Buckfield teachers receive agriculture honor

The following is excerpted from a Maine Department of Agriculture press release.

AUGUSTA — Annette Caldwell and Gretchen Kimball, teachers at the Buckfield Junior/Senior High School in Buckfield, Maine, have received one of five top awards in the nation for “Excellence in Teaching about Agriculture.” This award is offered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the National Agriculture in the Classroom (NAITC) Consortium. Teachers from all 50 states are eligible.

In June, both teachers will travel to Fort Lauderdale, Fla., for an all-expense-paid, five-day trip to receive their award at the NAITC conference. Caldwell and Kimball were also the 2011 Maine Agriculture in the Classroom (MAITC) Teachers of the Year, for their gardening and curriculum project at the Buckfield school.

Under the direction of these teachers, the students and staff have established a 1.2-acre garden, for the purpose of enhancing academic achievement, reinforcing healthy choices, promoting ecological stewardship, and fostering community and social development. As students have wrestled with the never-ending problems that accompanied this authentic learning experience, they have grown to appreciate challenge and love learning.

The garden is managed by middle-school students, who work each winter to research and plan what will be grown. Using a budget, they order seeds, and then, in early spring, they begin the process of planting. With a rich soil mixture cultivated from their worm bins, students start their seeds under grow-lights in the classroom, moving them to the greenhouse as soon as possible. The planting takes place over several days in early June, and then the work begins. In the fall, produce is used for a harvest supper, pumpkin raffle, and other fundraisers, with the proceeds used for a worthy cause in the community.

The Buckfield Garden Project has been incorporated into the middle school’s math and language arts lessons, as well as other subjects across the curriculum. Students in the school system, from elementary age to high school, are using the garden in their class work, problem solving and working together to create successful service-learning, real-life experiences for them all.

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