How a Schooling Experiment Helped us Think of New Ways to Engage Youth

by | Jun 25, 2021 | Seed Testing

At the end of the month, our students will be finished their time at the school we set up in our Nisku, Alta., headquarters at the start of the pandemic.

Last year, when the pandemic hit and outbreaks in schools became a concern, we hired tutor Brianna Moore, a trained child psychologist and speech pathologist, to teach up to 11 children in what used to be our boardroom.

It will be an experience none of us will forget. When they first began, some didn’t know how to read and write yet. Going to school in the same building their parents work in allowed them to literally be a part of a work environment, meeting everyone and being part of something truly meaningful.

One of our young students wants to be a farmer when he grows up. To go to school in a building where seed testing is done gave him insight into how agriculture works. His older sister, who also attended school in our building, actually got a part-time job with us after school, mixing soils and substrates and really immersing herself in how seed testing works.

It’s no secret that the rural landscape of Canada has changed. As small rural villages died out, their schoolhouses died out along with them, sending kids to larger, centralized education hubs often located in communities outside their own.

The days of the one-room schoolhouse are gone. There are, of course, innumerable advantages to our current school system, but the bygone practice of having small schoolhouses peppered across the country was one that kept children close to home and immersed in their immediate community during their school days.

We feel like the past number of months have been a return to that older way of doing things. While I know these kids will be happy to get back to their regular school and be with their friends and teachers again, watching them learn and have experiences they might not otherwise have had (like touring our germination lab) has opened our eyes to new ways of engaging youth.

As we move forward as an industry after the creation of Seeds Canada — and with regulatory modernization underway — it’s a perfect time to think of new ways to get our young people interested in agriculture, be they from a rural community or a big city.

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Sarah Foster

President and Senior Seed Analyst, 20/20 Seed Labs - Sarah Foster is a registered seed technologist, senior seed analyst and president of 20/20 Seed Labs — a company she started in 1989 which provides testing services for all crop kinds, including extensive quality and seed health analysis, molecular testing and accredited crop inspection. Involved in the seed industry since the late 1970s, Foster studied and qualified as an accredited seed analyst at the National Institute of Agricultural Botany in Cambridge, England. Her work experience includes seven years with Sharps Seed International (Advanta) in the United Kingdom, and five years with the United Grain Growers in Edmonton after immigrating to Canada in 1984.