ST PETER —
“It’s to put them on their educational career path and to be able to realize what classes they need,” he said. “It’s to get them aware and get them thinking about what they want to do.”
A growing demand
Iin this day and age, it’s important for schools to find ways to connect “21st century learning” to the classroom as well as connect the classroom to the community, which is what inspired the academies, Paul said. The district also wanted to make sure to build the academies around regional job demands, which is why they geared them toward the sciences.
Numerous community partnerships and donations have been vital to the academies’ success, Paul said. The medical academy is taught by Amanda Bell, who works for the South Central Service Cooperative, hired specifically for the purpose of teaching the academy students. Among other partners, South Central College and Gustavus Adolphus College also have provided resources.
Paul said agricultural experts and businesses have been eager to help with the agri-science program. For example, the St. Peter district has purchased 70.5 acres of land just outside of St. Peter for the academy students to oversee and help farm.
While the students will be responsible for such things as testing soil composition and even handling the finances, area ag professionals will handle the equipment and farm the land, said agri-science teacher Gena Lilienthal. Lilienthal — who grew up on a dairy farm and whose family now owns a beef and crop farm — teaches animal science, plant science and advanced agri-science.
“Agricultural education has been missing in the district for 20 years,” Paul said.
Once the idea for the academies was in place four or five years ago, it didn’t take long to get them off the ground. Paul said River’s Edge was immediately on board to offer facilities and services, including staff and a conference room during a recent visit for the bracing lesson.