600 Acre Farm to Offer Online, Hands-on Learning

Online students in Indiana are about to get their hands dirty. Indiana Agriculture & Technology School (IATS) is a new tuition-free charter school that couples online learning with labs and project-based activities down on the farm.

School officials are scheduled to host an informational session Thursday from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. at Ivy Tech in Noblesville, located at 300 N. 17th St.

“Agriculture is a key to Indiana’s economic foundation,” said Allan Sutherlin, one of the school’s founders. “But many farmers are aging out and the next generation needs more than just an apprenticeship. We’re at the dawn of a revolution in agricultural technology and innovation with data-driven solutions to precision farming. We must address that workforce challenge.”

Enrollment is now open to Indiana residents, grades 7-12. Online coursework is offered for Core 40, Core 40 Honors and Core 40 Technical Honors diploma programs. AP opportunities are also provided. Enrollment is capped at just 160 students per grade level, but the program is designed that way.

“Our enrollment is intentionally small,” said Keith Marsh, the school’s executive director and chief academic officer. “We want to provide a more individualized touch than traditional online schools. We’re also committed to holding our students accountable for their education. At least four teachers will be assigned to each enrolled student for each course taken. We expect our kids to graduate.”

In addition to coursework, on-campus lab work will be offered at the school’s 600 acre farm in Morgan County. One-third of the land is pasture, one-third tillable crop and one-third classified forest, which will allow students to study biosciences, agribusiness, information technology, environmental science, forestry and drones. The school is also working to establish a network of corporate and farming partners throughout the state to provide student internships and jobs.

The Nineveh-Hensley-Jackson United School Corporation in Trafalgar is IATS’ authorizer. Superintendent Tim Edsell says he’s never seen a charter school with such a unique focus.

“Our rural school corporation is very agrarian, very agriculture based,” Edsell said. “We have a strong FFA and students interested in agriculture, but no curriculum specific enough to meet their needs. If we can encourage more students across the state to enter agribusiness, our farms can produce more crops and create a more stable economy. Not to mention, we help set the students up for a successful future.”

To learn more about Indiana Agriculture & Technology School visit www.indiana.ag. Classes start July 30.

Original story by The Times.