Rolling Hills (Rural Roots Canada) – Farm schools are on the rise across the prairies. The Rolling Hills Agricultural Academy, located in Rolling Hills, Alberta, about two and half hours southeast of Calgary, is the latest school to adopt a hands-on learning agriculture-based curriculum.

Established in 1939, the hamlet is an agricultural-driven community in the County of Newell and Eastern Irrigation District.

Principal Mike Flieger says the idea to start an agricultural academy began with the goal of trying to make the school different while representing the community’s values, beliefs, history, and heritage.

Rolling Hills Agriculture Academy
Courtesy: Rolling Hills Agricultural Academy Students from RHAA learn about selling livestock on a field trip to Bow Slope Shipping in Brooks, Alberta

He says he didn’t want the school to follow a traditional school model, where students sit in a row, and the lessons are driven by textbooks.

He adds that having the school reflect the community enables the teachers as it brings in support from the community.

“In this particular case, we don’t have to be experts about agriculture because we can rely on the local expertise,” says Flieger.

He says they’ve been very fortunate in that regard, as many members of the community have stepped up to donate their time, energy and resources.

Flieger says having this support has been tremendous.

“Everything we’ve done to this point in time has been completely through private donations or through donations from agribusiness, without using any instructional dollars from our school. We’ve not received any grants beyond a $5,000 donation from FCC.”

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In planning the agricultural academy, the school has looked to others in the province who have built ag curriculum-based programs.  The people behind the Altario School Agricultural Academy and Irvine Agricultural Discovery Centre have provided insight into what made their programs successful.

Even though the academy is still in its early days, Flieger has already seen the students develop their problem-solving skills and actively participate in the lessons.

Grade five student Avery Lester says the change has been exciting and looks forward to the hands-on lessons every day.

“It’s nice to have animals and something else to do other than just straight-up school work all day, every day. At recess, if we want to. If a supervisor is out on the farm, we can go out to the animals, pet them,” says Lester.

Lester adds that they have also been growing plants on top of handling and caring for livestock.

By creating the program, the academy hopes to attract more students in time for next year.



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