Patrycja Zbrzezny, Assistant Principal
Bowne and Agriculture go hand-in-hand. The Agriculture Program at John Bowne High School actually pre-dates the school. During World War I, young men and women were recruited from New York City to work on farms upstate in order to fill positions of men fighting overseas. Many of these boys upon returning requested to learn more about agriculture. By a happy coincidence a New York City reform school with a farm was being closed in Queens and so in 1917 the Agriculture Program began. Initially the program was known as the Newtown Aggies, an annex to Newtown High School. The farm/land laboratory has shrunk considerably since then, with Queens College and then Bowne being built on the land. Since 1964 we have been the John Bowne Aggies and growing strong. Our Program currently has over five hundred students and eight teachers.
Freshman and sophomore students take classes in both the Plant and Animal Sciences, allowing them to make an educated decision at the conclusion of their sophomore year as to whether they want to major in Plant Science or Animal Science for their junior and senior years. With the use of our four-acre land laboratory housing a poultry house, large animal barn, exotic animal laboratory, greenhouse, orchard and field crops, students are offered an interdisciplinary nurturing environment that gives them a sense of belonging. Three of the department's agriculture teachers are graduates of Bowne's Agriculture Program.
One of the unique and educationally sound aspects of this instructional program is the relationship between classroom instruction and learning by actually doing. Students develop their required supervised work experience program on the school's land laboratory during their first summer of enrollment. Some two hundred students are then placed in both city and farm jobs for their second and third summers.
During the summer we have a three-fold approach to our supervised agricultural experiences. First, we have a two-month program running from July 1 st to August 31 st at the school on the land lab. Students attend between their freshman and sophomore years. Half of their day is spent in the classroom studying agriculture and the other half on the land lab. While on the land lab, students work on chores tending to the school crops, working in the poultry house, green house, tending our orchard and nursery crops, and working in our animal lab and large animal barn. The remainder of their day is spent working on their own garden plots. Each student is assigned a 15-foot by 15-foot plot of land on which to raise a vegetable and flower garden. Students get to keep all the produce and plants they raise on their plots and can count their harvest as earnings towards FFA awards.
Our second and oldest summer program involves the placing of students on farms. This strikes to the roots of our program. Working with the New York State Department of Labor, Farm Cadet Program, we place students on numerous farms throughout the state. They live and work with the farm family for the summer on dairy, horse, goat, and vegetable operations. We attempt to match the student's interest to the farm on which they are placed. Our students are required to keep a diary recording their experiences and observations and are visited by our staff throughout the summer. To operate our summer program, our regular staff is on an eleven-month contract and many work additional time on an hourly basis.
The third component of our summer program consists of urban internships. Students work at veterinary hospitals, florist shops, nurseries, garden centers, pet shops, zoos and aquariums. The students are required to keep similar diaries to our farm kids and are visited each month to see what they are learning. Most people would be surprised at the number of agriculture jobs found in the New York City.
John Bowne graduates go on to agricultural and technical colleges, Cornell University and many out-of-state institutions throughout the northeast before establishing themselves in leadership positions in agricultural professions such as veterinarians, landscape architects, teachers, florists, animal laboratory technicians and other related professionals.
The John Bowne Agricultural Program has been recognized nationally as an outstanding urban agricultural education offering. The department has constantly updated its curriculum to incorporate the new statewide curriculum and reflect New York's agricultural employment opportunities.