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Wa-Nee Community Schools named as finalist for rural education grant

NAPPANEE — Wa-Nee Community Schools is among a group of finalists in the running for grant money.

As part of its America’s Farmers Grow Rural Education program, Monsanto, a St. Louis, Mo.-based agriculture technology company, is offering $10,000 and $25,000 grants to public school systems, according to a news release from the Monsanto Fund. 

Schools are nominated to apply by farmers in their area and then must submit an application for funding for a specific math or science project, according to the release. 

Wa-Nee’s project is based at NorthWood High School, is dubbed Agribusiness Reaching into the Future, Amy Beer, an agriculture teacher at the school, confirmed. 

Beer has been working with students to show them how to build an agriculture business from the ground up.

“This is the whole process,” she said. “Starting with loans, developing a business model and presenting a plan to professionals and getting feedback, like ‘Shark Tank.’”

Though the learning will take place in the classroom, Beer wants the process to be hands-on, project-based STEM instruction, she said. She said she applied for the program to use laptops in class for research about how to develop a business, and hydro- and aquaponics – methods of cultivating plants or aquatic animals in water – for hands-on agricultural experience. 

“The sky is the limit. The only limit is the kids’ enthusiasm.” 

Experience with cultivation can have worldwide reach, Beer said, by using hydro- and aquaponics in developing nations to raise fish and grow vegetables, but it’s the community outreach of Monsanto’s program that excited her and her students, she said. 

“Kids can get involved with people who do this and people see kids are excited,” she said. “Teens get a bad rap sometimes about how they don’t want to work hard. This shows kids are excited and businesses are interested and involved with the school. … Involving the community is something I want to get into.”

A list of schools across the country were chosen as finalists in the program, and all of the projects will be reviewed by a board of farmers nationwide who make up the Grow Rural Education Farmer Advisory Council, according to the release. Winners will be announced in August. 

In the past, the grant money has been used to upgrade lab equipment, build greenhouses and update curriculum, according to the Monsanto Fund. 

Beer will find out Aug. 3 if NorthWood’s program is chosen. 

Follow digital producer Danielle Waldron on Twitter @DanielleWaldron

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