Nothing about Chicago High School for Agricultural Sciences (CHSAS) is ordinary. It’s a racially and ethnically diverse magnet school in the large, urban Chicago Public Schools district, yet it includes a 72-acre land lab—which also happens to be Chicago’s last working farm. Every student in the school benefits from both career-technical education and a college preparatory curriculum, rather than being tracked into one or the other. Key to this challenging curriculum is that the school’s graduation requirements are more rigorous than those of the larger district; students are required to take an additional year of both math and science, and every student takes the PSAT (the National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test) and the SAT.
CHSAS is also a designated school site for students with special needs, including students on the Autism spectrum. These students are included in academic and agriculture courses and in running and managing the farm with other students. Each pathway provides unique opportunities for students at all ability levels to build
skills and confidence.
All students choose between six agriculture pathways, each of which stresses hands-on, deep STEM learning: Animal Science, Food Science, Agricultural Mechanics, Horticulture/Landscape Design, Biotechnology in Agriculture, or Agricultural Finance/Economics. As part of these pathways, students have opportunities to spend time with industry partners in internships and apprenticeships—coupled with projects in cross-curricular student teams. Following industry standards, students in Physics, Agricultural Mechanics, and Horticulture, for example, collaboratively designed a garden for one of the school’s many community partners. The school also invites the community in, conducting agriculture tours on its Land Lab and hosting a farm-to-table Thanksgiving dinner for 350 senior citizens.
Interdisciplinary projects supporting academic/career integration promote a student-centered approach to assessment, with students developing portfolios that cross all subject areas and grade levels.
In these ways and many others, CHSAS prepares students with an array of opportunities connecting their learning to their communities and interests.