Agriculture has always been a big part of the Banta Elementary School curriculum and celebrated within and outside the classroom. The more than 100-year-old school has served as a school for local farmers and field workers, and it still does today.
Banta Unified School District operates a K-8 school, Banta Elementary School, and sponsors two K-8 charter schools within the River Islands community.
Banta School offers Banta Agricultural Science Charter School as an option for the 300 to 350 students. Banta’s students, from pre-kindergarten through eighth grade, now study math, science, reading and writing from an agricultural perspective.
Superintendent Rechelle Pearlman says Banta’s reputation has always been “a small country school with strong community support.”
“There is a community feeling to Banta, you just feel like you are a part of something more than just yourself. I think you see that with the teaching staff, with the kids, it’s kind of cliché to say, it feels like a big family”, she said.
Over the years, the school has held agriculturally focused events such as Hay Day and Ag Day to support its community roots. Being in rural Tracy, she said the overall feeling of Banta is that you are in a different place.
“I think that for a kid it’s pretty cool,” said Pearlman. “You’re out playing kickball and the farmer in the field next door is planting tomatoes and you get to watch the cycles of the harvest. You get to see that happening right across from your playground.”
The goal is to also expose students to alternative careers that involve agriculture on a different level than just growing plants; to take agriculture beyond the farm to fork philosophy.
Before distance learning, students were learning how to plant, care and harvest their own vegetables, and that program is going to be reinstated this year. Students will once again be growing their own crops, caring for farm animals like chickens, and learning about composting to create their own soil. They will also be learning about the non-traditional agriculture businesses such as technology, hydroponics and drones.
Helping the teachers prepare a new campus-wide agriculture curriculum from scratch are San Joaquin County Office of Education officials and knowledge they gained by attending the World Ag Expo, The California Agriculture In The Classroom Conference and National Agriculture In The Classroom 2021 Conference in Iowa this past July.
One of their goals is to get the local 4-H program back online, which will help with the reintroduction of chickens next spring, and eventually other farm related animals on campus in the coming years. This will help teachers put into place the community support that they will need for these farm related animals.
Although there are no dairy cows permanently on campus, teachers will continue to show students about cows through an adopt a calf program at Discoverdairy.com. This will enable them to learn about the animals from birth with the help of a dairyman located somewhere in the United States. Last year one of the Banta classrooms teamed up with a dairy in Iowa.