Service Valley Charter Academy

(Sam) Welcome to a special That’s My Farm, I am your guest host Sam Capoun and today we take a tour of Service Valley Charter Academy in Parsons, Kansas, and see how they are bringing agriculture inside and outside of their classrooms.Closed Captioning Brought to you by Ag Promo Source. Together we grow. Learn more at

(Sam) Welcome back to That’s My Farm. Now let’s go to Ray Huff as he takes us around the campus. (Ray) My name’s Ray Huff. I’m the principal at Service Valley. Behind me we have our cattle that we have on our school campus. The kids are required to take care of these animals every day. We actually had a great learning experience with these cows this past fall and winter. We purchased these cows knowing that they were bred, and so our goal was to actually have kids experience a live birth. The red cow that you see over here, number 49, she actually went into labor and was having some difficulty and we had to call the vet out. We brought the cow into the barn and we also brought our students in, from grades five through eighth grade. The calf was actually upside down and inverted, so we had to pull the calf and the kids got to experience that whole process. The red calf over here by the black cow is actually the calf that they pulled. The kids got to experience that. It was a really neat experience because lot of our kids, they come from Parsons or the neighboring communities and they don’t get to experience those types of things on a day-to-day basis. I did a quick poll after the calf was delivered and there was only one student out of the entire fifth through eighth grade who had ever seen a calf being born or pulled, so it was a great experience for those students. We have several livestock at Service Valley Charter Academy and different animals. We actually have a cattle dog that was donated, a border collie that we’re actually in the process of training right now. We have a couple of miniature ponies, a couple of small goats. We also have chickens, rabbits. In the past we’ve had pigs and a llama and other livestock as well. Our goal with the livestock is to give our kids the opportunity to have some responsibility, to do chores on a day-to-day basis. It doesn’t matter whether it rains, sleets, snows, our kids come outside every day and they take care of the animals. They understand that those animals rely on us, and we do a rotation so that every class gets to have that responsibility with each type of animal that we have. Behind us you can kind of see the school grounds a little bit, as far as our pasture. We actually own to those trees over there and on the other side of that fence there’s a pond that we built this past school year. That was actually a student-led initiative. The students came to me and said that they wanted to build a pond, and this was last year’s seventh and eighth grade students. They submitted a proposal to me and we then went to the school board, and the school board then approved the process of building a pond. The students were actually the ones that presented to the school board, so that was really a great opportunity for them to see how school boards operate. The proposal and the presentation the students did had a lot of information to present to the board members. They had the plan and the exact location already laid out. They had actually had the local FSA office involved and had them come and lay the pond out. They were responsible for getting all the construction lined out and they got almost everything donated. That was a great project for our students and they really got to see how a lot of processes are involved in agriculture and how our local school boards operate. (Sam) After the break we join up with the crew at the annual plant sale.

(Sam) Welcome back to That’s My Farm. Lets meet a teacher and some students as they talk about the plant sale. (Theresa) My name’s Mrs. Farris. I’m a kindergarten teacher at Service Valley Charter Academy. As you can see, there’s a lot of activity going on around me. It’s our annual plant sale that we have every year. It’s usually the first Friday of May and the kids are the ones that collect the seeds in the fall, plant the seeds through the winter and do the selling of the products in the spring, at our spring plant sale. (Lexi) I’m Lexi and this is tropical milkweed. We get them to buy by saying how the Monarchs attract and lay their eggs and do their cocoons and, there’s also caterpillars, Monarch ones, that when they turn into a chrysalis, they have to hang down on it. The best is how the plants have grown so full because they’ve grown big. (Theresa) Starting in the fall we have two butterfly gardens, we have a pocket garden on the north side of the school and a big butterfly garden in the front of the school. And when school starts, the kids go around and collect the seeds that are on the plants and we keep those. We start planting in about January. And we start them in the greenhouse and then the kids take care of the plants all through the spring until we have our plant sale. (Emalee) When the monarchs come out, we catch them, and we let them eat milkweed out here and then we transplanted them out here to let other people sell them from the green garden. We have zebra grass and we transplanted them into our classroom. We planted them then we transplanted them to the greenhouse. And then we transplanted them out here for everyone can buy. I get the tickets, I write them down. I tell them how much money it is. It helps me do math to add and subtract how much they need and the rest of the money they need for the extra they gave us. It kind of helps me divide and multiply just in case they do extra money. When I add the money, I sometimes get it wrong but I re-add them. (Theresa) The hands-on project is what gets the kids really involved in their own learning and you have a lot of opportunity to go of the student interest when you have hands-on learning. (Emalee) I like to explore the world and plants. I get my hands dirty to get the nutrients in the plant and the seed. And I go in the greenhouse to transplant them out here again because we plant lots of the plants. And then we get dirty to get all the nutrients in them. And then we wash our hands off and transplant them. (Theresa) There isn’t a kid that you’re going to find in our school that doesn’t like to get their hands dirty. That is what they live for, to be in the greenhouse, planting and collecting seeds and being outside and just enjoying what they’re doing. (Sam) After the break Ray Huff explains how agricultural practices can be incorporated inside and outside of the classroom.

