Some 15 exhibitors at the big NAILE livestock show in Louisville earlier this month would most likely not had a chance to be involved if not for an innovative program at Eastern Hancock High School, located near Charlottesville. If you've ever traveled I-70 from Indianapolis to Richmond, you've seen the school from the back side, nestled up against the Interstate.
One of the buildings you can see from that view is actually a pole barn which serves as the animal barn for the Eastern Hancock agriculture department. Instructors Scott Jacobs and Natalie Schilling use the facility all year long to teach kids hands-on experiences about animals that they couldn't do without the facility. A greenhouse near the building also adds to the opportunities for hands-on experiences for students.
One project the ag program and FFA chapter do is allow students to raise pigs in the barn for the Louisville Show each fall. "Some of these kids wouldn't have anywhere else to keep the pigs otherwise," says Scott Jacobs, veteran ag teacher. The kids traveled to Louisville on Friday, showed pigs on Sunday and Monday, and then returned home. "We had a good time, but it was a real learning experience for these kids," Jacobs says.
The barn also houses a pregnant sow, due to farrow early this winter. That makes the animal science curriculum become more realistic to the students. In the summer, some students who don't have anywhere else to keep animals for 4-H projects utilize the school building.
They provide their own feed and labor. Feeding and cleaning is done on a schedule, so the kids learn the value of hard work, Jacobs says. The building also has a classroom , albeit small, if he wants to do special instruction while in the building.
Since the elementary school and middle school are located nearby, it's also perfect for FFA and ag program activities that introduce younger kids to farm animals. The barn is also equipped with cattle pens if they want to keep cattle there, and a working chute for working cattle.
"We host a bull examination day in the spring for local cattlemen," Jacobs says. "The kids get to see what it's all about, and it's a service for local producers. A local vet comes and performs the evaluations. Since we're inside, we can do it no matter what the weather is like."
The next time you're driving Interstate $70, pay close attention tot eh high school between Knightstown and Greenfield up against the interstate. You might be surprised at what you see.