Lincoln Academy IDEAL students loading hay bales (above left) are: Brandon Wellman (10th), Kaiden Abbot (9th), and Gavin Achorn (9th) with Zack Bailey (9th) and Steven Baldwin (10th). Pressing cider (above right) are ninth graders Kaiden Abbott and Maddy Cooper.

Lincoln Academy’s IDEAL (Innovatively Designed Education for All Learners) program is partnering with Veggies to Table, a Grow-to-Donate Farm in Newcastle as part of their Service-based Learning class. During the unit, students explore and learn about farming practices while helping out a nonprofit farm that donates all of the organic produce and flowers it grows to those in need of food and joy in our community.

Veggies to Table’s mission is to “grow top-quality organic produce and flowers to donate to local people experiencing food insecurity, create lasting community connections through our volunteer program, and provide education around healthy food and sustainable living.”

Outdoor education and service learning make up the core curriculum in the IDEAL program, according to program director Janna Civittolo. “Service-based Learning is a major component of our program for ninth and tenth graders. Students are provided an opportunity to learn about and explore possible employment opportunities and skills while giving back and building connections within their community..”

As part of their volunteer work, students learn about the elements of farming, “including the fact that it is fun,” said Civittolo. After returning from the field, students are asked to summarize their morning job in writing and photos and reflect on their learning.

Ninth grader Kaiden Abbott wrote, “We went and we washed some carrots and radishes and cut stems off. It was really fun!”

Civittolo said, “It is sometimes the simplest chores, almost meditative tasks, slowing down, working with their hands, connecting to nature, that the students enjoy the most.”

So far students have learned about mulching, composting, weeding, winter clean up, tomato trellising, and even how to use an old fashioned hand-cranked cider press.

Gavin Achorn (9th), Steven Baldwin (10th), and Brandon Wellman (10th) holding freshly pressed cider.

Gavin Achorn (9th), Steven Baldwin (10th), and Brandon Wellman (10th) holding freshly pressed cider.

“It was so nice to press cider. I had never done it before. It was so good! And they even let me take some home,” said freshman Madison Cooper. Each student took home a mason jar filled with freshly pressed cider made from gleaned apples from a local orchard.

“After our goal of working towards ending hunger in Maine, education and community building are a huge part of Veggies to Table’s mission,” said Veggies to Table founder Erica Berman. “Having students on the farm is not only enriching for our team and the student, it is truly helpful in helping us to donate even more produce and flowers to our community in need. It is a joy to be able to teach today’s youth about local food and sustainable living while they get their hands dirty for a cause.”