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Each year, the Piscataquis County Soil and Water Conservation District (PCSWCD) honors an educator working in the county with the Outstanding Conservation Educator of the Year award. This year, the Board of Directors has selected Julie Willcott, high school teacher at Foxcroft Academy, to receive our 2015 award. After earning a degree in Plant and Soil Science from UMass Amherst, Julie began her teaching career at the Stockbridge School of Agriculture in Massachusetts.
From there, she spent 10 years teaching at John Bapst High School in Bangor, followed by 10 years at Foxcroft Academy (FA) in Dover-Foxcroft. She taught core science courses – Biology, Chemistry and Physics – throughout her career. Over the past few years, she started two elective courses at Foxcroft Academy, Greenhouse Management and Introduction to Sustainable Agriculture.
Julie’s Introduction to Sustainable Agriculture course provided a dynamic opportunity for FA students to gain direct, hands-on experiences working in and learning about agriculture. The course provided dual enrollment at Kennebec Valley Community College (KVCC), which earned students college credit at the conclusion of the semester course. This course and the Greenhouse Management course, which was co-taught with Foxcroft Academy teacher Jack McLeod, offered a wide variety of learning experiences for students as they toured and visited local agricultural enterprises, designed and managed an on-site greenhouse and learned about practical plant biology, chemistry and real-world applications to science normally taught in a classroom setting. While visiting Spruce Mill Farm in Dover-Foxcroft with her students, Julie mentioned “how exciting it was to witness the kids connecting with their community through local agriculture. It was encouraging for them to see young people like themselves producing food and being successful.”
Sustainable agriculture practices are such an essential part to protecting and conserving our natural resources. The effort that Julie poured into her courses directly resulted in more area youth learning about the importance of conservation. In an interview with Julie, she said that “Foxcroft Academy always graduates a number of students who express interest in exploring natural resource professions. It’s great to provide those kids with these courses, so they can broaden their knowledge base, deepen their understanding and strengthen their connection to our community. A major part of keeping kids here in Piscataquis County is showing them these opportunities in natural resource conservation professions, such as careers in sustainable agriculture, and therefore developing an appreciation for the importance of our natural resources.”
The District staff and Board were fortunate to work with Julie, Jack McLeod and their Greenhouse Management students on May 29th, as they helped plant close to 600 hardwood trees at our Law Farm property. Julie’s enthusiasm for the project and getting the students involved was incredible. “I’m most excited to see the future of the tree planting project” said Julie. “I enjoyed working with the District and see many opportunities for getting area youth involved in future projects at the Law Farm.”