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Extension > Healthy Bodies, Healthy Minds, Healthy Learners > 2015

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On this blog, we share regular updates about the Healthy Bodies, Healthy Minds, Healthy Learners partnership between Extension's Children, Youth & Family Consortium and Bruce Vento Elementary School.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Expanding Efforts with Bruce Vento Community

By: Nora Fox


When Judy Myers and Sara Langworthy applied for and were awarded the Issue Area Grant through the University of Minnesota Extension over a year and a half ago, they had no idea how large and expansive the "Healthy Bodies, Healthy Minds, Healthy Learners" project would become! Through some concerted community partnership efforts, backed by countless, passionate individuals, the branches of the Bruce Vento tree continue to grow at a rapid pace. Partnerships have been formed with a number of community organizations, including Second Harvest Heartland, Marnita's Table, Saint Paul Police Department, Family Innovations, and various departments within the Saint Paul Public School District and the University of Minnesota.




We are excited to announce another grant awarded to the Bruce Vento team through the Institute on the Environment (IonE) at the University of Minnesota. IonE called for submissions fall of this year for their Mini Grants competition, offering grants in alignment with the program's goal "to encourage risk taking, collaboration, and experimentation across disciplines, units, or campuses at the University of Minnesota." For further details on IonE's various grant and fellowship opportunities, visit their website: Fellowships & Grants.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Growing Community Involvement

By: Nora Fox


Despite the gloomy weather, over 30 dedicated parents, community members, students, and staff gathered at Bruce Vento Elementary School a week and a half ago to discuss the garden's successes and areas for improvement.

Though this was the second event coordinated by Marnita's Table this year, the goal and design was much more intimate compared to the first. The first event, held this spring, was a much larger gathering of Bruce Vento families, staff, administration, and community partners that marked the kickoff of the community garden. The guest list for this most recent event was generated through those that had expressed interested in being part of the leadership group of the garden. You can read more about the first event here: Peppers! Cilantro! Potatoes! Oh My!

Friday, November 6, 2015

Giving Thanks for the Garden

By: Nora Fox

We just wrapped up our first garden committee meeting of the school year and are feeling so grateful for the dedication of the group and community members over the past ten months. The committee at Bruce Vento School began last winter and has been the driving force for the growth of the garden and its positive impact in both the school and surrounding neighborhood. The committee has over twenty members, including teachers, staff and administration from the school, project partners with Second Harvest Heartland, master gardeners from the Twin Cities, and faculty and staff from the University of Minnesota.

It felt fitting, given the recent change in season, to reflect on what worked well this first year and share what we were thankful for during this organic process. The group unanimously agreed the leadership and commitment of those involved in the garden was key to its success. Many of the members acknowledged the guidance and positive leadership of the school principal, Scott Masini, noting that without his permission and support, this wouldn’t be possible. And Masini’s response to this recognition? He was quick to say without the commitment of the committee and the staff to take on the planning and implementation of the garden, its success story would still be a distant dream.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

New Video Released!

By: Nora Fox

We are excited to share with you the most recent Bruce Vento project video, Mental Health Services for Students! As some of you may recall, we announced earlier this year the launch of a series of videos highlighting the wonderful things happening with Bruce Vento school and our many partners. You can access our updated playlist to view the first two in the series.

The latest video chronicles the unique work of Family Innovations, a local outpatient mental health clinic, and its collaborative process with the Saint Paul Public School district. For nearly a year, Family Innovations has been providing mental health services at the school for children and families. We encourage you to watch the video to learn more about how this unique on-site model has transformed the way mental health support is provided for students and families. Hear first-hand how the partnership started and the transformative effect the counselors have had with the students... You don't want to miss this!

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Summer Recollections

By: Nora Fox


Now that the leaves are changing and Minnesotans are beginning to pull out their warm weather gear, it seems like ages have passed since classes were out and grounds were quiet at Bruce Vento Elementary School. During the quiet summer months, the dedicated staff at Family Innovations, Inc. made every effort to utilize the garden as a therapeutic and alternative space as they continued to see clients throughout June, July, and August.

Family Innovations, a private Twin Cities-based mental health clinic system that provides outpatient therapy and counseling services for a wide range of clients from infancy to adulthood, contracted with Bruce Vento and Saint Paul Public School districts beginning in 2014. Over 50 children and families currently receive services through Family Innovations, working with its five full-time, masters-level trained counselors.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Many Hands Make Light Work

By: Sara Langworthy

On Saturday September 19th, we had several University of Minnesota Alumni join some Bruce Vento and CYFC staff to spruce up the grounds of Bruce Vento Elementary School for the University of Minnesota's Alumni Day of Service. During this annual event, Gophers from across the nation gather to serve their communities.

Thanks to our volunteers, over the course of 3 short hours, we were able to weed, prune, clean and mulch several of the garden beds around the school.

Over 20 bags of yard waste later, the school grounds were looking much better. We also unearthed some local residents who have made a home in the gardens of Bruce Vento Elementary. Don't worry, we left her alone to finish her web. 

