Open house for new urban ag program at Vincent features aquaponics, bees, greenhouse, ‘hoop house’

MILWAUKEE – Aquaponics, bees, a greenhouse and a ‘hoop house’ will be among the displays visitors can see Thursday during an open house for the new urban agriculture program at Milwaukee Public Schools’ Harold S. Vincent High School.

Vincent, which featured an agriculture focus years ago, is returning to its roots with a 21st-century focus. MPS hired an agriculture instructor for the first time in 30 years as it launched the program for the 2012-13 school year.

Aquaponics at MPS' Vincent High School

Aquaponics at MPS’ Vincent High School

The new program connects agriculture with the school’s science and technology departments, offering students courses that cover: introduction to urban agriculture; veterinary science; biotechnology/biofuels; landscape and design; urban gardening/horticulture; aquaponics; greenhouse techniques; food science; and botany. The program partners with two Milwaukee-based leaders in the urban agriculture field: Growing Power and Sweetwater Organics – along with the Milwaukee Area Technical College, the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and the University of Wisconsin-River Falls. Instructors in the program worked through Cardinal Stritch University to develop an aquaponics curriculum tied to the rigorous Next Generation Science Frameworks.

The Thursday open house runs from 8 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. with a program at 9, featuring MPS Superintendent Gregory Thornton, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett along with representatives from Milwaukee Area Technical College (MATC) and FaB (Food and Beverage) Milwaukee, an industry cluster network of the Milwaukee 7 regional economic development group.

Greenhouse at MPS' Vincent High School

Greenhouse at MPS’ Vincent High School

“Our young people deserve course options that pique their interest as well as expose them to and prepare them for diverse career possibilities,” Dr. Thornton said. “We’re thrilled to offer those options.” MPS career and technical education curriculum specialist Eric Radomski said the courses offer students a tremendous opportunity to explore urban agriculture “and experience the careers available in food and beverage manufacturing; food science and urban agriculture. It also helps our young people become more connected to and better understand the source of the food they eat.”

Milwaukee Public Schools is Wisconsin’s largest school district, serving nearly 80,000 students in more than 160 schools across the city. U.S. News and World Report named MPS’ Rufus King International School and Ronald Wilson Reagan College Preparatory High School the two best high schools in the state and among the 200 best in the country in 2012. In the past year, Milwaukee Public Schools posted a growing graduation rate 17 points higher than the rate for 2000.