Ag Land Committee weighs outreach projects


BENNINGTON -- The Mount Anthony Union Middle School Ag Land Committee met for its August meeting on Wednesday afternoon, and discussed potential outreach projects with Bennington Elementary School and the Kitchen Cupboard.

Stephen Greene, sustainability teacher at the middle school, began the meeting with a report from his conversations with the Career Development Center's new agriculture program director, Amanda Taft. Greene said that Taft would only be running one to two classes in the fall, and was interesting in coming to the middle school to co-teach his sustainability class, especially the eighth graders, who may be interested in joining Taft's program after they graduate from the middle school. The CDC currently has plans to build a greenhouse and outdoor classroom, according to Jim Marsden, director of buildings and grounds at the high school, but there is not yet a timeframe for that project.

The committee then heard from Marianne Campbell, a special education instructor at Bennington Elementary, who expressed interest in starting a composting program similar to what Greene and Helen Fields helped implement at the middle school during the last school year. Campbell said that she envisioned a program in which the younger students learned about composting on a small scale in the classroom, and fourth and fifth graders would help out with composting cafeteria waste. Marsden thought this was a good idea, as if the students started getting familiar with composting at a young age, they would be used to it by the time they reached the middle and high schools.

Fields suggested that Campbell have two or three teachers at the elementary school take the Vermont Master Composter Program, which is offered by the University of Vermont Extension. The program, which includes four three-hour classes, covers the biology of composting, Vermont's new universal recycling law, and can help teachers create curriculums on the topic. The classes are taught remotely, through Vermont Interactive Technologies.

Also regarding Bennington Elementary, Fields said she had spoken with assistant principal Jerry O'Connor about starting a garden program at the school. O'Connor had been hesitant at first, but Fields said that he eventually came around to the idea. The committee is now looking into installing two raised garden boxes at the school, which O'Connor hopes will provide opportunities for younger and older students to work together. The committee hopes to build and install those boxes in the fall, so that they could be ready for the students in the spring. Alan Baker informed the committee that Greenberg's had recently put up some garden boxes, and with the recent announcement of the store's closing, might be willing to donate them. Baker agreed to reach out to Greenberg's to see if that was an option.

Fields and Greene also gave an update on the work camp they had received a grant to run in the late spring. The $1,200 grant, from the UVM Extension and the Department of Agriculture, was awarded to MAUMS in May, for the purpose of getting students more involved in agriculture, and the committee had hoped to run a work camp over the summer, for which the students would be paid a stipend, with the food produced being donated to the Kitchen Cupboard. However, the Southwest Vermont Supervisory Union central office was unable to sign off on paying students on such short notice, and the camp never happened. Greene said the committee still has control of the funds, and he is hoping to find another way for his sustainability class to work with the Kitchen Cupboard. The rest of the committee supported this idea.

"I consider that a very good use of our money," said Fields.

Derek Carson can be reached for comment at Follow him on Twitter @DerekCarsonBB


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