Rural elementary school leads the charge in California teaching STEM through the lens of local agriculture

Embark on a journey just 20 minutes outside Fresno, California, where Fairmont Elementary School, is redefining education through an innovative agricultural lens.

Fairmont Elementary School is capturing the attention of parents all across the Fresno, California area, eager to enroll their children in the school due to its distinctive approach to education. Once a small, rural school located about 20 minutes outside of the city center, Fairmont has blossomed into an exciting learning hub for young minds.

Christine Torosian-Klistoff, head of Fairmont’s agriculture program, proudly leads the charge in a groundbreaking initiative – the first program of its kind in California. Here, every student, from kindergarten through eighth grade, learns science standards through the prism of agriculture.

“If you’re going to teach about plant genetics, why not teach about our top commodities in the valley?” Torosian-Klistoff said. Her curriculum highlights the agricultural products like almonds, pistachios, and grapes grown right there in the San Joaquin Valley. The aim is to provide a blueprint of science standards so that schools statewide can integrate agricultural perspectives into their teaching methods.

Fairmont’s curriculum encompasses a diverse range of ag-science classes, covering plant and animal science, ag marketing, ag business, ag technology, and even addressing pressing issues like drought. The ultimate goal is to create a curriculum blueprint that can be adopted and implemented in classrooms across California.

The hands-on science lessons hope to impart a deeper foundation and understanding of agriculture as well as its crucial role in the San Joaquin Valley, one of the world’s top food-producing regions.

Seventh and eighth-grade students engage in rotating learning stations, from stitching up wounds using bananas to examining bugs under microscopes, exploring safe fertilization methods, handling soil samples, and planting vegetables in the school garden.

The growth of Fairmont’s agricultural program is evident in ambitious plans for an $8-million, two-acre complex. This expansion includes dedicated areas for plant and animal science, along with a 4,000-square-foot innovation lab focusing on water energy and robotics. Jared Savage, involved in Fairmont’s capital campaign called “Grow the Legacy,” envisions a blend of tradition and innovation that serves both the local population and the valley.

The vision extends beyond Fairmont’s walls. The agricultural complex will be accessible to all 8,000 elementary school students in the Sanger Unified School District, acting as a host site for statewide competitions. With the goal of spreading agricultural education throughout California, Fairmont’s initiative holds the potential to change not only education but also the future of agriculture.

“Agriculture is so important to our Valley, to our state, and by educating our youth, it could change education. It could change the way of agriculture. It is our future,” Torosian-Klistoff passionately explained.

Fairmont Elementary does not stop at traditional academics; students have the opportunity to join extra-curricular clubs such as Junior Robotics and MESA Club. These clubs focus on math, engineering, and science, providing an educational experience that goes beyond the classroom.

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