CADILLAC – Just as the natural world is made up of a dense web of interconnected systems, the subjects taught in the Agricultural Science and Natural Resources program at Wexford-Missaukee Career Technical Center are deeply connected and complement each other throughout the year. .
Program instructor Mark Johnson said the year begins with students learning the basics of soil, which is the foundation for all other topics covered later.
In November, for example, the class will pick up a batch of “eyes” salmon eggs from the Carl T. Johnson Fish and Game Center. “Eye” eggs are those that have been fertilized and have developed to the point where the eyes of the embryo can be seen in the eggs.
In about two weeks, the eggs will hatch, and the class for the next few months will feed the fish, clean the tank they’re in, and perform other tasks necessary to keep them alive and growing. Once they are about 3 inches long, the class will release the salmon into the Manistee River.
Johnson said caring for fish creates a great transition between the soil unit and the water unit, which includes lessons in river systems, soil runoff, wastewater treatment and water science. Watershed.
Since many aspects of water quality and animal health in Michigan’s lakes and rivers relate directly to soil quality, the units complement each other holistically, as do other topics. studied later in the year.
“It all builds on everything else,” Johnson said. “Each depends on the previous unit.”
Salmon are of particular interest to the program, Johnson said, because they are a non-native fish species that were introduced to the Great Lakes by humans; learning how it happened, the impact of the species on the ecology of Michigan’s waterways, and the current predator/prey dynamics resulting from the species’ presence are all topics covered by students enrolled in the program .
In the 15 years Johnson taught the class, he said he had never had as many students as this year.
“We have 60 students in the program right now,” Johnson said. “I think it’s the right program for our demographic.”
Johnson said children in this region often grew up outdoors, understand the interconnectedness of the natural world and have a basic knowledge of where their food comes from. Having that kind of experience often sparks interest in career fields related to natural resources, Johnson said.
Ellie Rigling, 17, a sophomore, said she signed up for the program because it “sounded really fun” and reminded her of many things she was already interested in, including nature, wildlife and outings in the woods.
While the program was about all of these things, Rigling said it was also about much more, including how farming works and lessons on how to be an effective team leader. Rigling said that after high school, she plans to attend Michigan Technological University and pursue a career as a logger.
Johnson said the advantage of the Agriscience and Natural Resources program is that the lessons are versatile and can be applied to a wide range of careers.
For example, some students who take the program may find themselves in fields directly related to agroscience and natural resources, such as working in a hatchery or with the U.S. Forest Service; while others may pursue a number of ancillary fields – such as working as a golf course superintendent or in equine science.
“It’s a huge area,” Johnson said. “But everything is under the same umbrella. Really, the sky is the limit of what you can do with it.