…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.
The next GrowME Volunteer meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, March 4, 2015 at 10 AM at the PCSWCD in the Pinecrest Industrial Park. All are welcome and encouraged to attend! We will be finalizing schedules, reviewing activities, and coordinating supplies.
Please note that teachers and volunteers may still sign up right here on this web site using the tabs above! However, to increase our efficiency and provide better service and communication, we have informally appointed schedule coordinators for each school as follows:
- Greenville Elementary: Shelia Norman, Piscataquis County Extension 564-3301 or click on name to email.
- Piscataquis Community Elementary School: Walter Boomsma, Valley Grange, cell 343-1842 or click on name to email.
- SeDoMoCha Elementary School: Walter Boomsma, Valley Grange, cell 343-1842 or click on name to email.
- Milo Elementary School: Shelia Norman, Piscataquis County Extension 564-3301 or click on name to email.
- Brownville Elementary School: Shelia Norman, Piscataquis County Extension 564-3301 or click on name to email.
- Ridgeview Elementary School: Hannah Yovino, Piscataquis County Extension (Food Corps) 564-3301 or click on name to email.
- Media inquiries should be addressed to Walter Boomsma.
Local collaboration will provide classroom activities for the fourth year
While it might be difficult to think about gardening and farming in mid-January, a group of volunteers are doing just that. They are preparing a fourth year of 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.
GrowME aims to utilize local volunteers who will work with teachers to schedule an agricultural activity in their classrooms during Maine Agriculture Week (March 23-27). 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. One of his specialities is visiting second graders at PCES to make butter. “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.” Volunteers also conduct seed planting activities, apple tasting and create animal graphs. “We also spend some time just talking with the kids—many have chickens and gardens and it’s fun to share experiences.”
Boomsma notes that last year volunteers visited with over 60 classrooms and 800 kids, but notes 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 thirty 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 https://growmehelp.wordpress.com/schoolteacher-sign-up/.