Newton County high school students have the opportunity to learn how to operate some of the latest agricultural technologies, including drones and GPS systems in a newly designed agriculture course.
The agriculture departments at North Newton and South Newton high schools received a grant in February, funded in-part by the Innovative CTE Curriculum Grant from the State of Indiana and Newton County, totaling $445,011. The grant has been evenly distributed between the two schools.
A large portion of the money will help teach high school seniors how to use new agriculture technologies in a new course called "Integrated Technology in Agricultural Systems," which both schools have implemented this school year.
Students will learn how to effectively operate drone technology, GPS software, and other precision farming practices.
South Newton will use the rest of their portion to purchase a Kubota -- a utility vehicle often used for GPS simulation, improve their Project Lead the Way program -- a pre-engineering curriculum for high school students, and improve the ag department's aquaculture system.
Darrell Allen, South Newton High School ag teacher, says he would love to get other schools on board to teach this information.
"We want to spread this new curriculum across the state and teach other educators what we are doing and how we use this technology in our classroom," Allen said. "We would like to take our equipment and show other high schools what they can do and how important this information can be to their students' careers."
Both schools have purchased several drones from Precision Drone, and each purchased a tractor.
North Newton's ag department will use the rest of their portion to also purchase the GPS simulation system along with exploring aquaponics, a system of growing plants in the water that has been used to cultivate aquatic organisms.
Many students from North Newton are considering a future career in Agricultural System Management or Precision farming because of their involvement in this course, said Ron DeYoung, North Newton High School's ag teacher.
"There is a strong demand for qualified individuals in these fields," DeYoung said. "Having our students familiar with the technology and having practical experience gives them an advantage and makes them very attractive candidates for jobs."
Many students enrolled in the course this year are excited to learn about new precision farming techniques.
Nathan Blume, a senior at North Newton High School, said he is ready to gain important experience in his future endeavors within the agriculture industry.
"This opportunity has opened my eyes to the vast possibilities of agriculture," Blume said. "With this grant, I have the opportunity to take my experiences into college."
Newton County schools were chosen as the recipient of the grant by developing innovative ideas and explaining how those ideas would help their students' future careers in agriculture.