Rural Charter School Makes Education Real for Students

The community of Walton, Kansas, has embraced a charter school as a tool for designing an educational program that is meaningful in their distant rural town.

Using a charter school grant from the U.S. Department of Education, the Walton 21st Century Rural Life Center has fully integrated agriculture and project-based learning throughout its curriculum and established partnerships between local farms.

But agriculture is only one of many possible career paths for students at Walton, said Principal Natise Vogt. They learn science while raising chickens and gathering eggs, math and angles while making planter boxes, and both literacy and computer skills while researching wind energy generated by the turbine outside their windows.

Walton has used the flexibility of the charter program in innovative ways to add relevance to the curriculum for his rural students. Students learn by making tangible connections between their education, the community, and the larger global economy. As a result, Walton has seen community involvement and pride increase—along with higher test scores.

“Kids can be excited about learning, and want to learn when what they’re learning makes sense to them,” said Principal Vogt.

The President’s fiscal year 2011 budget requests a $54 million increase in the Charter School Grants Program, seeking $310 million and representing another step toward meeting the Administration’s commitment to double financial support for the program. Where it makes sense, grants from the charter schools program can serve as a tool for innovation in rural communities.

John White, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Rural Outreach

More information about the Charter Schools Program is available from the Education Department’s Office of Innovation and Improvement at:

Watch a video telling the story of this compelling rural charter school.

View more photos.


  1. I was smiling as I read the progress and direction this Charter school was heading. It is this kind of approach to education that brings about a more meaningful experience in the life of a child. I wish we operated under such a system because being on an island in the middle of the south pacific is already a disconnection with what is happening in the world around us. To have this system in place, will give our children a tangible understanding even from our corner of the world, this will broaden their perspective in allowing them to be a part of the real world.

  2. Hi I am a believer and have taught only to Kindergarten level.I always wondered why the schools taught from first to 8th grade was so group oriented and the teachers taught in a way that was robotic. Children should be able to learn to the way the brain learns the system should appeal to the way their minds work. Charter schools seem to find their way into the child’s mind and teach according to the interest and the way the brain learns. I wish when I was a kid their were programs like the one my cousin went to the philadelphia Charter School for the performing Arts. It seems asw if she was able to get directly into college with Scholarships that really helped her. And My niece just graduated from Mast community cherter school with honers too. They seem to know what they are doing.

  3. This works because you have linked your curriculum to things that matter to them. They can care about chickens and farming. Students will ALWAYS perform significantly better in things that they CARE about. Other classes, however, are irrelevant to them, because they have no interest in them. You cannot force them to take interest in them, either. For education to truly succeed, you must allow the students to study things they care about! Let them learn about things that interest them!

  4. It is a great news that education is provided to children in rural areas and the U.S. Government is providing financial support to the “Charter School Grants Program”. It is good to see that these children are getting knowledge about different subjects as well as concentrating on agriculture. I would like to mention a sentence I liked from your post – “They learn science while raising chickens and gathering eggs, math and angles while making planter boxes, and both literacy and computer skills while researching wind energy generated by the turbine outside their windows.” It shows what level of education is provided to children. Great work by all!!!

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