Maine FFA State Officers Attend Maine Agricultural Trades Show

Pictured: Maine FFA State Officers Ava Cameron (Secretary-Treasurer), Graham Berry (President) and Camryn Curtis (Vice President) stand above the many agricultural organization displays for the 2020 Maine Agricultural Trades Show.

Student State Officers of the Maine FFA Association—formerly known as “Future Farmers of America,” with name changed simply to “FFA” to reflect increased diversity in agriculture including horticulture, natural resource management and other areas—participated in the 2020 Maine Agricultural Trades Show at the Augusta Civic Center on January 14th & 15th.

Maine FFA State President, Graham Berry, State Vice President, Camryn Curtis, and State Secretary-Treasurer, Ava Cameron, toured the many displays showcasing organizations and growers involved in Maine agriculture.  Accompanied by their State FFA Advisor, Doug Robertson, from the Maine Department of Education, student Officers were impressed by the extent of agricultural entities and opportunities.  They also attended the Commissioner of Agriculture’s Luncheon, with guest speaker Governor Mills, as well as a legislative reception hosted by the Maine Potato Board, and held a meeting for interested students from prospective Maine FFA chapter Maine Academy of Natural Sciences, Hinckley.

Maine’s State FFA Officer team was pleased to see in attendance at the Trades Show representatives from so many of their active sponsors including the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry, Maine Agriculture in the Classroom, Farm Credit East, Johnny’s Selected Seeds, Maine State Grange, Hammond Tractor, Maine Beef Producer’s Association, and many others.

Maine FFA provides leadership trainings, competitions and awards to students grades 7 to 12 enrolled in courses related to agriculture and natural resources, including science courses with practical applications through school gardens and greenhouses.  Maine FFA is affiliated with the National FFA Organization, the largest youth leadership organization in the United States.

For more information on establishing a local FFA chapter, please contact:  Doug Robertson, Maine Department of Education, doug.robertson@maine.gov  (207) 624-6744.

Saco Middle School Students Partner with their Community to Conserve Local Land

Students at Saco Middle School have teamed up with the Saco Valley Land Trust to conserve an eight-acre piece of land in Saco that runs along the Nonesuch River in what the students are calling the “Conserving Our Community” project.

The project started the first few weeks of school this year as part of a ‘community block’ at Saco Middle School where students are challenged to work on projects that will improve their local community. Community block projects range from creating and pitching a dog park to the city, aiming to increase protected bike lanes, doing compost for the school, or in this case, conserving a local piece of land.

The project started with just seven students who were interested in embarking on an endeavor that somehow protected the land around them. The group, along with their teacher Andrew Fersch, contacted the Saco Valley Land Trust who was eager to collaborate and had their eye on this specific property. Since then the project has evolved and grown as the original group of students have convinced the rest of the 7th grade class to get involved. More recently they have been joined by some of the 8th grade students, growing their group to over 100 students at this point. They are now conducting full school assemblies at every school in the Saco School Department with hopes of getting everyone on board.

Gianna, a student working on the Conserving Our Community Project explains more about it in a written post on the Saco Valley Land Trust Website:

As a team we believe that learning about our community and world is important knowledge to have. It is important to know what is happening in the natural world around us, because it affects us. Every impact to Saco’s ecosystem is an impact on us as well.

One of the perks of owning this land is that it will help make a longer wildlife corridor and trail where (hopefully, eventually) we can connect from Saco all the way to Gorham, though there are still some gaps where roads flow through. If we conserved this land it would make it possible for all the majestic animals of Maine to travel through the woods with no fear of getting hit by a car (and for humans to enjoy open spaces too!).

The students make frequent trips to study the land, capturing their adventures in trail documentaries and they have even written a book, The Secret Wisdom of Saco (PDF), a collection of place-based stories. The project also provides them with a community service learning project where they can advocacy for something they feel passionate about and deeply connected to.

“Children learn what is possible through example. If the community shows them that conservation matters, and that working hard pays off, they’ll carry that message their whole life,” said Andrew Fersch, project adviser and Saco Middle School Teacher.

For more information about Conserving Our Community, including how to donate or get involved, please visit the Saco Valley Land Trust Website.

This story was written by Maine DOE Staff Rachel Paling in collaboration with Saco Middle School as part of the Maine Schools Sharing Success Campaign. If you have an idea or a story for the campaign, email Rachel at rachel.paling@maine.gov.

