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Science offers a variety of life classes

Students in Rachel Sauvola's small animal science class are responsible for caring for a variety of small animals, from fish and turtles to rabbits and ferrets. The students rotate through the animals throughout the semester to learn about and learn how to care for a variety of creatures. Pictured above, Jackson Bonnes works to clean the rabbit cages during class.1 / 2
Josh Nelson is the aquaculture lab manager, an independent course he's taking through the agriscience department. Pictured above, Nelson nets some of the school's tilapia during "Weighing Wednesday," when the fish are weighed in order to figure out how much feed they require.2 / 2

When it comes to agriscience, New Richmond High School is the envy of all other area schools.

Rachel Sauvola, the district's agriscience teacher, offers 15 classes in a variety of subject areas - five of those classes (veterinary science, small animal science, large animal science, food science and greenhouse management) count as a science elective.

Sauvola said she wants to emphasize that her classes are not "farming" classes.

"People think that a career in ag means you're going to be a farmer. That's not true. There are more than 300 careers in agriculture. People think careers in ag are dying but right now ag is the fasting growing career," she said.

Gabes Rabb, a New Richmond High School graduate and the vice president of the Wisconsin Association of FFA, said the Department of Workforce Development recently released numbers reflecting Sauvola's statement.

"In 2010 there were 372,020 ag jobs in the state," she said. "In 2020 they're projecting 414,850."

Sauvola said she recently had the opportunity to visit the Oscar Mayer Headquarters in Madison and was surprised to learn that most of the food scientists there were of retirement age.

"It's because there is no one else to replace them," she said. "How cool would it be to learn about the stuff that goes into your food? It's unfortunate because kids don't understand all the jobs related to ag. We have a lot of opportunities in this area."

New this year at New Richmond High School are the addition of Duke, the school's bull calf, and the fish in the aquaculture lab.

Duke arrived at New Richmond High School last semester and was cared for by the large animal science class.

"He's still here and doing well," Sauvola said.

Since the calf arrived at New Richmond High School, students have applied an ear tag, castrated the animal, dehorned and taught it to walk on a halter. He's also gained 231 pounds and grown 10.5 inches.

"He's attracted a lot of kids to the ag department," she said. "Kids I don't even know will stop by and ask if they can see him."

In the aquaculture lab, tilapia and blue gills are being raised in three 800-gallon tanks.

"The fish have gone from 1.4 grams to 55 grams," she said. "We've had some major successes."

In the spring, Sauvola's "plants, animals, pizza and more" class grows and sells Easter lilies, vegetables and annuals.

"We also have fun collaborating with the district's fourth-graders, who are learning about agriculture in their social studies classes," she said.

Fourth-graders participate in Food For America Day, which teaches students about where their food comes from; Safety Day, which teaches safe practices around common items; and planting geraniums for Mother's Day.

In addition to teaching agriscience classes, Sauvola is also the advisor to New Richmond's FFA Chapter, which is celebrating FFA Week this week.

The FFA chapter recently participated in the District Speaking Contest, where New Richmond was awarded several honors.

First place honors went to the parliamentary procedure team of Shawnee Holte, Dakota Hatch, Abby Martin, Madison Tornio, Cortney Mundth, Brodie Wilson and Haley Turany.

New Richmond members also swept the creed competition! First place honors went to Martin and second place went to Holte.

"It is very uncommon to have both top finishers from the same school," Sauvola said.

Tornio received second place in the job interview contest, while Baily Lund placed fourth.

Lund also placed sixth in the discussion contest.

FFA week is a national event that takes place Feb. 16-23, said Rabb. The goal is to advocate for FFA and agricultural education.

In New Richmond, students will be snowtubing at the Badlands with other area chapters and hosting a variety of lunch activities at New Richmond High School during the week.

"Snowtubing has become a big event," Sauvola said. "The Bandlands opens their doors to us from 6 to 9 p.m. and we have about 200 tubers, all FFA members, on the hill."

Other planned FFA activities at NRHS include showing informational videos during the week, hosting a staff breakfast and allowing students to test their skills at calf roping.