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The Grange Fair Provides Unique Learning Opportunities for Ag Program Students

Cultivating an Outdoor ClassroomFor nearly a century, since 1929 to be exact, State College Area High School Ag Program students have descended on the Grange Fair each August, showcasing skills and knowledge gained throughout the year. Led by Paul Heasley, SCASD Agricultural Science teacher and FFA Advisor, the experience for students is an important part of their education. “The fair offers many opportunities for students as well as provides them informal educational and skill-based activities,” Paul explains. “It is extremely important for showcasing student academic and technical skills, as well as develop leadership and community service skills.”

Connection to community is something that Paul strives to expose his students to, not only at the Grange Fair, but within the Ag Program itself. “The Ag Program has been connected to the local Ag industry from day one. It has expanded to include all areas of Ag Sciences and covers more than 250 careers,” he explains. As the man front-and-center for the program’s success, Paul feels that participating at the Grange Fair offers students with “up-to-date technologies that are reflective of the innovative Ag industry that feeds, clothes, houses, and provides energy to society.”

During the school year, Paul’s classroom serves to develop skills and explore career areas in agriculture, including animal, plant, environment, soil, horticulture, landscaping and food sciences. Coursework in the program emphasizes financial and business management, communications, mechanical technologies and research. Participation in the Grange Fair allows students to continue their Ag education in a real-life environment, providing them opportunity that can’t be found in a classroom.

In his role at the Grange Fair, Paul oversees his student’s livestock projects and helps with their educational displays. He serves as a junior livestock committee member, as well, supporting young exhibitors while they are participating in the fair, checking-in, weighing and tagging animals, as well as making sure the paperwork is correct.

Over the many years that SCASD has been represented at the Grange Fair, the Ag Program has had its fair share of recognition. “We had the first Grange Fair Queen, and four after that. Members have earned livestock awards and I was named Friend of the Fair two years ago,” Paul proudly states.

The importance of participation in this annual event, however, is not measured by awards, but rather experience and impact on the community, according to Paul. “The most important impact is to sustain and vest the Ag and State College communities into the program. I want to be a role model in our community and thought of as a steward of the program for our district, impacting past generations of students as we navigate for those of the future.”