MAITC Teacher of the Year 2011
Each year, MAITC recognizes an outstanding Maine elementary or secondary school teacher who uses agricultural education materials and/or activities in the classroom to such an extent as to merit our special award. The winning teacher is then required to submit—with our help—an application for a National AITCA Excellence in Teaching About Agriculture award and attends the National AITC Conference held in sunny Ft. Lauderdale, FL for 2011 and Denver, Colorado in 2012. Maine's teacher of the Year also attends the annual Summer Teacher's Institute free of charge and shares their program with the teachers there.
Congratulations to our 2011 MAITC Teachers of the Year
A team from Buckfield Junior/Senior High School, Annette Caldwell and Gretchen Kimball.
These teachers have been involved in many activities involving agriculture in the classroom. Their agricultural experiences have been directly linked to their Garden Project. The 1.2 acre garden and farm stand have become a visual icon in the region, as Buckfield Junior / Senior High School students have transformed an old corn field into a vital community resource. The original purpose was to engage students in a meaningful project that enhances academic achievement, reinforces healthy choices, promotes ecological stewardship, and fosters community and social development. It has grown, however, into something far more!
The garden is tended by middle school students. They work each spring to research and plan what will be grown in the garden, and typically enjoy experimental crops like purple string beans, and bird-house gourds. They use a budget to order seeds and seedlings, and begin many vegetables and flowers in classrooms using grow-lights. They work to prepare the garden in May, and in early June take two days to plant. A hundred kids, ten teachers, and whatever elements the weather brings on planting days, makes for an adventurous experience!
As you can imagine, such a large garden provides a plethora of problem solving opportunities. No sooner had we broken ground the first year, when we discovered we wouldn’t be allowed to access school water. Not to be deterred, however, the high school physics students designed and built a process for catching the rain water off our roof, and a gravity feed system for transporting it through a network of soaker hoses.
The season ends with the Harvest Supper, a gathering of family and friends who want to support the hard work of their children and who are genuinely excited to eat foods grown and prepared by our students. Our first supper raised $3,500 which students elected to donate to a local family experiencing a severe hardship.
Because the Garden Project has become so integral to the middle school experience, incoming seventh graders expect to be involved in a similar service learning project. They look forward to being involved in the garden, as well as discovering what unique venture their class will undertake and accomplish.
Additional projects have included a composting area and the creation of an outdoor classroom for cooking and learning about our garden produce. Other teachers in the school are actively using the garden to teach Language Arts, Math, Science, and History. Each class is extremely proud to create their own plot and explain what is growing to the entire school and community. In the fall the produce is used in the cafeteria. The garden has provided lessons across the curriculum and community and will continue to prosper into the future with new projects and adventures to come.