BELVIDERE, Ill. - Belvidere North's high school students are gaining career readiness skills while working on plant and animal-based projects. The school's Agricultural class has a greenhouse and livestock, allowing students to do labs to get them ready for the future.
There's a lot going on in Emily Chamber's Agricultural class. There's an outdoor chicken coop that houses about two dozen chickens.
"We come out everyday and we tend to them," said senior Matthew Albrecht. "We feed and water them everyday. We also have someone who comes out and collects the eggs everyday, and we count them and we keep spreadsheets for everything. We feed them and for the amount of water we give."
The eggs are donated to a local food pantry. And, there are many mice.
"I learned about mice, like, their different traits, how they breed, like, how long the babies can stay with the mom, when to separate them," said senior Matthew Grant. "And, what's the best breeding environment and growing environment for the mice."
Ms. Chambers focuses on project-based learning. Her students apply for various jobs that come with daily responsibilities. They earn points as payments, giving them actual job experience.
"I'm hoping those kids, who maybe can't get a job because of sports or other commitments, they can get that experience of having a job and where they go to apply, they can say, 'I know how to do this, because I was involved in this program at the high school level," Chambers said.
Students raise quail that are eventually sold. It's a way for students to learn how to raise animals in a productive way that produces profit.
Senior Jonathon Giesecke said, "This tower right here is our main tower, where we breed our quails. And then, over here is where we move the quails once they're a week old. This is where they'll stay until they're about eight weeks and then we'll sell them."
Students raise about 25 newborn quail each week, and end up with about 500 a year.
There's also a big greenhouse where students grow vegetables and learn about problem solving for slow growing plants.
"We see problems in our greenhouse and a lot of the days we'll go there and look up online and see solutions for them," said senior Caitlyn Welton. "Or try to find out what's wrong with them. And we have a few controls over here, trying to figure out what the heck is going on with them and try to find solutions to them."
The class is raising freshwater trout to restock regional waterways. The fish tank is also tied to an aquaponics system they're developing. The various element s of the AG class helps to prepare the students, no matter what career field they decide to go into.
"I do want to go into agriculture, 'cause it's one of the largest career fields that there is and it's growing everyday," said senior Joe Prokop.
Biology students are also doing special projects with the animals.