GrowME Update

During their recent meeting, the GrowME Team decided to adopt some structure based on the enthusiastic response they’ve had to their offer to provide agricultural activities to local classrooms. Walter Boomsma of Valley Grange will be serving as coordinator for S.A.D. 4 and School Union 60. Shelia Richards of PCSWCD will focus on S.A.D. 68 while Felicia Dumont of UMaine Piscataquis County Extension will work with S.A.D. 41.

The collaboration was loosely formed earlier this year to “build a truly local program of agriculturally themed activities for kids led by local volunteers with the objective of creating agricultural literacy and making it fun.” For their first year, the group decided to focus on Kindergarten through first grade and offer short “hands-on” activities in March when “Ag Day” is traditionally celebrated.

“We were optimistic, but not really prepared,” said Walter Boomsma of Valley Grange. “Within a very short period of time we had classrooms from nearly every school in the county signed up.” Boomsma estimates that the collaboration will end up working with over 30 classrooms and nearly 500 students.

The GrowME team also set a deadline of March 2nd for classes to sign up, but Shelia Richards admits it might not be strictly enforced. “We want to be organized and make sure provide a quality experience,” she said. “But it would be hard to say ‘no’ to a teacher or class who wanted us, even at the last minute.”

The group hopes to have their volunteer roster complete by March 9th. Volunteers will have some options in terms of activities, but there will be some guidelines to insure activities are appropriate. Project Team member Lynn Lubas is working on a catalog of activities. “We are creating some structure based on our belief this will be an ongoing program. We don’t want students to repeat an activity as they progress to a new grade, so our options will be determined by grade level.” Lubas also noted that volunteers do not have to be in charge of an activity. Helpers are also needed.

Boomsma is handling publicity for the group and he finds it amusing that interest outside the area is already growing even though the program hasn’t happened yet. “We were recently mentioned in New England City and Town News Notes where a synopsis of our program is listed as an ‘Education Idea Starter.’ I think the appeal of what we’re doing is about simplicity and collaboration. We don’t have or need a budget. We have people with passion, energy, and most importantly—a shared goal.”

More information is available from any one of the coordinators: Boomsma at 343-1842, Richards at 564-2321 and Dumont at 564-3301. The next GrowME team meeting is scheduled for Monday, March 5th at 9 AM at the PCSWCD office. All are welcome!

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