Students Learn Industrial Arts, Agriculture at Harris Junior Academy

June 30, 2019 | Education | Becky Caswell

How do fresh eggs, baby bottles and power tools fit into the school curriculum? During Harris Junior Academy’s industrial arts and agriculture programs, they take center stage in Pendleton, Ore.

In the agriculture program, students in kindergarten through second grade proudly care for the school’s flock of chickens. Chores include feeding the hens, providing fresh water and collecting their eggs. The older students take care of cleaning the specially designed red coop.

Eggs are sold for $3 a dozen to the church and school community. In the spring, the lower grades mother baby chicks right in their classroom. The chicks grow quickly from balls of fluff to juveniles with real feathers that will return as part of the flock in the fall.

In the spring, Shannon Whidden, principal, brings in baby goats from her hobby farm. The goats spend a day or two in the classroom getting used to being away from their mothers. After that, they are introduced to their new home: a barn and fenced enclosure hand-built by students. Grades six through eight learn to bottle feed the goats and care for them daily. These tiny babies have big personalities and quickly win the affection of the entire school.

Our industrial arts program is in its 10th year and is taught by retired veteran teacher Al Olson. He introduces students to woodworking and welding.

A spacious building with state-of-the-art tools provides an ideal setting for hands on learning. Step inside, and you’ll find students using the jigsaw, drill press, sander, nail gun, welder and more. Clipboards with safety rules hang by each machine, while organization and care for the tools is as noticeable as the smell of sawdust.

Projects for the fifth through eighth graders range from cat climbing-trees and stools to games and other toys such as boats, planes and a pull-along rabbit. Owen Easley appreciates “the opportunity to do things that you can’t do in other classes” and notes he learned “patience and perseverance” during his time in the shop.

“We get to build with all types of machines and learn how to use them,” Sergio Alva remarked when asked about shop class highlights.

Khoda Brown recalls the importance of a dedicated teacher: “No matter what we did, Mr. Olson would still help us.”

Harris Junior Academy plans to add a home education class next year. “We value real-world learning and practical skills for our students,” says Whidden.