(Sam) Welcome back. Now Ray Huff explains how they incorporate science and nature into their classrooms. (Ray) Behind us here we have a one acre prairie restoration that our students were involved in about four years ago. This’ll actually be the fourth growing season for this prairie restoration. Now we just did a prescribed burn on this prairie this past February in order to help rejuvenate the prairie. But the kids actually came out and we actually spread all the seed by hand and planted this all by hand. And we used our feet to stomp the seed into the area that you see here, kind of simulating what buffalo hooves would do back in the day when there was nothing but prairie here in this area. The prairie actually serves a few purposes. One, this was one acre that we were not using on the school grounds and our janitor was having to mow it all the time. And so, this gave us an opportunity to save a little bit of money on mowing costs, and gas costs, and time. And then also, the observations that our students can do within the prairie. We actually have noticed a couple pairs of quail have been using the prairie. There are also a lot of native grasses and that are inside the prairie as well. Behind the prairie, you can see some eastern cedars and then also some redbud trees. The students actually all planted those as well with the help of the Westar Energy Green Team. And that’s to kind of give us a windbreak as those trees get bigger because we are out here in the wide, pretty wide open out here so that’s going to give us kind of a windbreak with the addition of the prairie as well. Also, on the school grounds we’ve planted over 30 fruit trees. And our goal with those fruits trees is to eventually get, when they start producing fruit, and we believe they’ll start producing the next two years, our goal is for our students to be able to work in the kitchen and start producing jams and jellies to sell and also to sell the produce, the excess produce that we have at local farmers markets. On these two projects, we have the mouse-trap-powered tractors and then also anhydrous tanks that the kids built. With the anhydrous tanks, our goal there was to have kids have a working model of anhydrous, the cylindrical tanks. Then the kids can find the volume of those tanks. Then another grade level worked on these mouse-trap-powered tractors. They worked on different designs to see how far they could go and also how much they could pull. The two classes then collaborated to see if their mouse-trap-powered tractors could then pull the anhydrous tanks. This project here is our earthquake machine. The students were actually working in groups of about three to four students to try and design a barn that would withstand the force of an earthquake. There were several requirements that they had to meet within the project. Our goals in the future are to also incorporate missile impacts like from debris from a tornado to see if they can build the structures that would withstand the force of a missile that’s traveling 200+ miles an hour. (Sam) After the break we will hear about the support the school receives from those in the community with an ag background.

(Sam) Welcome back to That’s My Farm. Now we are going to take a look at one local farmer that likes to share her experiences with the students. (Ray) Because we’re not a typical school, we have to find unique ways to incorporate some of the real-life situations within agriculture. One of the ways we do that is we build partnerships with some of our local farmers. We’ve worked with Miss Tori Dickinson. She actually came to our school a few times and brought some of her farm equipment so that our kids can see some of the large equipment that she used in agriculture. It’s very important for our kids to be exposed to real-life experiences such as that because there are a lot of misperceptions within the Ag industry and we want our kids to build those relationships with those individuals that are living with us on a day-to-day basis. (Tori) Hello, my name is Tori Dickinson. What I like about the Service Valley Charter Academy is how they’re teaching the children how to work, how to grow crops, take care of animals, the importance of the conservation and of the care for animals. They’re learning this besides schoolwork and I think it’s really neat. We’ve been asked to bring out our tractors. Recently, I just purchased a used Case 4-Track. The kids all came out and they got a look at it and asked a lot of questions. The truck confused them as to how that can be a tire because it didn’t look right. It was really interesting. They were fun to watch, the excitement on their faces. It was very enjoyable. I love coming at here when Ray asks me. I came out here a couple of times. A few years ago, Monsanto had I believe it’s called ‘Growers of Growing America’. I was picked and donated $2,500 to Monsanto for this group and it all goes to the school. I love how they’re teaching about the wind energy with their small wind turbine that they have. It doesn’t produce enough for the whole school but it is a start and it’s teaching the kids the value of everyday living. (Sam) After the break we wrap up our tour of Service Valley Charter Academy.

(Sam) Welcome back to That’s My Farm now Ray Huff will finish up the tour. (Ray) Well, thanks for joining us today and taking a quick tour of our school facility. We’ve worked closely with Kansas Foundation for Ag in the Classroom for several years and we’ve utilized their resources in our classroom. We’ve actually now have two teachers that have won the Janet Sims KFAC Award and have also been awarded the National Award to the National Ag in the Classroom. It has been a great honor for our school. Our teaching staff, we are actually going to get to go to the national conference in Phoenix, Arizona in June. We have raised enough money that we’re going to be able to take our entire teaching staff to experience that and hopefully bring back some more great information that we can utilize in our schools so that we can incorporate Ag and environmental education throughout our grade levels. I am extremely honored to have received this award, I can’t say that enough. I’m a seventh generation farmer; I farmed with my dad and my grandfather my whole life. I feel like Service Valley is where I need to be. I feel like this is really, I’m doing what I need to be doing. I can’t say enough about our kids and our staff and all the communities that support us. Thanks for joining us today. (Sam) I hope you enjoyed today’s show to see other episodes you can go to and make sure to join us every Friday.

Closed Captioning Brought to you by Ag Promo Source. Together we grow. Learn more at

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