WABI TV5 Crew Visits PCES and GrowME

WABI GrowME 2015

Third graders at PCES were already pretty excited because Valley Grange volunteers and bookworms Mrs. Boomsma and Ms. Erwin were coming to help them make “dirt babies” as part of the GrowME Collaboration. But they became even more pumped when they saw WABI’s Caitlin Burchill and a camera operator headed their way. One teacher asked us to pop in and say “Hi” to the kids… and a third grader came rushing up to Cait with a quickly made card for the “wether woman” that said inside, “I love you!”

The resulting video can be viewed on the WABI TV 5 website.

GrowME is a collaboration between Valley Grange, PCSWCD (Piscataquis Soil and Water Conservation District) and UMaine Piscataquis County Extension to build a truly local program of agriculturally themed, hands on activities for kids led by local volunteers. This year’s volunteers included Grangers, Master Gardeners, 4-H Club Members, and community citizens interested in GrowingME, growing kids, and growing plants!

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GrowME 2015 Sprouts!

GrowME logoWhile it might be difficult to think about gardening and farming in mid-January, a group of volunteers are doing just that as they are preparing a fourth year of the GrowME program. The program is offered to K-3 teachers and schools in Piscataquis County and the surrounding areas. The program is organized by a collaboration between Valley Grange of Guilford, PCSWCD (Piscataquis County Soil and Water Conservation District) and UMaine Piscataquis County Extension.

GrowME aims to utilize local volunteers who will work with teachers to schedule an agricultural activity in their classrooms during Maine Agriculture Week (March 24-28). Ana Bonstedt, Home Horticulture Coordinator for Piscataquis County UMaine Extension is particularly excited over the “hands on” aspect of the activities. “Thanks to our rural nature in Piscataquis County, we don’t have the ‘nature deficit’ that some more urban areas experience,” she said. “But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be offering our kids an opportunity to involve all their senses and get some hands on learning.”

Walter Boomsma, program director for Valley Grange agrees. One of his specialties is visiting second graders at PCES to make butter. “We have fun and the kids almost don’t realize they are learning–some have even asked for instructions and then made butter at home as a family activity.” Volunteers also conduct seed planting activities, apple tasting and create animal graphs. “We also spend some time just talking with the kids—many have chickens and gardens and it’s fun to share experiences.”

Boomsma notes that last year volunteers visited with over 60 classrooms and 800 kids “from Greenville to Dexter to Milo,” but says there should be no shortage of volunteers and resources thanks to the collaboration. “We’ve got master gardeners and farmers available through Extension Programs and PCSWCD includes partners and resources that are committed to good stewardship. Our continued goal is to keep this informal, local, and a true partnership between our schools, teachers, and volunteers. It’s not so much that we have a program to offer—it’s more about working together to make good use of our resources. Our volunteers will have the sort of agricultural experience and background to be especially relevant to students while providing insight into the importance of agriculture in our area.”

The group focuses on kindergarten through third grade but is willing to consider requests from teachers of other grades.

GrowME volunteers visit for about thirty minutes and work with students on a simple, grade appropriate activity. Teachers and administrators who are interested need only furnish contact information: teacher’s name-email address and grade. Interested teachers may email or call Boomsma at 343-1842. An online sign-up form is also available at http://growmehelp.wordpress.com.

“Mr. Boomsma” featured in Maine Seniors Magazine

Mr. Boomsma making discoveries with Kendall Kimball, one of his many young friends at Piscataquis Community Elementary School. (Kendall's chosen career is to be a pop star when she grows up and she's already proving to be a "media darling.")

Mr. Boomsma making discoveries with Kendall Kimball, one of his many young friends at Piscataquis Community Elementary School. (Kendall’s chosen career is to be a pop star when she grows up and she readily agreed to be photographed for the article, already proving she is a “media darling.”)

Known to the kids as “Mr. Boomsma,” Valley Grange Program Director Walter Boomsma is the subject of a special article in the October Issue of Maine Seniors Magazine. Maine Seniors is a high quality magazine published right here in Maine and distributed throughout the state featuring “community icons” and “prime movers”—seniors who are making a difference in their communities and state.

Starting on page 32 of the October Issue, you’ll find a well-illustrated article about Boomsma’s passion for kids and how he discovered it after joining Valley Grange. “Each Grange can choose its own projects, reflecting local needs and interests. That’s how the Valley Grange, whose area stretches from Monson to Milo, came to focus so strongly on children. And how Boomsma—who talks with his hands and quotes Socrates—built a life around it.

