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Hands-On Learning at Arlington Heights

Fort Worth high school ag program grows as city students pursue interests in agriculture.

You may think that students in a city nicknamed Cowtown would know all there is to know about agriculture. That is not necessarily the case, however, for teenagers at Fort Worth's Arlington Heights High School.

Members convention
Members of the Arlington Heights FFA Chapter at the 2018 State FFA Convention in Fort Worth

"For the most part, our program is the first experience with agriculture for our students," says Cody Davenport, Arlington Heights FFA advisor.

Ag instructors
Arlington Heights FFA Advisors William Mitchell, Linsay Shands and Cody Davenport.

The school, located on the outskirts of downtown Fort Worth, is part of the Fort Worth ISD Gold Seal Program that allows students to choose courses of study based on personal interests and passions, as well as the needs of the modern workplace. Students who want to specialize in agriculture come to Arlington Heights from all over Fort Worth.

The ag program covers such subjects as livestock production, veterinary science, horticulture, aquaculture and wildlife. The keys to this winning educational program are a willingness to learn and a team of dedicated teachers.

450 Ag Students in 2019

Raised garden bed
Space on the Arlington Heights ISD campus is used wisely for the Ag Department. A quail coop, built by the students for the Wildlife program is nestled behind an athletic field. Plants are grown in pots as well as in raised garden beds.

"The Arlington Heights Agriculture and FFA Program has served Fort Worth ISD students for 16 years and we have seen growth each year." says Davenport. "Our program's growth and successes have been made possible by the support of many dedicated people and organizations; like Lone Star Ag Credit. With our supporter's involvement, we are able to keep our program relevant and interesting to high school students while teaching about today's agriculture industry. Lone Star Ag Credit has given so much support to the Arlington Heights Agriculture and FFA Program and we could never say thank you enough.

Arlington Heights ended the 2018 school year in May with 387 students in the ag department, and 196 of those students are currently FFA members. The ag program, which Lone Star Ag Credit has supported for many years, keeps growing and is expected to have over 450 students in 2019.

Hydroponics
Barrel plant beds crafted by the students

Supervised Agriculture Experience (SAE), which is required of all students, is a hands-on application of concepts and principles learned in the classroom. Students are supervised by agricultural education teachers in cooperation with parents, employers and other adults who help them to develop and achieve their education and career goals. This hands-on approach is introduced as soon as possible, so that students can determine which direction their interests will guide them toward a career.

Livestock production and veterinary science are taught by advisors Davenport, Linsey Shands and William Mitchell. Clinics are held during the year to prepare students for competitions. Subject experts as well as other ag teachers come to judge the clinics as well as to provide instruction on feeding, exercising and showing projects.

Plans are underway and the school is hopeful to have new agriculture science classrooms and workspaces at the Arlington Heights campus by the 2019-2010 school year.

Fish tank
A fish tank stocked with Tilapia was built by the students for their Aquaculture project. The fish waste provides organic food for the growing of plants in barrels used as plants beds, also handcrafted by the students.

Fish-Farming, Floral Design, Beekeeping and More

In addition to the livestock program, the ag department offers learning opportunities in several areas:

  • A greenhouse and aquaponics system was built entirely by students studying animal and plant systems. The aquaponics tank contains tilapia fish, which has created an ecosystem that sustains plant life in the greenhouse. Fishing lures made in class are tested in the aquatics pond. During the spring of 2018, over 600 plants were germinated and grown in the greenhouse. These included flowers, squash, zucchini, watermelons, cantaloupes, corn, peppers and fruit trees.
  • The students are building a trailer for use at farmers markets, where they will offer items grown during the school year.
  • As part of the floral design course, the new "Arrangement of the Month" club will offer monthly floral arrangements designed by students.
  • Archery has been added to the wildlife class. An archery curtain has been installed inside the ag shop so that students can practice their archery skills indoors throughout the year.
  • Students built a quail coop on campus where they can study quail as part of the wildlife program.
  • Beekeeping is a fairly new project for the department, which currently has four hives. There are plans to add four more hives in 2019 for honey production and honey products.
  • In the Cornhole Project, wooden cornhole sets are designed, built and painted by the students. At the completion of the project each year, a cornhole tournament is held.

  • Proud Supporter

    Corn hole
    Wooden Cornhole sets designed and built by students who wish to learn carpentry skills.

    Donations of resources and funds by Lone Star Ag Credit have helped these ag students and the ag department in many ways over the last several years. The lending co-op has:

  • Invited the school's horticulture students to make table arrangements for Lone Star functions, and donated money to help the department purchase a bow-making machine.
  • Provided funds for a television and TV stand as well as a laptop and sound system for students to use when practicing for showmanship presentations, speaking events, ag issues forums, advocacy and meetings with parents.
  • Helped to purchase kennels, a professional wash stand and animal grooming stands for the small animal management and veterinary medicine classes.
  • Provided jackets, scarves and ties for students to wear during FFA competitions and presentations.

  • "For students who previously had little involvement with agriculture, this unique high school program is opening doors to career opportunities, as well as teaching the basics of food production," said Troy Bussmeir, Lone Star Ag Credit CEO. "It is a very worthy program that Lone Star is proud to support."


    Published August 30, 2018