Monday, February 15, 2010

A bit about Saul

By Nina Berryman

I’m sure by now you are all beginning to realize Saul is not your ordinary high school. In addition to taking “regular” academic classes, students at Saul choose a concentration in one of the following majors: Food Science, Floriculture and Greenhouse Management, Landscape Design, Large Animal Science, Natural resource Management, and Small Animal Science/Vet Tech. Students have the opportunity to shear sheep, work with machinery and manage greenhouses. They can take classes in aquaculture and landscape construction. They learn how to lay brickwork (we can thank the students for the new patio in our pick-up area), make salsa, and milk cows. According to one student I spoke with, they sometimes have to take the bus home smelling like manure! The more time I spend at Saul, the more I daydream about sitting in on some classes over the winter when the farming season dies down. I could brush up on my welding skills or see what it takes to design and build a breathtaking exhibit for the Flower Show.

The school was founded in 1943 as the Wissahickon Farm School. In 1958 the current agriculture building was finished and the school was renamed The Philadelphia High School of Agriculture and Horticulture. In 1966 the name was changed one last time to honor W. B. Saul who was an early patron for the school. Saul High School includes more than 150 acres and is currently the largest agricultural high school in the U.S. After some quick research, I have only been able to find one other urban agricultural high school in the U.S., and that is in Chicago. There are about 15 agriculture teachers, 20 academic teachers, two farmers (not Nicole and I), and a mechanic. I can personally vouch for the pride among the students and staff for being members of the Future Farmers of America (FFA); and it comes as no surprise that Saul is the largest single-school member of the FFA in the world. Of the two national FFA positions that have been filled by African-Americans, both were Saul students.

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