« PreviousContinue »
The laboratory work in soils and crops includes, usually, a number of exercises in soil physics, the mechanical analyses of soils, and some experiments in pots with soils, fertilizers, and plants. In the farm-crops work, seed testing and grading (Pl. LXI), comparison of types of cereals and forage crops, and a variety of pot experiments cover about the usual range.
The crop work is frequently carried on out of doors to a larger extent than in the laboratory, especially where arrangements can be made for carrying on the work throughout the growing season. School gardens are quite common in connection with high schools (Pl. LXII, fig. 1), corn-breeding plats are maintained by a number of schools (Pl. LXII, fig. 2), and demonstration plats are not uncommon. A few schools have raised purebred seed corn to sell to the farmers of the community.
The field work as carried on at Bonham High School, in Texas, is an interesting example of what can be done by high-school students. The first-year students have complete charge of the school farm of 5 acres, and upon them rests the responsibility of preparing the ground, selecting the seed, planning the rotations, and planting the various crops.
The farm is divided into one-fifth and one-tenth acre plats, which are permanently staked and numbered, and their location is accurately indicated on blue prints made by the boys. Under the direction of the manual-training teacher the boys have built a house 16 by 30 feet, with a loft capacity of about 6 tons of cereals or forage. This house is being used for the storage of implements, tools, seeds, and produce, as well as for class work in seed testing, grading, and other indoor activities of the farm.
All of the common cereal, forage, and horticultural crops of the region have been grown, and a series of simple field tests have been started to demonstrate the local application of principles that have already been established elsewhere. Following are some of the demonstrations that have been undertaken: (1) That barnyard manure is valuable and should be utilized; (2) that crop rotation is a necessary feature in successful agriculture and that legumes should occupy a prominent part in these rotations; (3) that winter cover crops are essential in retaining soil fertility in the South; (4) that improved seeds are important for high yields and should be selected annually from the growing crop; (5) that early surface cultivation for conservation of moisture is necessary as a safeguard against possible drought in July and August; (6) that deep plowing rather than shallow is necessary on upland soils to retard erosion; and (7) that the better cultivation of fewer acres and diversified farming involves less risk, distributes the work more uniformly throughout the year,
and in the end is more profitable than straight farming to cotton and
ANIMAL HUSBANDRY AND DAIRYING.
The laboratory and field work in animal husbandry usually consists of judging exercises involving the use of the tapeline and score card upon animals owned by neighboring farmers. This work also frequently involves the study of stable facilities for farm animals and the criticism of barns and other structures for beef and dairy cattle, swine, and poultry.
The fact that high-school boys at Hadley, Mass., won first and second prizes in the 1912 State judging contest, after having only such practice as was afforded by neighboring farm animals, is an indication of the value and importance of utilizing the facilities of the home farm in agricultural school work.
In the dairy work of the schools it is quite common to find some apparatus in the agricultural laboratory, such as a Babcock tester, a cream separator, churns, and score cards. The students' work in the laboratory includes the testing of whole milk from different cows in the neighborhood and skim milk from different types of separators, occasionally a few exercises in making butter, and frequent exercises in scoring dairy animals and dairy buildings. It is frequently possible for the enthusiastic teacher of agriculture so to direct the dairy instruction of the school as to bring about great improvement in the dairy herds of the community and improvement in dairy practice as to the feeding of animals and the sanitary handling of milk.
If horticulture is made a feature of the instruction in agriculture, there are not infrequently a small greenhouse (Pl. LXIII, fig. 1), a hot-bed or two, a cold frame, and some facilities for gardening. Many schools make provision for exercises in grafting and budding fruit trees, and some of them have small nurseries of seedling apple and peach trees, which have been grown by the students for practice purposes. (Pl. LXIII, fig. 2.)
The laboratory or greenhouse work in horticulture includes not only grafting and budding but seeding, pricking out, potting, and scoring and judging fruit.
At the Gardena Agricultural School, in Los Angeles, over 2 acres are devoted to horticultural experiments, variety tests, and tests of fruits hitherto unknown to the region. The effort here is to stimulate a comparative study of fruits from different parts of the world for the purpose of finding new things adapted to the climate of southern California, and to encourage the people to acquire a taste for them.
RURAL ENGINEERING AND FARM MECHANICS.
In the rural engineering phases of instruction there is usually some drainage work, irrigation in semiarid regions, and shopwork. The field work in drainage includes some practice in surveying, planning, and laying out drains, and occasionally in laying drain tile on school farms. In irrigation there are instances where highschool students have put in water systems complete from the making of plans to the distribution of water over the plats. (Pl. LXIII, fig. 3.)
The shopwork as carried on in many of the schools up to the present time savors too much of manual-training exercises in city schools, but there are some schools in which formal exercise work, such as the making of joints, tenons, dovetails, and the cutting of gears and threads, has been reduced to a minimum; in which the making of useful articles for the farm, like gates, fences, and small buildings, has taken the place of cabinetwork and patterns for the foundry; where the work in the forge shop includes the making of rings, hooks, clevises, and other useful articles, and the repair of farm machinery, instead of fancy work for exhibition purposes; where the pupils learn to put in waterworks, plumbing, concrete walks, and foundations; where they make small greenhouses, lath houses, and cloth houses for horticultural work (Pl. LXIII, figs. 4, 5, 6), and actually erect some of the buildings needed by the school. Examples of this new point of view are found at the Bonham High School and the Gardena Agricultural School, referred to above. The board in charge of the latter school recently made an appropriation for a barn on the school farm, and, instead of having it erected by contract, employed a head carpenter and several assistants, not to erect the barn but to supervise the work of the students in the agricultural course in the construction of it.
Progress in this direction, in making the farm mechanics' work of the high schools applicable to farm conditions, is very encouraging. (Pl. LXIV.) There is no reason why work so conducted can not be made just as educational as the more formal manual-training work and at the same time be far more useful to the students in their later work on the farm.
A new conception of high schools is growing apace with the development of vocational courses in these institutions. People are coming to see in them possibilities for service to all members of the community, to the students in the school, the parents at home, the young people who have left school, and the teachers in neighboring elementary schools. The character of community work that high