A digital copy of the article will be available on http://wboomsma.com and the entire issue will be accessible at http://meseniors.com before the month is over. The article features some of Valley Grange’s initiatives such as Words for Thirds, Bookworming, and the GrowME project while telling some of his favorite stories about working with kids.

But it also makes clear the fact that Mr. Boomsma believes it’s not about programs. The programs he likes “are really just an excuse to do the real work.”

Written by Donna Halvorsen of Portland, an accompanying article expands and explains the role of the Grange—a Historic Tradition—in Maine.

“Mrs. Orton” named Community Citizen

Photo courtesy of the Piscataquis Observer includes Walter Boomsma, program director, Bill and Julie Orton, and Jim Annis, master.

Photo courtesy of the Piscataquis Observer includes Walter Boomsma, program director, Bill and Julie Orton, and Jim Annis, master.

Julie Orton, principal of PCES (Piscataquis Community Elementary School) was named Valley Grange’s Community Citizen of the Year during recent Community Night activities.

Program Director Walter Boomsma noted that Mrs. Orton gets credit for a number of collaborative programs between the school and Valley Grange. “It started with Words for Thirds and just took off from there,” he announced. “We quickly added bookworming and Newspapers in Education. Our GrowME collaboration truly started with a program at PCES that’s become huge–this year volunteers visited nearly 5o classrooms and interacted with at least 850 students in the area.”

The event was attended by Mrs. Orton’s fellow teachers, staff, friends, and parents of children attending PCES who spoke of Mrs. Orton’s compassion, leadership, and strong work ethic. Many considered the event somewhat “bittersweet” as this will be Mrs. Orton’s last year leading PCES–she’s retiring and looking forward to a slightly more leisurely pace. She does plan, however, to continue educating and nurturing children and may be back at school to substitute teach.

A “Just Five Minutes” slide program challenged those attending to consider the value of a daily five-minute commitment to communities. Boomsma pointed out that if “each person in our county between the ages of 20 and 80 spent five minutes per day, “the dollar value is over six million per year and equates to 188 full-time workers.”

Valley Grange was the recent recipient of some community service and honors were bestowed on the “Helping Hands” team from Mountain View Youth Development. Audience members quickly rose to a standing ovation after learning of the amazing makeover the kids and their supervisors completed to the Grange’ dining hall.

Maine State Grange Master Vicki Huff made a surprise appearance for the occasion and presented secretary Mary Annis with a certificate recognizing twenty-five years of membership. Annis is also the Grange’s Community Service Director and responsible for many of the programs Valley Grange runs to support our communities.

Photo courtesy of the Piscataquis Observer. Mary Annis, Linda Erwin and Vicki Huff celebrating Mary's quarter century of membership.

Photo courtesy of the Piscataquis Observer. Mary Annis, Linda Erwin and Vicki Huff celebrating Mary’s quarter century of membership.

 

We shaked it! And then we shaked it ten times!

In case you missed it, here’s the link to the GrowME news story by ABC-7/FOX-22:

http://www.foxbangor.com/news/local-news/4817-second-graders-make-butter-learn-agriculture.html

News Anchor Brian Shawver "gets down" (literally) with a couple butter-makers.

News Anchor Brian Shawver “gets down” (literally) with a couple butter-makers.

GrowME Sprouts and Spurts!

Local collaboration will provide classroom activities

GrowME logoDover Foxcroft — While it might be difficult to think about gardening and farming in mid-January, a group of volunteers are doing just that. They are meeting at Piscataquis Soil and Water Conservation District office on Thursday, January 30 at 1 PM to begin preparing a third year for the GrowME program. The program is offered to K-3 teachers and schools in Piscataquis County and the surrounding areas. The program is organized by a collaboration between Valley Grange of Guilford, PCSWCD (Piscataquis County Soil and Water Conservation District) and UMaine Piscataquis County Extension.

The program aims to utilize local volunteers who will work with teachers to schedule an agricultural activity in their classrooms during Maine Agriculture Week (March 24-28). Ana Bonstedt, Home Horticulture Coordinator for Piscataquis County UMaine Extension is particularly excited over the “hands on” aspect of the activities. “Thanks to our rural nature in Piscataquis County, we don’t have the ‘nature deficit’ that some more urban areas experience,” she said. “But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be offering our kids an opportunity to involve all their senses and get some hands on learning.”

Walter Boomsma, program director for Valley Grange agrees. For a number years he’s visited second graders at PCES to make butter as part of Valley Grange’s commitment to being a resource. “We have fun and the kids almost don’t realize they are learning–some have even asked for instructions and then made butter at home as a family activity.” Grange members have also done seed planting activities and created animal graphs. “We also spend some time just talking with the kids—many have chickens and gardens and it’s fun to share experiences.” Bonstedt has also seen positive impact of these hands on experiences—during last year’s activities she was invited back to one classroom to talk about her native country, Paraguay.

