When Kelloggsville Middle School teacher Marcia Cisler recently considered projects made possible through service-learning grant money, she talked about students gardening, growing hydroponic vegetables and recycling. As she faces the end of the grant money allocated to the district through the Kent ISD from 2010 to 2013, she’s thankful for the projects that were funded, from community art to field trips. “It’s been amazing,” Cisler said.
She and other teachers continue to work on projects tied to urban agriculture sustainability, and thanks to a corporate grant from State Farm Insurance, that will be a lot easier.
Company representatives recently awarded the KISD with a $100,000 State Farm Youth Advisory Board service-learning grant for sustainable urban agriculture projects. The KISD is one of 64 community organizations across the United States and Canada to receive this type of grant.
Kelloggsville and Godfrey-Lee Public Schools will work with Kent ISD to expand the districts’ urban agriculture programs, including the hydroponic gardening. That’s already produced a bounty of green peppers, a community garden, and is being used for other agriculture-focused programs. Students also will learn about landscape beautification and recycling.
Preschool through 12th grade students have been involved with planting, maintaining and harvesting at the Kelloggsville Community Garden at Kelloggsville Regional Center, 977 44th St. SW, in Wyoming. The produce has gone to the food pantry at the Family Network of Wyoming, 1029 44th St. SW. Mike Zurgable, a Kelloggsville teacher instrumental in the garden’s development, said he hopes they can use the funds “to keep this garden forever.”
Joseph Smith, a Kelloggsville senior, said service learning projects like the community garden bring students together to work toward a common goal and teach valuable lessons. It’s about “giving back to something bigger,” he said.
The donation will help Lee High School and Middle School students connect with the community and enhance classroom curriculum, said Rendal Todd, assistant principal.
Supporting Local Schools
Dan Koorndyk, chairman of the Kent County Board of Commissioners and a State Farm agent, said urban agriculture projects promote the idea of growing local and eating local.
“Learning how to do that is a really valuable life skill for folks to have,” he said. “I love that State Farm has an opportunity to give to something like this for education.”
The company’s Youth Advisory Board has granted more than $28 million in grant money since its inception in 2006, allowing for youth to do service learning projects in 509 communities.
“We very much appreciate the recognition from State Farm,” said Kent ISD Superintendent Kevin Konarska. “The staff is guiding students in doing meaningful work as they learn curriculum standards in science and math, and apply them to agriculture. As the projects come together, they will develop into a sustainable system inside each district, which we hope becomes embedded into both the curriculum and the community.”
Service-Learning Projects Leave Their Mark
From October 2010 through September 2013, the Kent ISD coordinated a grant from the Corporation for National and Community Service and received a Learn and Serve America – Youth Engagement Zone grant. The target populations for the grant services have been Kelloggsville and Godfrey Lee schools. Approximately $293,000 was spent each year for three years. All districts in Kent County benefited from the Learn and Serve America grant when educators attended a conference showing how the process works at the two schools.
Kellogsville students created art celebrating community pride, including tables and murals painted with community symbols and scenes for the after-school program, The Dock. They have learned the benefits of composting and recycling, and cut down the school’s lunch waste by a large percentage. The grant also purchased technology, funded field trips and helped operate a school store.
Ninety percent of the ninth- through 11th-grade students at Godfrey Lee worked on community service projects during their first week of summer vacation through the Rebel Hearts program, which was funded by the grant monies. Students also have worked with seniors at the Wyoming Senior Center, serving up pancake breakfasts made possible with grant funding.“The grants helped our students to get out into the community and meet people in the community they normally would not be associated with,” Todd said.