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Hawlemont to speed up its farm curriculum

From left: Farmer Erwin Reynolds Sr., who donated Shaggy the lamb to Hawlemont, shares a toast with the School Committee, school principal and school administrators, to celebrate the $130,000 grant award to jump-start Hawlemont’s farm-based curriculum. 
 (Submitted Photo)

From left: Farmer Erwin Reynolds Sr., who donated Shaggy the lamb to Hawlemont, shares a toast with the School Committee, school principal and school administrators, to celebrate the $130,000 grant award to jump-start Hawlemont’s farm-based curriculum. (Submitted Photo)

CHARLEMONT — With a celebratory “glass-of-milk” toast, the Hawlemont Regional School Committee, school officials and farmer Erwin Reynolds Sr. of Charlemont raised a glass to Hawlemont’s future farm-based curriculum at a recent School Committee meeting.

School Superintendent Michael Buoniconti says the development of the new agricultural-based farm program will be accelerated, because the district’s recent $130,000 Community Innovation Challenge grant requires that all the money be spent by Dec. 31.

“I thought we would likely do construction work during the summer,” Buoniconti said. “But the reality is, we have to speed things up.”

“We’re likely going to push hard to complete construction of the greenhouse, barn and chicken coop during the spring,” he said. “We’ll likely begin curriculum integration during the spring as well.” The farm buildings are to have plumbing and electricity.

At the March School Committee meeting, he said, Hawlemont’s leadership team will begin mapping out an action plan.

Besides the farm buildings on school grounds, Hawlemont is also planning to hire an educational group, Fertile Ground of Williamsburg, to coordinate the program, working with the teachers, consultants and farmers throughout the first year of construction and implementation.

“Agriculture was chosen because kids love it, we live in a farming community and there is almost nothing in elementary education that can’t be explained by relating it to cows and plows,” Hawlemont wrote in the application for the grant. Hawlemont’s proposed curriculum was inspired by a Kansas-based school, which uses an agricultural-based curriculum that has helped to improve its students’ academic scores and has boosted enrollment.

The animals to be housed on school grounds during the school year would be lent to the school by local farmers, who would be responsible for providing food and veterinary care. The school may also ask the Mary Lyon Education Foundation, a nonprofit school booster group, for a yearly maintenance grant. Also, there will be fundraising projects, such as plant and produce sales, to off-set maintenance costs and help pay an on-site school coordinator.

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