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Ontario Grain Farmer Magazine is the flagship publication of Grain Farmers of Ontario and a source of information for our province’s grain farmers. 

The educators

HANDS-ON LEARNING FOR HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS

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IN APRIL 2024, GRAIN FARMERS OF ONTARIO STAFF HEADED NORTH TO EXHIBIT AT THE EARLTON FARM SHOW. The farm show draws large crowds from the farm and rural communities from across the north who come to see the latest in farm machinery, chat with industry representatives, and visit with friends and neighbours. One of the biggest draws this year was a locally designed and built combine simulator, a project of the Timiskaming District Secondary School’s (TDSS) Special High Skills Major (SHSM) in Agriculture program.

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WHAT IS A SPECIALIST HIGH SKILLS MAJOR?

The SHSM is a specialized Ontario Ministry of Education program that allows students to gain credits toward their Ontario Secondary School Diploma and focus their learning on a specific economic sector at the same time. Nineteen different SHSM programs, in addition to agriculture, are available, including in manufacturing, hospitality and tourism, construction, aviation and aerospace, health and wellness, and the environment. Students complete up to 10 courses in their chosen specialized field, earn industry certifications such as CPR and first aid, and gain important skills through cooperative education placements.

At TDSS, the agriculture SHSM is taught by Bradley McLean, who brings his two passions — teaching and farming — to the classroom. Both occupations are family traditions; McLean’s brother and sister are both teachers, and together with his brother, McLean farms near New Liskeard on his family’s century farm, growing a four-crop rotation of canola, oats, wheat, and soybeans. Following university at Nipissing University, where he got a BA in geography and his teaching certificate, McLean taught high school shop classes; making the transition to teaching agriculture was a natural fit.

The TDSS SHSM program brings in a diverse group of students — McLean says only about 30 per cent come from a farm — but provides students with the skills and knowledge they need to be successful upon graduation. Students graduate with ten industry certifications: in addition to first aid and CPR, they are certified in industry-specific skills such as working at heights and chain saw operation. With classroom and hands-on learning in everything from beef, dairy, and poultry production to learning the ins and outs of working on a grain farm, such as using GPS systems and autosteer, graduating students are well-positioned to enter into high-demand jobs in the workforce or go into post-secondary education in agriculture or other trades.

McLean’s students benefit from having a farmer as a teacher; among the many field trips they take each year are trips to McLean’s farm, where students can try their hand at tillage and get in the cab of a combine to harvest a crop.

THE COMBINE SIMULATOR

Not everyone has the chance to climb into the cab of a combine, so McLean set out to create that opportunity. Working with local farm businesses who supported the project, McLean and his students took the cab from a burnt combine and designed and built a combine simulator, which features a 55-inch curved video display monitor along with the seat, steering wheel, and internal controls found in a typical combine cab. The outer wrap of the simulator, designed by the students, features the logos of the community partners who supported the project.

“The combine simulator has been phenomenally received,” says McLean. “The next step for the students is to install a radio, air conditioner, and wire up lights.” The simulator is a highlight at community events like the Earlton Farm Show.

Continue the conversation at www.ontariograinfarmer.ca, where you can read more about Ontario educators who are bringing the farm to the classroom.

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