Tyrrell College, in the little Victorian wheat belt town of Sea Lake, population around 500, has received $500,000 from the inaugural NAB ‘Schools First National Award’ 2011 – just reward for the Dynamic Agriculture student-business mentor program which previously ran on $1000 pa.
What Students Say
While our Chief Scientist bemoans the small numbers of students studying science, one teacher – namely Sea Lake’s John Wright – is successfully turning students onto science.
Twin 17 year old sisters, Casey and Ash Wright (no relation to John), whose parents own a local cafe are excited about the possibilities in agriculture. Ash is planning to be a crop agronomist. She says:
“It seems agriculture has taken off in the past few years along with the concept of keeping the land productive and looking after it.”
Casey is impressed by John’s passion for high-tech agriculture and his dedication to his students, saying:
“I probably wouldn’t be interested if it weren’t for him. he gets us all excited about the possibilities.”
Former Shearer, Boilermaker, Welder – A Frustrated But Inspirational Teacher
Three years ago In 2009 John Wright was the Agricultural Coordinator at Tyrell College, the only secondary education facility in the district. Th school has about 180 students, most from farming families.
Clearly many kids were leaving for the cities because they couldn’t see a future in the wheat industry of their region…
John could see that the future for agriculture is possibly bigger than the mining boom as far as ‘work, wealth and jobs go’.
John was frustrated that ‘stale courses’ did not reflect the high-tech, big business farming in the region. He says:
“We’ve got to feed more people and we can’t make any more dirt or rain, so that means growing more crops in ways that are smarter and better – which is where science and technology and having bright young people in the industry will become so important. That’s the magic of farming I try to give the kids,”
What Happened At Tyrell College?
John revamped Agricultural Studies, aiming to get the school and the Sea Lake community to work together, so the students could see see future jobs and careers in agriculture.
The Dynamic Agriculture project started with its own small farming program on 5 acres of land in 2009, then extended this when an opportunity to gain another 200 acres of land came up.
Students Are Involved In Everything
Students get a real-world picture of what happens on the farm on a day-to-day basis,
- doing soil analysis and tests
- working with Agrivision agronomists to work out what they should be growing, as well as how and when they should be growing it
- actually sowing the crops
The Dynamic Agriculture project enables the young people involved to develop leadership and responsibility and possibly a passion for agriculture which will lead them to choose a career in farming.
In three years John’s vision has revolutionised the school and the town:
- local farmers are helping teach agriculture on their farms
- the school is planting, growing and harvesting more than 200 ha of commercial oats, barley and wheat
- rural businesses are lending machinery and qualified staff to help out
- dozens more students are choosing to study agriculture, looking to careers such as university-trained agronomists, farm accountants, skilled farmhands and contractors
- Tyrrell College was announced as the 2011 winner in the Impact Awards category of the NAB Schools First program, which aims at recognising and rewarding outstanding school-community partnerships, that can demonstrate improved student outcomes as a result of their partnership.
You can check out the Tyrrell College video here.
Let’s encourage all those latent John Wrights!