Friday, September 11, 2015

Check Out Our Latest Bruce Vento Video!

By: Nora Fox

In an effort to streamline the latest happenings at Bruce Vento Elementary School, Sara has been working on a number of videos to be part of a Bruce Vento series, highlighting the past twelve months and future plans for the project.


The brief video offers a concise summary of various parts of the project, including the partnership with Family Innovations and the creation of the school-community garden and calming room.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Having a Bob Ross Moment: The Calming Room Transformed

By: Nora Fox

It is hard to believe earlier this year we were meeting with University of Minnesota College of Design (CD) students in Dr. Abi Asojo’s interior design class and Bruce Vento staff to take dimensions of the soon-to-be calming room. Now, fast forward seven months and we are proud to say we completed the painting of the room just in time for school to start. With the assistance of Bruce Vento staff, St. Paul Public School district engineers, and our project team at U of M Extension, we were able to paint the entire Calming Room in a week’s time… And it was so much fun!

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Creating a Labyrinth to Calm

By: Sara Langworthy

One thing I definitely never thought my job at the University of Minnesota would entail is painting a labyrinth on an elementary school wall.

I'm not very artistically inclined. But thanks to the two College of Design students Emily Devore and Rachel Grothe, who were kind enough to share their skilled sketch, we were able to project the image on the wall and trace it freehand in a soothing peach color.

You can see the process and end result in this cool time-lapse video:

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Where Real Learning Happens: A Grad Student's Perspective

By: Nora Fox

As a graduate student in the School of Social Work at the University of Minnesota, I have learned many theories, clinical practices, and policies related to field work. Social workers get to work with various populations and in many settings, like schools, hospitals, clinics, county service agencies and a host of other community settings. And as student interns, our clinical placements provide some of these opportunities. But as students, we need many experiences to prepare us for work beyond school. I count myself one of the few lucky graduate students who has been able to further my learning experiences beyond my clinical placement… and I credit this to the Bruce Vento grant project.

About 8 months ago, I was perusing the U of M’s employment website (as I often did, searching for graduate assistantships and other part-time jobs that would fit with my rigorous schedule), and stumbled on the Bruce Vento research assistant position. In my excitement, I could barely finish reading the requirements, qualifications, and other details surrounding the position without skipping ahead to the application instructions. I immediately g-chatted my sister, who serves as both my editor and guidance counselor for all employment-related opportunities, and sent her the link to the position description. “This is perfect!” I wrote; minutes later she responded “You HAVE to apply for this!” I polished up my resume, sent it to her to proofread, whipped out a cover letter, and submitted my application to Judy Myers.

I was delighted to be invited for an interview and met with Judy and Dr. Sara Langworthy soon after. As I asked for more details about the project (what were they looking for in a GRA? What types of duties were involved?), I felt excited as they described their work. Judy and Sara talked enthusiastically about their collaboration with Bruce Vento Elementary School and the strong connections they already had with the school’s principal and behavior specialist. They named current and potential partners, events, and meetings on their radar; I could barely write down all of the details fast enough. Sara and Judy’s commitment, creativity, and perseverance was inspiring and I knew I wanted to be part of this.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Volunteers Needed for Day of Service

By: Taylor Johnson

As many of you may know, maintaining a garden is no small task. It takes hard work, persistence, and a willingness to get your hands dirty. The work being done in and around the garden at Bruce Vento is no exception to this. Since the Bruce Vento students have, understandably, not been around as frequently as during the school year and the engineering staff have been very busy with interior preparation for the start of school, the bushes and trees around the school are in need of a little love. The efforts of our volunteers is crucial to keeping the garden and grounds well cared for a fresh start this fall!

Judy Myers, a CYFC Extension Educator, was working in and around the garden and spent several hours clearing trash, trimming bushes, and weeding but found she did not get very far on her own. She realized, “With a lot more hands to help, we could accomplish a lot more.” Thus, the staff at the CYFC and Bruce Vento are issuing a call for help.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Saint Paul Police Teach Kids How to Tend School Garden

By: Taylor Johnson


When was the last time you saw a police officer picking beans in a school garden?

At Bruce Vento Elementary School in St. Paul, where staff from University of Minnesota Extension's Children, Youth, and Family Consortium (CYFC) have been working since 2014, this is a common sight. The Saint Paul Police Department regularly staffs the Bruce Vento school and community garden with police officers. These officers not only help tend the garden, but also engage with members of the community to get them involved in gardening.

Officer Mon Nottakun at the school garden.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Tips for harvesting? Remember your bags.

By: Nora Fox

This past Saturday I packed up my gardening tools, new puppy, and dirty tennis shoes and headed to the community garden at Bruce Vento. I hadn’t thought to bring extra paper bags for the vegetables to be harvested, but I wish I had!

