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Hershey School Plans Agricultural 'Literacy' Center

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The private Milton Hershey School in Hershey, Pa., has announced plans to open a national resource center for teaching agricultural "literacy.''

The independent National Youth Science Institute, which is scheduled to be inaugurated at a ribbon-cutting ceremony next week, is also intended to work in concert with a revamped agricultural-science curriculum at Milton Hershey.

The school is a residential, coeducational institution that provides a free education to 1,100 disadvantaged children in pre-kindergarten through the 12th grade.

Tom Helm, the institute's director, said the center is a direct response to a 1988 National Research Council study of agricultural education, which found that most Americans know little about food and fiber production, its economic or social significance, or its links to health and the environment. (See Education Week, Sept. 21, 1988.)

The institute will emphasize holistic and interdisciplinary approaches to applied science, Mr. Helm said, and have ties to other schools, colleges, corporations, and organizations.

The hope is to develop a curriculum and teaching model that can be replicated elsewhere, he added.

Into the Fields

Founded by the chocolate maker in 1909, Milton Hershey has a long tradition of teaching agricultural science.

The institute, which is still in its infancy, is expected to be funded by foundations and partnerships. But details will probably not be firm until next month, Mr. Helm indicated.

The institute's fund-raising goal will be $1.5 million a year for five years.

One part of the institute's mission is to improve traditional science classes at the school, Mr. Helm said. Officials hope to shift instruction from the classroom to the fields to show students how they can apply their knowledge and how that can extend to a career path.

For hands-on student-research projects, five research centers developed in consultation with Pennsylvania State University will focus on environmental studies, horticulture, animal science, farm technology, and dairy animals.

Students will be able to witness plant growth and the production of milk, perform tissue culturing and genetic experiments, and raise vegetables without chemicals, Mr. Helm said.

Norman Miller, the director of Milton Hershey's agriculture-science program, said the school expects to invest $1.5 million in upgrading current facilities to create the five research centers.

The institute also will be able to use 500 of the school's 6,000 acres of farmland.

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