Boomsma notes that last year volunteers visited with over 40 classrooms and 700 kids, but note’s there should be no shortage of volunteers and resources thanks to the collaboration. “We’ve got master gardeners and farmers available through Extension Programs and PCSWCD includes partners and resources that are committed to good stewardship. Our continued goal is to keep this informal, local, and a true partnership between our schools, teachers, and volunteers. It’s not so much that we have a program to offer—it’s more about working together to make good use of our resources. Our volunteers will have the sort of agricultural experience and background to be especially relevant to students while providing insight into the importance of agriculture in our area.”

The group focuses on kindergarten through third grade but is willing to consider requests from teachers of other grades.

GrowME volunteers visit for about 20 minutes and work with students on a simple, grade appropriate activity. Teachers and administrators who are interested need only furnish contact information: teacher’s name-email address and grade. Interested teachers may email grange@boomsmaonline.com or call Boomsma at 343-1842. An online sign-up form is also available at http://growmehelp.wordpress.com.

Meat or Heat Raffle Winners

With a resounding Grange thanks to our ticket sellers and buyers, we are pleased to announce this year’s winners!

First Place $100 meat or heat: Garwood Howell

Second Place $50 meat or heat: Lois Prescott

Third Place $25 meat or heat: Bruce Chamberland

Auction helper Hailee (sorry if that's not spelled correctly) enjoys her reward.

Auction helper Hailee (sorry if that’s not spelled correctly) enjoys her reward.

This year’s top ticket sellers included Roger and Judy Ricker, Janice Boomsma and Pat Engstrom, and Betty VanDyke and her granddaughter Roxanne. Thanks for your efforts!

Winners were drawn during intermission  and following our auction of “leftovers” from our Harvest Festival dinner. Auction helper Hailee still had energy left to draw the winning tickets. In appreciation for all her help, she was rewarded with a dictionary–made possible by your support of Valley Grange and our raffle. We caught her looking up words during the second half of the program!

And a special thanks to McKusick Petroleum and Will’s Shop and Save for prize contributions.

Valley Grange appreciates the support we receive from our communities… thanks for making programs like Words for Thirds and Bookworming possible. Collaborations like our recent Harvest Festival to help Piscataquis Santa… our annual Community Citizen Award presentation, Newspapers in Education, and GrowMe are all made possible thanks to you!

GrowME Next Week!

EggThis year our GrowME group will be visiting over 40 classrooms throughout the area and working with an estimated 700 kids in Guilford, Dover Foxcroft, Dexter, Milo, and Brownville. Activities include making animal graphs with kindergarteners, apple tasting and sorting with first graders, butter-making with second graders and a new activity with third graders: making “dirt babies.” Valley Grange volunteers are focusing on PCES as noted in the Bookworm schedule for the month. Additional information about the collaboration and activities can be found on the GrowME website.

The program wraps up with an Eggstravaganza hosted by Valley Grange on Friday, March 22. Volunteers, teachers, parents and kids are all invited to join a community potluck supper at 6 PM, followed by a short program at 7 PM. The program will offer some highlights of the week’s activities and the UMaine Extension’s virtual chicken who will show us how an egg forms inside a chicken! Folks are also invited to bring an unusual farm or kitchen implement for “show and share” to this celebration of agriculture from farm to fork.

Just Five Minutes…

Just Five Minutes is a PowerPoint presentation converted to video that was produced in conjunction with our 2012 Community Citizen Program to give folks a sense of what our Grange is all about and to present some thoughts about community service.

(Should you experience difficulty with buffering, you can watch the program on You Tube by clicking the You Tube logo on the bottom right.)

GrowME Blog Established

The GrowMe collaboration now has a blog! Visit http://growmehelp.wordpress.com for all sorts of resources and information… Volunteers will find activity and volunteer guidelines. It’s a work in progress, so check back regularly–you can click through from here or visit the site directly. GrowME week starts Monday with volunteers working in Guilford and Dover Foxcroft! Don’t forget that everyone is invited to the Eggstravaganza at Valley Grange on Friday, March 16th. We’ll have a community potluck supper at 6 PM and a fun program at 7 that includes a virtual chicken! This is a family friendly event to celebrate our accomplishments–we’ll have worked in 34 classrooms with approximately 500 kids. We’ll also be appreciating agriculture and it’s role in our lives and communities. All are welcomed!