AUGUSTA — Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry (DACF) teamed up with Jobs for Maine’s Graduates (JMG), in partnership with Skowhegan Savings Bank and Kennebec Valley Community College, to host an Outdoor Career Exploration event at Kennebec Valley Community College in Hinckley, ME. Nearly 500 7th graders attended from Skowhegan, China, Madison, Valley, Warsaw, and Waterville participated in the Friday, May 10, 2019 event. Over 40 organizations and businesses presented hands-on learning opportunities in fields such as logging, forestry, recreation, and agriculture. Local colleges were also on hand to inform students of related training opportunities.
Outdoor Career Exploration was inspired by conversations DACF Farm Labor Link Network staff had with farmers. Yvette Meunier, Promotional Coordinator for the DACF, explained that “Over the summer I met with farmers and listened to their ideas for supporting Maine’s next generation of farmers.” From these conversations “two themes became clear 1) The need to strengthen our industrial arts programming and 2) Opportunities to engage younger students with insightful agricultural and outdoor career information.
The event concept was a good fit for the JMG team as well. Tracie Travers, Workforce Development Manager for JMG stated “JMG provides a continuum of support to 9,000 students a year from grade six through post-secondary education and into the workforce. Exposing students to pathways to success is what we do and our hope is this event will inspire more young people to begin planning for promising futures.” JMG has built a strong network of Maine business partners committed to working to address the labor shortage and to provide quality employment opportunities
Outdoor Career Exploration is designed to introduce students to outdoor careers in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) and to inform and inspire teachers to bring agricultural literacy into the classroom. Prior to the event, Maine Agriculture in the Classroom staff and JMG specialists delivered an Ag Explorer Career Finder pre-teach curriculum created in partnership with National Farms for the Future (FFA) and Discovery Education to several of the schools attending the event. Career Finder compares a student’s strengths and interests and matches them to the myriad of career paths in agriculture. “Careers in agriculture are careers in STEM. From the biology of plants, soils, and animal health, to learning how to be good stewards of the environment, to using technology for precision agriculture and running efficient operations, teaching agriculture is essential to fostering an appreciation for and interest in sustaining a productive landscape,” says Kelsey Fortin, Program Assistant with Maine Agriculture in the Classroom. A copy of the pre-teach curriculum can be found here: https://www.agexplorer.com/
Schools received a generous donation of a fruit tree from ReTreeUS to start their own school orchards. ReTreeUS is a non-profit dedicated to promoting an environmentally sustainable, socially just food system by planting orchards with local schools and providing educational programs that empower young people and their families to grow their own home orchards and gardens. According to Richard Hodges, ReTreeUS Program Manager, ReTreeUS “Believes that by engaging students in the process of growing their own food and caring for trees, we can create a lasting impact for both the schools and their students.” ReTreeUS will also be available to the schools to teach lessons on their role in the orchard, starting with a conversation about the impact growing their own food has on their health and that of our planet.
–Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry
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