…a collaboration between Valley Grange, PCSWCD (Piscataquis Soil and Water Conservation District) and UMaine Piscataquis County Extension to build a truly local program of agriculturally themed, hands on activities for kids led by local volunteers.
It’s been a busy week and we haven’t been able to keep the site updated! We’ll have more highlights soon, right now we’re preparing for our Plantastic Agstravaganza! It looks like we will have visited over 60 classrooms and well over 800 children!
If you missed the WABI-TV5 coverage at SeDoMoCha earlier this week you can watch it here:
Our second grade buttermakers at PCES were excited when Bryan Shawver from ABC7/Fox 22 arrived to watch them at work… the story should air tonight (Friday) at 6, 10, and 11. We’ll post the link here as soon as it becomes available–probably tomorrow morning.
Watch the ABC-7/Fox-22 story here: http://www.foxbangor.com/news/local-news/4817-second-graders-make-butter-learn-agriculture.html
Community invited to celebrate GrowME Growth
Guilford–Valley Grange will host an “Agstravaganza” on Friday, March 28th at their hall on the corner of Butter Street and Guilford Center Road. The Grange is one of three collaborating organizations who sprouted and nurtured the GrowME Project. Grange Program Director Walter Boomsma says, “There’s a lot to celebrate! The numbers are still coming in but it looks like our volunteers will reach nearly 50 classrooms and over 750 students. I think we’ve lost count of volunteers because we seem to add more every day.”
The GrowME program was hatched in 2011 when three local organizations with an interest in agriculture decided there was an opportunity to assist schools and teachers by providing some “hands on” activities with an agricultural theme. Valley Grange was joined by Piscataquis Soil and Water Conservation and District and the Piscataquis County UMaine Extension and the three organizations agreed on a mission to “build a truly local program of agriculturally themed activities for kids led by local volunteers with the goal of increasing agricultural literacy and making it fun!”
During the week prior to the Agstravaganza volunteers will be visiting grades K through 3 throughout the county with activities like creating animal graphs, apples to apples tasting and sorting, making butter, and making dirt babies. Boomsma notes that “our Grange loves an opportunity to invite the community to our hall, but it seemed particularly appropriate to have a community celebration of our achievements and agriculture in general. We’ll have a great potluck supper and brief program to share highlights from GrowME.”
The event is not just for people involved in GrowME—it is open to anyone who supports the idea of community and collaborating. The Grange promises to a “family friendly” event and hopes volunteers, teachers, kids, and parents will come. The “Plantastic Agstravaganza” features a community potluck supper at 6:00 PM—bring a dish to share! A brief meeting at 7 PM will cover some highlights of the GrowME collaboration and some agricultural related information. Attendees are invited to bring an old-time farm, gardening, or home device to display as part of “what is it?” table.
Additional information regarding the Agstravaganza is available on the Valley Grange website.
Dover Foxcroft — While it might be difficult to think about gardening and farming in mid-January, a group of volunteers are doing just that. They are meeting at Piscataquis Soil and Water Conservation District office on Thursday, January 30 at 1 PM to begin preparing a third year for the GrowME program. The program is offered to K-3 teachers and schools in Piscataquis County and the surrounding areas. The program is organized by a collaboration between Valley Grange of Guilford, PCSWCD (Piscataquis County Soil and Water Conservation District) and UMaine Piscataquis County Extension.
The program aims to utilize local volunteers who will work with teachers to schedule an agricultural activity in their classrooms during Maine Agriculture Week (March 24-28). Ana Bonstedt, Home Horticulture Coordinator for Piscataquis County UMaine Extension is particularly excited over the “hands on” aspect of the activities. “Thanks to our rural nature in Piscataquis County, we don’t have the ‘nature deficit’ that some more urban areas experience,” she said. “But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be offering our kids an opportunity to involve all their senses and get some hands on learning.”
Walter Boomsma, program director for Valley Grange agrees. For a number years he’s visited second graders at PCES to make butter as part of Valley Grange’s commitment to being a resource. “We have fun and the kids almost don’t realize they are learning–some have even asked for instructions and then made butter at home as a family activity.” Grange members have also done seed planting activities and created animal graphs. “We also spend some time just talking with the kids—many have chickens and gardens and it’s fun to share experiences.” Bonstedt has also seen positive impact of these hands on experiences—during last year’s activities she was invited back to one classroom to talk about her native country, Paraguay.
Boomsma notes that last year volunteers visited with over 40 classrooms and 700 kids, but note’s there should be no shortage of volunteers and resources thanks to the collaboration. “We’ve got master gardeners and farmers available through Extension Programs and PCSWCD includes partners and resources that are committed to good stewardship. Our continued goal is to keep this informal, local, and a true partnership between our schools, teachers, and volunteers. It’s not so much that we have a program to offer—it’s more about working together to make good use of our resources. Our volunteers will have the sort of agricultural experience and background to be especially relevant to students while providing insight into the importance of agriculture in our area.”
The group focuses on kindergarten through third grade but is willing to consider requests from teachers of other grades.
GrowME volunteers visit for about 20 minutes and work with students on a simple, grade appropriate activity. Teachers and administrators who are interested need only furnish contact information: teacher’s name-email address and grade. Interested teachers may email firstname.lastname@example.org or call Boomsma at 343-1842. An online sign-up form is also available at http://growmehelp.wordpress.com.
GrowME volunteers visited 45 schools and worked with over 700 students. Teacher feedback was excellent with 100% of teachers responding that activities were “grade level appropriate” and 100% said the activity was very engaging and the students learned and benefitted. Many thanks to teachers, administrators, volunteers and especially the kids for another successful program.