Thomaston Grammar School Educator Selected for National Excellence in Teaching about Agriculture Award

Lynn Snow, a fifth grade literacy and science teacher at Thomaston Grammar School, along with seven other teachers from around the country, has been selected as one of the the 2020 National Excellence in Teaching about Agriculture Award winners.

The National Agriculture in the Classroom Organization (NAITCO), U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Farm Credit partner each year to honor teachers in pre-kindergarten through 12th grade from around the country for the innovative ways they use agricultural concepts to teach reading, writing, math, science, social studies, STEM, STEAM and more.

“These teachers are great examples of how effective agricultural concepts can be in delivering important reading, writing, math, nutrition, science and social studies lessons to students,” said Dr. Scott Angle, director of USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), which provides federal leadership and annual funding for NAITC. “The real-life connections teachers make by using items students use every day resonates with students.”

Lynn Snow ‘opens’ Common Ground Garden Seed Co. each spring. Students are involved in every aspect of the company beginning with applications and interviews to determine the jobs they will perform in packaging, marketing and managing the sale of bulk seeds to raise funds for the school garden.

Along with the other educators, Lynn will be honored at the 2020 National Agriculture in the Classroom Conference “Agriculture Elevated” June 24-26 at the Little America Hotel in Salt Lake City, Utah. Read the full press release from this announcement here, including a listing of the other educators being honored.

To learn more about NAITCO, please visit http://www.agclassroom.org.

Maine Agriculture in the Classroom Names Sebago Elementary School Educator as 2020 Teacher of the Year

Maine Agriculture in the Classroom (MAITC) recently awarded Sebago Elementary School fourth and fifth grade teacher Ted Bridge-Koenigsberg as the 2020 MAITC Teacher of the Year. Pictured above is Ted receiving his award from Amanda Beal, the Commissioner of the Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry, and Willie Grenier, Executive Director of Maine Agriculture in the Classroom.

In their Newsletter, MAITC talks about Ted and how he integrates agriculture in his classroom:

Ted currently teaches grades four and five at Sebago Elementary School and has been using agriculture in his classroom for years to help transform the educational experience of his students. The Sebago Elementary School Garden hosts a combination of flowers, vegetables, fruit trees, and the centerpiece: grapes. Ted has been using the grape vines, perhaps more than any other species in the garden, to get kids interested in plants, and the food they produce. Ted has coordinated with Sebago Elementary kitchen staff, providing hands-on lessons that have seen the students make grape jam, and even grape fruit leather, right in the classroom. His current project is “Fleece to Felted Footwear,” where students are learning about fiber processing by turning raw wool and natural dyes into warm felted woolen shoes they can wear, integrating art, science, and social studies! In June, Ted will be traveling with us to the National Agriculture in the Classroom Conference in Salt Lake City, Utah to attend sessions, and learn and connect with other educators from all over the country, and take that information and resources back to his school.

As part of the award, the MAITC teacher of the year gets to attend the MAITC annual Summer Teacher’s Institute free of cost and they also get to go to the National Ag in the Classroom conference.

The MAITC Teacher of the Year is a Maine elementary or secondary teacher who is using agricultural education materials/activities/resources in their classroom to teach core subjects. Teachers can apply for this award or be nominated. More information about the award and how to nominate or apply is available on the MAITC website.

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.