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Hampshire Regional teacher Kira Jewett wins ‘AgriScience’ award

Hampshire Regional science teacher Kira Jewett, left, receives the 2013 AgriScience Excellence Award March 9 from Mass. Ag in the Classroom Executive Director Debi Hogan, Eastern States Exposition Trustee Charlie McColough, ESE Vice President Sue Lavoie and Marjorie Cooper, chairman of the board of Mass. Ag in the Classroom and an ESE trustee.
PHOTO COURTESY OF EASTERN STATES EXPOSITION.

Hampshire Regional science teacher Kira Jewett, left, receives the 2013 AgriScience Excellence Award March 9 from Mass. Ag in the Classroom Executive Director Debi Hogan, Eastern States Exposition Trustee Charlie McColough, ESE Vice President Sue Lavoie and Marjorie Cooper, chairman of the board of Mass. Ag in the Classroom and an ESE trustee. PHOTO COURTESY OF EASTERN STATES EXPOSITION. Purchase photo reprints »

— Florence resident Kira Jewett received an award for integrating agriculture into her curriculum as a science teacher of Grades 8 and 9 at Hampshire Regional High School in Westhampton.

Jewett, 41, accepted the annual Massachusetts AgriScience Excellence Award at a ceremony March 9 at the Paul R. Baird Middle School in Ludlow. The award is given by Massachusetts Agriculture in the Classroom and Eastern States Exposition, the site of the Big E, to “a teacher who works with outstanding effectiveness to promote the awareness of the critical role of agriculture in our lives in the classroom environment,” according to a press release.

“It’s nice to have the recognition,” Jewett said Monday. “But I love doing what I do, and that’s what excites me.”

Since Jewett started teaching at Hampshire Regional in 2007, she has been using agriculture in her classes, from teaching students to grow their own food to testing soil to see how different kinds of farming affect the quality of the crops.

Students learned about technology and engineering as they built raised garden beds for Rockridge Retirement Community in Northampton, as well as compost tumblers and cold frames — small wooden structures used to protect plants in the cold weather. They have learned about ecosystems, genetic adaptations and even mapping, while working in the garden they cultivate at the school, she said.

“I feel like it’s really important that they know these skills,” she said. “Part of it is the emphasis on learning technical skills, but on a fundamental level, we don’t know what the future is going to look like. We know people need to eat, and so I want to teach them how to feed themselves.”

And the Poughkeepsie, N.Y., native said the lessons are resonating with students. “They’re always excited to go outside,” she said. “And it gives them a sense of ownership, because they get to choose to some extent what we plant. That’s different than a lot of what they do in the classroom.”

Last year, her students made a kale and pumpkin soup from their garden and donated it to a local soup kitchen. This year, Jewett hopes her students can grow some of the produce for the new salad bar in the cafeteria. She also hopes to expand the garden and get her ninth-grade students more involved, she said.

Jewett credited Massachusetts Agriculture in the Classroom workshops with helping her to come up with ways to use agriculture in her curriculum.

As part of her award, Jewett and her students will get free admission and an educational tour at the Big E this fall, and she will be invited onstage at the Big E’s Court of Honor Stage.

Rebecca Everett can be reached at reverett@gazettenet.com.

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