Nonnewaug High School agriscience students take advantage of outdoors during pandemic

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Nonnewaug High School agriscience students take advantage of outdoors during pandemic

BY STEVE BIGHAM REPUBLICAN-AMERICAN


WOODBURY – Many classrooms inside Nonnewaug High School’s Ellis Clark Regional Agriscience program are empty these days, but the learning here continues.

The limited class time and social distancing brought on by COVID-19 has gotten students out in the field more than ever. Lecture time has been put on hold and kids are spending all their time in hands-on experiences, which has always been the hallmark of the program.

Region 14 schools are currently on a hybrid schedule with only half the high school’s student body in session at one time.

“We have limited time with the kids. We are a hands-on program to start with and we wanted to make sure we didn’t lose that essence during the pandemic and during distance learning,” said Agriscience Director Ed Belinsky.

“What we decided to do as a department is every day the kids are in session, they are in labs, physically doing items, using tools and the facilities that we have here.”

Last week, in-session students were caring for 11 newborn piglets, who arrived just the night before. Others were outside cutting down a fallen tree on the school property. Some were in the pasture caring for the horses and cows, while a few were creating floral arrangements.

Practicing his land surveying skills is Nonnewaug senior Dom Cuccia.
 

Another group was learning the basics of land surveying. Students here are also taking part in a unique breed-up program for the rare Valais black nose sheep, deemed the world’s cutest sheep, while also trying to save certain breeds of endangered turtles.

Teacher George Lyman and his class were out on a back lot last Tuesday taking part in chain saw safety and cutting up a tree that had fallen during a recent storm. For Lyman, now in his 34th year, it is good to be back in session.

Nonnewaug junior Morgan DeMarest tends to a piglet, one of 11 born last week in the pens in the high school’s agri-science building.
 

“It got really boring last spring. I couldn’t do the things I normally do with the kids like bees and trees and fleas. For me, it was no fun, so it’s great to be back and the weather has been perfect,” Lyman said.

Department head Jen Jedd said replicating the agriscience world online is impossible, so it’s all hands-on, all-the-time when students are in session.

“They are front-loading at home so that they’re ready to jump in when they get here,” Jedd said. “It’s definitely a change. I never expected to be teaching online. That’s why I got into ag, but I’m just so happy that the kids are in session, at least part of the time and not full-on distance learning. When they get here they know all the attention is on them.”