Animals, Vegetables, and Fruits, Oh my!

The horse is winning in first grade!

Volunteers from Valley Grange in Guilford visited twelve classrooms and close to 200 students last week in conjunction with the annual celebration of Agriculture Week.  Based in part on materials provided by Maine Agriculture in the Classroom, volunteers read to children from Kindergarten through third grade and conducted several activities and had lots of discussion with kids at Piscataquis Community Elementary School.  Activities ranged from seed planting in CD cases so students could observe how sunflowers sprout and grow to the annual “butter making” by second graders and some “favorite farm animals” posters by kindergartener and first graders.

Program coordinator Walter Boomsma pointed out that while the Grange still places value and emphasis on its agricultural heritage, these visits also demonstrate the evolution of the Grange. “Historically Grange Members were in the fields and on the farm, now you’ll find us in the schools. While we still value our agricultural heritage we’re now about community and community service.”

Mrs. Marsh and Kinders

Valley Grange has for some time emphasized working with tomorrow’s citizens through a number of programs such as “Words for Thirds;” an annual project that provides every third grader in the area with his or her own dictionary. The Guilford-based Grange also recently announced winners in their annual Newspapers in Education Contest. Boomsma noted that “all of our activities with the school are about making learning fun… like planting a garden; we hope the kids will grow up with a love of reading and learning.”  

Grange Reader Nathalee Marsh noted that “We’re in PCES twice a week and usually listen to kids read to us. This time we got to read to them and talk about gardening and farming. They sure love to tell us stories… and it’s amazing how many have gardens and chickens!”

Seed sprouting kit

Janice Boomsma worked with third graders, planting seeds in empty CD cases using coffee filters to wick up moisture. “The kids were really excited about being able to watch life begin from a simple seed,” she said. “Maybe there will be some sunflowers in the flower bed in front of the school this year.”

Second graders learned how to make butter—an activity that’s also popular with a least one teacher because “school made butter has no calories—when the kids shake the jar, all the calories fly out!” Butter-making instructions are available from second grade teachers for those who want to try the exercise at home with parents.

Second graders look, smell, taste and in some cases touch the butter they made!