GrowMe plants seeds of agricultural knowledge in students’ minds
GUILFORD — Piscataquis Community Elementary School (PCES) third-graders had the chance to be a little messy at their desks as the students each put together or birth a “dirt baby” — seeds in a paper cup — on April 3 during a GrowMe Project day at the school with activities held for the four younger grades.
Before Alicia Laweryson’s grade 3 students returned to their homeroom to finish the day, GrowMe Coordinator and Valley Grange of Guilford Program Director Walter Boomsma said the program is now in its sixth year. He said in 2018 GrowMe volunteers visited about 600 students in 40 elementary classrooms between PCES and the other school districts in Piscataquis County.
Boomsma said agricultural programs are connected to the Grange’s farming heritage, and GrowMe is a collaboration between the Valley Grange, University of Maine Piscataquis County Cooperative Extension and the Piscataquis County Soil and Water Conservation District. Third-graders make dirt babies, students in grade 2 churn and sample homemade butter, first-graders complete an apples to apples comparison with taste testing and kindergarteners make a graph showing the favorite farm animal of the class.
Once the 16 students had taken their seats Boomsma explained GrowMe, most of the pupils remembered taking part in other program activities in previous years, and agriculture. “It’s about farming, gardening and growing things,” he said.
Boomsma then asked the third-graders how many of them had grass for breakfast that morning. After a few students firmly said no and others joked yes, Boomsma explained that most cold cereals and toast are made from oats and grains, which can be considered grass.
“Our project today involves grass,” Boomsma said. “Every one of you before we leave today is going to have a baby. The baby is actually what we are going to call a dirt baby.”
Valley Grange member Linda Erwin and several students helpers then passed out the dirt baby components, a paper cup, netting, yarn and a cup of seeds, followed by a scoop of potting soil.
“If we are going to grow stuff you remember we need three things,” Boomsma said, as the students correctly identified sun, water and soil.
The third-graders placed their seeds in the center of the netting for the cup of soil. Working with a classmate, they folded the corners together and tied the material in a bunch to get it to resemble an ice cream cone.
“Your baby is going to grow hair, the grass is like hair,” Boomsma said.
The students were then each give a “dirt baby birth certificate” as they came up with an name for their creation and had spaces to list the date of the first sprouts and date of the first haircut or when they give the grass an inaugural trim. Before the session Boomsma compared the dirt baby to a Chia Pet.
At the end of the GrowMe session, the third-graders put their labeled cups on the window sill.
“Not everyone’s is going to sprout at the same time,” Boomsma said. He said the majority of the dirt babies should have grass before the start of April vacation a week and a half later.
Observer photo/Stuart Hedstrom
HOW DOES THEIR DIRT BABY GROW? — Piscataquis Community Elementary School third-grader Alicia Niles, right, puts a wrapped scoop of soil and seeds into a cup as classmates Donivan Boutilier and Katreena Davis look on during an April 3 GrowMe Project dirt baby activity at the school in Guilford. GrowMe is a collaboration between the Valley Grange, University of Maine Piscataquis County Cooperative Extension and the Piscataquis County Soil and Water Conservation District and this year about 600 elementary students in approximately 40 classrooms across the several Piscataquis County school districts took part in various agriculture-related activities.
Observer photo/Stuart Hedstrom
DIRTY BABY BIRTH CERTIFICATES — Piscataquis Community Elementary School third-graders Kiley Cupero, front, and Kailyn Dunnell fill out birth certificates for their dirt babies during a GrowMe Project program on April 3. The certificates include dates for when the students’ seeds first sprout and when they decide to trim the grass for the first time.