Models | Pekin High School

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Pekin, IA

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Pekin High School students are collaborating across subject areas to promote “from the backyard to the table” eating. This philosophy centers around providing healthy, fresh, and organic food options. Incorporating this idea into The Chicken Tractor Project, students are designing, constructing, and renting out portable chicken coops for use in the local community, providing customers with fresh, organic eggs laid by chickens. Students have also designed and maintained a successful greenhouse which they use to grow and harvest fresh produce.

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How it Works

Chicken Tractors

With guidance from teachers, students in Industrial Technology and Agriculture classes are developing a product called “Chicken Tractors,” which give community members the option to lease portable chicken coops and accompanying chickens to supply  them with their own fresh eggs. The Chicken Tractor Project has been a multi-step process, requiring planning, teamwork, knowledge and skill of building processes, business decisions, and implementation.

Through this project, students are gaining practical experience implementing principles of entrepreneurship by estimating needs and costs for materials, marketing the product, and securing customers. In addition, students are building the product and will be buying and caring for egg-laying chickens for the tractors. The chicken tractors will be leased out for 6 months, from April through September.

School Greenhouse

In addition to “Chicken Tractors,” Pekin students have also designed and built a greenhouse on school grounds. The Agriculture Education Department has been working on a local food project for the past 2-3 years.  They currently have in place a school greenhouse, a 25’ x 100’ rolling high tunnel, a land lab, and 2 hydroponic systems that produce 250 plants per harvest. Students are currently growing their first crop of lettuce for the school lunch program.  They recently added a 180 cell commercial NFT system, secured through a Monsanto Grow Rural America Grant.

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Increase Students’ Entrepreneurial Skills

The Chicken Tractor project provides an opportunity for our students to learn about and experience many different aspects of entrepreneurship, such as estimating needs and costs for materials, working on a team, meeting the needs of a community, marketing the product, gaining profit, and securing customers.

Promote Healthy Eating

A key theme in the Pekin Agriculture classroom is healthy eating is easily done “from the backyard to the table.”  In this way, the projects address the problem concerning the large consumption of processed food options rather than healthy, fresh, farm-raised food. Through the projects, students provide possible options for potential customers to make healthier food choices for their families.

Apply Concepts Learned in Classes to a Real-world Situation

Students are able to apply the skills and concepts they are learning in their Industrial Technology and Agriculture courses through The Chicken Tractor Project. Students in the Industrial Technology class are implementing the skills they have learned about building and manufacturing items to construct the portable chicken coops, while Agriculture students are learning how to care for chickens and applying the concept of eating more organic, fresh foods.

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Population Targeted

The Chicken Tractor project is aimed toward members of the Pekin community interested in providing healthier and fresh food options for themselves and their families.

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Customer Discovery

Speaking with potential customers in the community, The Chicken Tractor Project team gained valuable feedback about portable chicken coop design and cost. Ease of use was consistently the biggest factor people brought up, followed by cost. Using this information, the team altered their chicken coop’s design and materials used in order to make the best product available for their customers.

Customers also expressed excitement about chicken tractors providing them with fresh-laid eggs every morning, allowing the team to validate the need for their product.

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Key Partners

Dow Chemical

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Successes to Date

Committed Chicken Tractor Customers

In addition to the commencement of chicken tractor construction, two customers have also made verbal commitments to a six-month lease of the chicken tractors.

Maintained Student Constructed Green House

Students worked together to design, construct, and maintain a greenhouse on school property. The student teams have successfully maintained a functioning greenhouse, allowing them to plant and harvest various types of produce.

Secured a Grant to Fund Projects

The student team successfully obtained a grant from Monsanto Grow Rural America. They have used these funds to expand and improve their projects, with the hopes of obtaining more customers.

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Sustainability Plan

The ability to sustain this project relies on the expected success and recommendation from customers to create a demand for Chicken Tractors for subsequent years.

Subsequent years are also expected to have significantly greater profit due to first year start-up costs.

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