Students at Banta School will gain a new way to study the land thanks to a grant inspired by local farmers.
Banta Elementary School District was selected to receive a $25,000 grant to install a greenhouse at the rural K-8 campus through the America’s Farmers Grow Rural Education program sponsored by the Bayer Fund.
Principal Ann Jayne said her predecessor, Leslie Pombo, wrote the grant in the spring after the school was nominated by 14 farming families that have ties to Banta School through current or former students.
“It was written to support our ongoing efforts to establish STEM activities focused on land-based education and agriculture, the rich agricultural history here in the Banta area as well as Tracy,” Jayne said. “So that’s the direction we’re going long term and we’re in the process of working on that.”
The Grow Rural Education program allows farmers who meet age and acreage requirements to nominate public school districts for grants to enhance science, technology, engineering and mathematics education. Once they receive at least one nomination, school districts can apply for a $10,000 or $25,000 grant.
A team of STEM teachers reads and scores the applications, and an advisory council of farmers from across the country reviews the finalists and selects the winning school districts.
Banta was one of two school districts in California to be awarded a grant, the other being King City Union School District in Monterey County.
Tracy Unified School District was the only other local district to be nominated, receiving one nomination.
Banta School will use its grant to buy and set up a classroom-sized greenhouse as it moves toward a broader schoolwide focus on agriculture.
“Students can not only work inside but can learn inside, and that’s part of our ongoing efforts to create land-based education to where we’re eventually going to have animals and grow our own food and have a really great hands-on STEM learning lab on our campus,” Jayne said.
The greenhouse will go on the western side of the campus at 22345 El Rancho Road, on a couple of acres designated for those projects.
The school already has a small greenhouse that is in need of repair, and some teachers have phased in some agricultural studies as part of their lesson plans, but nothing in an organized fashion.
Jayne said the school needs to show plans for the greenhouse by the end of the school year. She hopes to speed up that timeline and have the greenhouse ready by spring for students in transitional kindergarten through eighth grade to work on projects that reflect the surrounding farmland.
“What’s the most practical is what is already grown in the area. It’s not only what we can identify with and students can identify with when they are driving through the local area, Jayne said. “But then we have local people who can come in and are experts on it and work with — really get some experts coming in here to help us learn.”
Anyone in the community who wants to work with Banta School as it moves toward agricultural education can email Jayne at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“I would be interested in hearing from any local farmers and dairymen and people who are interested in helping support us in our ongoing efforts of education and land-based learning,” she said.