WHS course teaches work through agriculture, internship

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Whitefish High School this fall is planning to offer a new, hands-on agricultural internship focused on teaching students the skills needed for any job site they’ll encounter.

WHS math teacher Mark Casazza introduced the course, called Sustainable Agriculture Internship, during the Whitefish School Board’s March 12 meeting. The board voted unanimously to approve the course.

The internship course will teach valuable skills during the school day that students can then transfer to their place of work outside of school, Casazza said.

Students enrolled in the course will have a paying job outside of the school day that can be unrelated to agriculture, Casazza says, and agricultural work is simply a preferred teaching medium.

“I’m primarily using agriculture to teach them how to be successful on a job site,” he said. “You can do this with a lot of subjects, I’m just passionate about agriculture and I just use agriculture to help me with training students how to be successful on a job site and gain a work ethic.”

Within the course, students will explore the benefits of cover crops, including how cover crops add organic matter and greater production to the biological, chemical and physical components of soil, according to the course description. The class will also offer knowledge and work experience that can be transferred from the classroom to a future employment setting, with primary focuses within the course consisting of safety, accountability, attitude and paying attention on a job site.

The course is a paid internship and will primarily be held at the district’s Center for Sustainability and Entrepreneurship adjacent to the high school. Students will receive two credits as part of the course, including one elective credit and one career and technical education credit.

WHS Principal Kerry Drown says he doesn’t envision any major funding contributions for the internship program, as the students’ employers are paying their wages. As paid employees, students also qualify for workman’s compensation, which covers liability within the internship.

District Curriculum Director Ryder Delaloye and WHS English teacher Al Hammel have worked with Casazza to shape the curriculum and content of the course.

Casazza says he already has interest from about 17 students about the course.

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