By: Cari Michaels and Judy Myers
On June 7, students and teachers at Bruce Vento Elementary School in Saint Paul were happy to greet visitors from University of Minnesota Extension. Dean Beverly Durgan, Senior Associate Dean Brent Hales, Family Development (FD) Associate Dean Karen Shirer, and Director of Urban Family Development and Evaluation and the Children, Youth & Family Consortium (CYFC) Mary Marczak, were eager to learn about the progress of this partnership over the past two years.
Partnership members, including Principal Scott Masini, CYFC’s Judy Myers, and Ed Frickson of Family Innovations, shared stories and significant outcomes of the project. Visitors toured the school, including the newly redesigned calming room, several active classrooms, and outdoor schoolyard gardens.
|The third graders' garden bed.|
Fourth grade teacher Bobby Snyder invited the visitors to talk directly with his students to hear their stories about working in the garden. Students and teachers alike shared how much they enjoy their time in the garden. One student said, “We learned to collaborate with each other in new ways.” The students were so enthused while talking with the visitors that it was hard to finally say goodbye!
Several messages were clear throughout our interactions on the tour:
- Partners are invested in the impact of this partnership on students. Each person involved with the project has a different role to play — providing mental health services, helping teachers incorporate gardening into the curriculum, teaching cooking classes, growing our connections with community members — but all clearly see how their role contributes to the well-being and success of students at the school.
- We need more garden beds! Students have shown such a high level of enthusiasm for the garden and teachers have observed the benefits of integrating the garden into their curriculum. To help grow this work, we have created a position for a school garden coordinator. Kirsten Saylor began her work in this role on June 13. She is already busy recruiting teachers and families for summer garden maintenance. Contact Kirsten Saylor (email@example.com), Judy Myers (firstname.lastname@example.org), Maks Luthra (email@example.com), or Sara Langworthy (firstname.lastname@example.org) if you can help us with garden bed growth.
- Relationships grow relationships. The more people learn about and become involved in this work at Bruce Vento, the more they tell others who want to become involved. Extension professionals and their partners offer many types of services that can help school-aged children, and through this tour it became clear that our partners and relationships keep growing!
|Strawberries growing in the school garden.|
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.