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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.

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.

According to Kiley Krocak, MSW, LICSW, supervisor at Family Innovations, the counselors were able to incorporate both home- and site-based services this past summer. However, instead of using the school’s inside space, they ventured out into the garden to enjoy the warmth, sun, and soothing effects that come with gardening. Krocak described how the therapists walked with families to and from the garden, encouraging them to choose from the bounty of fresh, free vegetables. She was happy to report that both staff and families experienced gardening in a way they had never before — the counselors and families enjoyed getting outside and doing something in their community at no cost to them, while enjoying Minnesota’s beautiful summer weather.

According to one therapist, a client who spends a great deal of time watching cooking shows was astounded to find out that she could walk to the garden, choose from a variety of fresh vegetables, and practice her cooking skills in her own home. She returned to the garden on multiple occasions to gather both necessary and novel ingredients to add to her dishes.

We are so thrilled to share how the Bruce Vento garden has been integrated in such unique ways into the entire community. For more stories from the garden, including one dedicated Saint Paul police officer's experience, read on: Saint Paul Police Teaches Kids How to Tend Bruce Vento School Garden.

To learn more about Family Innovations and the history of its partnership with Bruce Vento, we encourage you to read an earlier post here: Partnership Model to Provide Mental Health Services in Schools.


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.

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