An architect’s rendering of the new Livestock Center planned for W.B. Saul.

by Tyller Moorer

Walter B. Saul High School in Roxborough, is a school unlike any other: An agriculture school, which is the only school in the state of Pennsylvania, to focus on agriculture and food science, as well as horticulture and animal science.

What will continue to make the school standout is the new $1-million- dollar livestock center.

The old barn has been in place for around 40 years. Four years ago a camera was installed into the barn as a way to keep track of the sheep giving birth. It was a live camera linked to the school’s website and drew a lot of attention from people around the district. People tuning in to watch the sheep also saw a facility in need of serious repair.

“I think it [live stream] both highlighted what we were doing and the conditions that we were doing them in,” said Gail Koskela, an Animal Science teacher. “That kind of transparency of both the successes as well as the challenges drew attention to the need for a new structure.”

The new barn is being made possible through a grant for the Cole Hamels Foundation. That foundation was started by the Phillies World-Series winning pitcher and his wife Heidi to support education. The organization had earmarked funds for a project for Saul and snapped up the opportunity to build the livestock center. that there was a need for a new livestock center. Other projects have come up as well which have all received funding from the Cole Hamels Foundation.

The new barn is set to begin construction very soon, and students could not be more excited.

“I’m excited,” Matthew Melendez, a senior animal science major said, “They [underclassmen] will have newer stuff to work with and they will be more organized. It is better for their education because there is a lot more space.”

“The new barn would be a lot easier because the barn is messed up,” Senior Brielle Stevens said. “It will be easier for them [animal science majors] to take care of the animals. It would make it look prettier than what it is now.”

A mural at the W.B. Saul. (Photo by Tyller Moorer)

Something that all students from various majors can agree on is that Saul is a very hands-on and active school. It is obvious that they are not held back simply because they are students but pushed to be as engaged as possible.

“They [seniors] actually had input into some of the original designs when we had someone come by and talk to us,” Koskela said. “The seniors may not get to work in that barn but they’ve worked on that barn, which I think is a big deal, and they’re already excited about it.”

She wants her students as involved as much as possible, having all of the discussions about the barn with her class. They go into detail with what can strategically work placement wise and how it can work to be built.

Sheep and pigs will be the two animals placed inside of the new barn. Sheep are the main animals involved with teaching problem solving, critical thinking, and basic biology.

Regardless of their major within the school the lessons are valuable ones. Lisa Blum, a plant science teacher, noted, “the skills that we teach them can be applied to many different things. Show up, be professional, problem solve, and take accountability.”

Those lessons are not only relevant to plants or animals but to everyday life despite the field they are in.

Many students, if they do not continue with agriculture in college, take up majors similar. Some go into nursing, teaching, or business. That is because students are nurturing and helpful to living things as well as critical thinkers. Blum recalled when asked if everyone at the school continues with agriculture post-graduation.

The high school selection process for all of Philadelphia happens at the first half of eighth grade. For more information about W.B. Saul and its programs, visit saul.philasd.org

Tyller Moorer is a Local intern.

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