After spending about an hour weeding and cleaning up the beds, I decided to reach out to some local neighbors to encourage them to harvest some of the vegetables. There were plenty of green tomatoes, eggplant, and basil to choose from, and even some corn has popped up since my last visit! I saw a father and daughter waiting by the bus stop across the street and asked if they would be interested in picking some vegetables later. The father seemed a bit surprised, but as soon as his daughter’s eyes lit up with excitement at this opportunity, he said he would bring her by later in the afternoon after they returned from their trip downtown.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Calming Room Plans Are Progressing

By: Sara Langworthy

7:30am is really early for a meeting. Especially on a Monday.

But Judy, Scott, and I, along, and two fabulous College of Design students Emily Devore and Rachel Grothe met Monday to discuss progress on the Bruce Vento calming room. As you may recall from this post, we worked with Dr. Abi Asojo and her 23 sophomore interior design students to do initial proposals for the calming room space. The space is meant to help children who face difficulties with emotional regulation learn strategies to calm themselves and return to class quickly.

We've been lucky enough to continue to collaborate with Rachel and Emily, who have received Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP) funding, to assist us in finalizing the design. They are working directly with project staff to ensure the design meets student needs, which has included researching materials and costs and communicating with school district staff to abide by district construction codes. Rachel and Emily were from two different design teams in Professor Asojo's class, but have come together to bring the strengths of both of their styles to this project.

Monday, July 13, 2015

This is Bruce Vento

By: Taylor Johnson & Sara Langworthy


“The strengths are in our kids. Our kids are really cool kids. They show up. They come everyday.”
— Scott Masini, Principal of Bruce Vento Elementary School


Despite the fact that students face challenges of trauma, neighborhood violence, and food insecurity, Bruce Vento school staff have built an energizing, supportive, healthy environment for their students. The staff are warm, welcoming and committed to each other and to the students. “You have someone here to pick you back up at Vento,” says Carolyn Rottman, the school’s behavior specialist.

The partnership with Family Innovations to provide mental health services for students in the school has deepened the trauma-sensitive environment, providing even more supports to student learning and wellness. Staff remind families of their counseling appointments and teachers welcome the Family Innovations counselors to work alongside students in classroom. “The staff have been wonderful...It’s been really collaborative. It’s a really unique environment,” reflects Kiley Krocak, mental health provider from Family Innovations. It’s not just the teachers working to make their classrooms more conducive learning environments, all of the staff at Bruce Vento are working toward a more trauma-sensitive environment. As Krocak points out, “You just see they’re willing to do what it takes to help these kids and reach out.”

Want to see more about our partnership with Bruce Vento Elementary? Subscribe to our YouTube Channel where we’ll be posting videos about the ongoing work happening at the school. Or subscribe to this blog to stay up-to-date with what’s happening at Bruce Vento.

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Healthy Minds, Healthy Bodies, Healthy Learners is an ongoing partnership between the Extension Children, Youth, and Family Consortium and the Bruce Vento Elementary School. Together, along with many other partners, we are developing engaging learning environments that promote student learning and wellness.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Partnership Model to Provide Mental Health Services in Schools

By: Nora Fox and Sara Langworthy


One of the pervasive questions plaguing many schools today is how to appropriately handle the mental health concerns facing their students. Hiring more behavior staff or counselors in schools is one approach that has had some success, but is costly to schools. This approach focuses primarily on the in-school challenges, and lacks coordinated family-based support many children need to thrive.

We know that kids learn best when their homes, schools, and neighborhoods promote their health and well-being. But often the logistical impracticalities of providing comprehensive mental health services for children in schools and at home overwhelm capacity of well-meaning staff and students.

In short, everyone gets frustrated, and the challenges get worse, seeping into every classroom, playground, and school bus.

But Bruce Vento Elementary School in St. Paul is pioneering a model of linking mental health services in home and school environments.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Peppers! Cilantro! Potatoes! Oh My!

By: Sara Langworthy, Judy Myers, and Nora Fox


Despite a rainy, chilly evening, and initial uncertainty from early arrivals, it didn’t take long for an electric buzz to fill the Bruce Vento Elementary School cafeteria on Thursday evening, May 14. Over 200 people including families, children, community members, and school staff gathered to share great food, abundant conversation, and opinions about what should grow in the Bruce Vento school and community garden this summer.

“How many of you want to plant this vegetable in your school garden?” asked Marnita Shroedl of Marnita’s Table while holding up bright red and yellow bell peppers.



Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Partnership Builds a Better Space


By: Judy Myers, Sara Langworthy and Nora Fox

We’ve been thinking a lot lately about how thankful we are for our partners.

Thanks to the incredible work and dedication of over 55 active partners and the generous funds provided by the Extension Issue Area Grant, CYFC is partnering to create innovative learning spaces for children at Bruce Vento Elementary School in East Saint Paul. Through reciprocal relationships, this project is capitalizing on the strengths of school staff, community leaders, as well as University of Minnesota faculty, staff and students to enhance the opportunities for students at the school. You can read about our progress across all areas of the project in our brief report here.

But today, we wanted to share with you the incredible power of partnership that has led to the design of a calming room space for the students of Bruce Vento Elementary School.

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