GrowME Sprouts and Spurts!

Local collaboration will provide classroom activities

Dover Foxcroft — While it might be difficult to think about gardening and farming in February, a group of area volunteers are doing just that as they plan this year’s GrowME program being offered to K-3 teachers and schools in the Piscataquis County area. The program is the result of collaboration between Valley Grange, 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 18-33). Joanna Tarrazi, Executive Director of PCSWCD 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. His favorite part 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 will also offer seed planting activities 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 the program is expanding this year to include schools in Dexter, but 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 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.”

Those interested in volunteering are invited to a meeting on February 19th at 3 PM at PCSWCD in Dover Foxcroft where guidelines for volunteers and activity materials will be reviewed.

This year’s offer to local schools is for a GrowME volunteer to 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 and volunteers may email or call Joanna Tarrazi at PCSWCD, 564-2321. Additional information is also available at