MEDIA RELEASE: 2019 Report on Census of Community-Based Environmental Learning in Maine Released

Augusta – Maine Mathematics and Science Alliance and Maine Environmental Education Association announced the release of the Census of Community-Based Environmental Learning (CBEL) in Maine 2019 report on Monday, January 13, 2020 at a press conference at the Maine State House.

This exciting, first-of-its-kind report documents the creative and innovative programming that is occurring across our state, both in-school and out-of-school, to connect youth to their environment and communities.

Pender

The event featured remarks from Maine DOE Commissioner Pender Makin, Executive Director of Maine Mathematics and Science Alliance Ruth Kermish-Allen, and Executive Director of Maine Environmental Education Association Olivia Griset.

The report also sheds light on how this programming can be supported and sustained across the State of Maine, providing a pathway for advancement for the whole field. Full of stellar examples and stories, like a middle school study of invasive green crabs, a school composting program, collaborations with local land trusts, and more, this report tells the stories of educators designing innovative solutions and overcoming challenges to generate empowering learning experiences for our young people.

You can find the Report and the Case files on the Maine Environmental Education Association Website.

For more information contact the Maine Environmental Education Association.

Maine FFA Aroostook Chapter Students Collaborate on Leadership

On November 15, 2019, 160 enthusiastic Aroostook County FFA student members (formerly known as “Future Farmers of America”) participated in a one-day workshop at the University of Maine at Presque Isle devoted to leadership skills of positive influence, prioritizing, time management, and teamwork.  The University’s Sustainable Agriculture program sponsored the event.

Student State FFA Officers Graham Berry (President), Camryn Curtis (Vice President) and Ava Cameron (Secretary-Treasurer) developed, organized and conducted the workshop, with assistance from Haillee Cunningham and Alli Kenney of Ashland High School and from Emma Burby, Brandon Dubie, Izzy Higgins, Rheanna Ortman, and Amanda Winslow of Presque Isle Regional Career & Technical Center.  Logistics were assisted by Doug Robertson, State FFA Advisor, Maine Department of Education.

All current FFA chapters of Aroostook County fielded students to the event:  Ashland High School, Ashland Middle School, Caribou Technology Center, Central Aroostook High School, Central Aroostook Junior High School, Easton Junior/Senior High School, Hodgdon High School, Presque Isle Regional Career & Technical Center, Presque Isle Middle School, Washburn High School.

Considering Positive Influence in Leadership (left to right at table in foreground, five students facing camera): Hunter Cunningham, Ashland Middle School - Nick Margeson, Caribou Technology Center – Madelyn Buzza, Presque Isle Regional Career & Technical Center (PIRCTC) - Creed Chasse, Ashland High School – Maggie Currie & Clay Gregg, PIRCTC
Considering Positive Influence in Leadership (left to right at table in foreground, five students facing camera): Hunter Cunningham, Ashland Middle School – Nick Margeson, Caribou Technology Center – Madelyn Buzza, Presque Isle Regional Career & Technical Center (PIRCTC) – Creed Chasse, Ashland High School – Maggie Currie & Clay Gregg, PIRCTC

Maine FFA is a statewide organization whose nearly 500 members come from grades 7-12 classes devoted to areas of agriculture and natural resources (including science curricula infused with agriculture and natural resources topics).  Workshop content included discussion of topics, brainstorming, and hands-on illustrative activities.  In additional to leadership skills, students had the chance to meet and work together with peers from other schools.  Some students at the workshop had also recently returned from the National FFA Convention in Indianapolis, an event attended by nearly 70,000 students from across the country.  In addition to workshops and conventions, students in FFA are often involved in local community service and may benefit from numerous awards and scholarships.

Schools interested in starting new FFA chapters should contact:  Doug Robertson, Maine FFA Advisor, Maine Department of Education, doug.robertson@maine.gov  (207) 624-6744.

2019 Agriculture in the Classroom Grants Available – 12/6 Deadline

Maine Agriculture in the Classroom (MAITC) has $60K earmarked for grants in 5 categories for agriculture education in Pre-Kindergarten through 12th grade.

Due to the availability of additional funding, an additional round of applications will be accepted with the deadline of Friday, December 6th by 4:00 pm.

Visit the MAITC Website to view/download the 2019 Requests for Applications. https://www.agclassroom.org/me/programs/grants.htm

This support is a direct result of the Maine Agricultural Specialty License Plate. For additional questions please contact Maine Agriculture in the Classroom: https://www.agclassroom.org/me/about/contact.htm