways to meaningful careers for our graduates,” said Allan Sutherlin, one of the school’s founders and CEO of Carmel-based Stakeholder International. “The case for creating a new school focused on agriculture and technology is supported by a growing demand for skilled workers from the local workforce.”
Authorized by the Nineveh Hensley Jackson United School Corp. in September 2017, IATS is open to Indiana residents in grades 7 through 12 and offers coursework for Core 40, Core 40 Honors and Core 40 Technical Honors diploma programs and AP opportunities.
In addition to online coursework, students have opportunities to perform lab work on a 600-plus acre farm in Morgan County. Some of the land is pasture, some is for crops and some is forested for studies in biosciences, information technology and environmental science, among other disciplines.
“The on-campus experience is an elective, immersive lab experience that is conducted over a nine-month period,” said Sutherlin, who serves as unpaid president of the school board. “Each month, students will have an age/grade-appropriate opportunity to learn from expert teachers in the areas of environmental management, soil and water conservation, forestry, wildlife management, food and nutrition science, wetland management, agribusiness and drone applications.”
Sutherlin said the idea behind the school is to prepare a skilled workforce to meet the future staffing needs of Indiana’s $32.2 billion annual agricultural contribution to the state’s economy. Agriculture supports more than 107,000 Indiana jobs.
“Agriculture and associated sciences are exceptional choices for offering opportunities to our youth,” Sutherlin said. “The decision to form the Indiana Agriculture and Technology School is a response to an emerging demand in a state that has unmet needs at the secondary school level for agriculture education in a 21st-century environment.”
For more or to register for the Indiana Agriculture & Technology School, visit indiana.ag.