New barn to give PCM ag students hands on experience

MONROE — Hands on is the way Nicole Gent likes to approach teaching, and this style is incredibly efficient when teaching students about agriculture.

Gent is the second-year ag teacher at PCM High School in Monroe. Her students grow corn on six acres, study prairie grass and other natural phenomena at the campus’ outdoor classroom and drive/maintain a John Deere tractor they keep in a machine shop connected to the school.

The next step for the students is the addition of a new barn, which the PCM school board approved purchase of in April.

“It was more of a need for space than anything,” Gent said.

Gent said last school year, she had 87 students and she expects to have more than 100 this year. In the spring, the ag program’s greenhouse didn’t have enough room for the feral piglets and plants they were growing, which would have become an increasing issue as more students enrolled.

“In the barn, we’ll still feral and then we’ll be able to use lots of storage for our tractor and things to free up some of our shop space for extra classes,” Gent said.

The new barn will be built just south of the football field at the school, and as of last week construction had been delayed due to rain, but the post holes had been dug. Construction will be completed by Monroe-based Pendroy Builders.

“The kids are really excited and they’ve been excited since we started talking about it,” Gent said.

Total cost for the new 20-by-30 foot barn was $13,300 and the ag program received around $9,000 in donations and raised another $1,000 in fundraising. The school board agreed to fund the remainder and have the program repay the district later.

Gent said growing up on her family farm north of Sigourney, she always had an interest in agriculture, and the influence of her high school ag teacher is what led to her becoming an ag teacher as well. She’s hoping this barn will fit right into the lessons she’s trying to instill in her students.

“Basically, just skills they can take no matter what their career ends up being. I guess, just life skills,” Gent said. “(The barn) will work great because when we do our lessons about vaccinations and castrations … they can actually get out and do that instead of just reading about it.”

Contact Senior Staff Writer Ty Rushing at (641) 792-3121 ext. 6532 or at trushing@newtondailynews.com.