Two Maine Teachers Get National Recognition for Nature-Based Teaching Methods

By Abbate, Lauren | Bangor Daily News (Bangor, ME), April 18, 2017 | Go to article overview

Two Maine Teachers Get National Recognition for Nature-Based Teaching Methods


Abbate, Lauren, Bangor Daily News (Bangor, ME)


For the past five years, a team of two teachers at Gray-New Gloucester Middle School has been rooting their curriculum in agriculture and nature-based learning.

From math to language arts, Morgan Kerr and Stephanie Enaire have developed creative lesson plans that incorporate the natural world to give their students a better understanding of the food system and community around them.

"It's really important that students have an understanding of how the world works around them, and food and agriculture is just such a great way to bring them that understanding," Kerr said. "There is such a disconnect of where food comes from. 'Oh, you get it from the grocery store.' And that's where the thinking stops a lot of the time. Creating those thoughts and a deeper learning is just such an important thing for us to do."

Kerr and Enaire never thought they'd receive national attention for how they've managed to meet education standards from a nature-based approach, but they will be getting that attention in June when they will be honored with seven other teachers from around the country who have been selected to receive the 2017 National Excellence in Teaching about Agriculture Award.

The award is given annually by the National Agriculture in the Classroom Program, a nonprofit organization that works to assist educators in bringing agriculture-informed learning to their students and represents the 50 statewide agriculture in the classroom programs. Kerr and Enaire were selected as a team as the 2016 Maine Agriculture in the Classroom Teacher of the Year Award.

"What you do in your classroom day to day, to think that it's going to be recognized outside of the classroom, that's not why we do what we do. We do what we do because we want to engage students and give them these experiences," Enaire said. "So it's nice to be recognized for all of the hard work that you've put in. It's humbling, for sure."

But what this team of teachers manages to do in their classroom day to day is pretty special. By taking history lessons outside to explore public trails for signs of a former sheep farm and using garden design to incorporate science, technology, engineering and mathematics, commonly known as STEM, instruction, Kerr and Enaire are not only giving their students hands on learning experiences, they're giving them an education that is rooted in their surroundings

Kerr and Enaire teach fifth and sixth grade, instructing about 50 students. As team teachers, Enaire instructs the students in math and science, and Kerr handles social studies and language arts.

While the duo may specialize in different subjects, when they were paired together five years ago, they felt their shared interest in agriculture had a clear place in the classroom. At the time, Kerr had just come to Gray-New Gloucester Middle School from Wolfe Neck Farm in Freeport, where he worked as a farm school educator, an experience that he said inspired him to bring that type of a nature-based education into a traditional school environment. …

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