Hawlemont School’s new agriculture-based academic curriculum has taken root this past year with significant help from Franklin County Technical School students.
Three tech school shops – landscaping and horticulture, electrical, and carpentry – have been involved with various projects at the Hawlemont School related to the agricultural curriculum, with plans to continue next school year.
Hawlemont School agriculture teacher Jean Bruffee said the Turners Falls-based technical school’s involvement in the Hawlemont Agriculture and You (HAY) curriculum has been instrumental in moving the program forward.
“It’s a good match between us and the tech school,” she said. “It’s been a really nice experience. Our kids really appreciate that they’re here. It’s been invaluable to have the tech school work with us. By having them here, we’ve been able to do most things we want to do.”
FCTS did everything from construction projects to assist Bruffee in the classroom. The electrical program students under the supervision of their teacher Todd Weed, wired a new barn and greenhouse. Carpentry shop instructor Ken Vautrin’s students helped build the school’s barn along with a group of volunteers.
Mark Amstein, a teacher in the Franklin County Tech landscaping and horticulture program, coordinated the school’s involvement with Bruffee, who he has known for years. His shop was the most involved with the Hawlemont program, including setting up the greenhouse by recommending the most appropriate soil to use, and choosing and taking care of plants.
“We’d been in contact with Hawlemont School since last year when they were getting the program started,” Amstein said. “It’s a natural connection between our program and their agricultural program. We want to have this be an ongoing relationship to help them achieve their goals. The Hawlemont program needs support. Franklin County Tech could provide a good part of that.”
FCTS landscaping and horticulture student Elaina LaFlamme, 18, of Halifax, Vermont, worked closely with Bruffee as an intern, helping to teach agriculture classes, including designing lesson plans, assisting in setting up the greenhouse, working with students on caring for chickens, and teaching them to plant and replant flowers and vegetables. She has been the FCTS student most involved with the Hawlemont program throughout the school year.
“I’m there all week, every other week,” LaFlamme said. “I’m there the same amount of hours as a regular school day. I love teaching the kids. I think it’s great to get them started this young in agriculture. Instead of playing video games, they could be plating a garden and some of them do that.”
According to Bruffee, LaFlamme has been a major asset lending her expertise in the classroom and in the greenhouse.
“Elaina has a lot more knowledge about greenhouses than I do,” Bruffee said. “She brought ideas and experience. I’d be lost without her. She’s been great. She takes the initiative. She’s always looking for something to do.”
Alexis Plante, 17, of South Deerfield, has also helped out in the classroom with things like teaching the students to plant and replant flowers and vegetables. She hopes the lessons she has taught the students will have a lasting impact on them.
“I’m so excited to be working at the first elementary school to have an agricultural program,” she said. “As the kids get older, more of them will want to farm.”
Another landscaping and horticulture student, Cooper Deane, 19, of Jacksonville, Vermont, taught students the art of sugaring, from identifying and tapping trees to boiling sap to make maple syrup. He started by showing a third grade class how to identify and tap maple trees. Deane then took the sixth graders out to tap some trees, and he showed all of the classes how to boil the sap.
“We put out 13 or 14 buckets and collected about 50 gallons of sap from trees around the outside of the school,” he said. “We made about a gallon of syrup.”
Deane, who has been making syrup for the last seven years, said he enjoyed working with the children.
“It was awesome,” he said. “It’s nice to know they’re interested in doing farming at a younger age. It’s nice the school is doing something like this. A lot of farms are going out of business. I’m hoping this will keep farming and sugaring going.”
Besides teaching the sugaring process, Deane also built a portable chicken hatching coop for the school.
Next school year, the FCTS agriculture and landscaping shop will re-establish walking trails adjacent to the Hawlemont School, including identifying trees. There are also plans for tech school students to help build terraced gardens in front of the school.
“This will be an ongoing relationship with the tech school,” Bruffee said. “They’ve been a huge help.”