In 2014, Denmark topped the list of OECD countries (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) that invested the most of their wealth in education (7.9%) — followed by Iceland (7.7%) and South Korea (7.6%). As of 2012, 92% of Danish youths were expected to complete their secondary education, compared to the 84% of the OECD average. After graduating from high school, it is common for Danes to take time off their academic career to work and save money and/or travel, prior to choosing whether to attend a university or a technical school. The city’s parks can transform into math teaching spaces, making learning a fun and engaging activity.
Ranked as the number one high school in Minnesota by US World News and Report in 2017, the Math and Science Academy is an innovative and sustainable model of academic excellence in Woodbury. The school aims to create well-rounded, lifelong learners and global citizens by providing accelerated curricula in all subjects, with an emphasis on math and science. With 48% students of color, the school is an educational resource to students of a wide range of cultural backgrounds. “I would say that…our strong school districts are also critical to attracting diverse populations,” states Eric Searles, Woodbury’s City Planner. The Math and Science Academy’s small class sizes help promote community by encouraging an exchange of ideas from people from all backgrounds, allowing students to learn from each other’s unique backgrounds.
Math and Science Academy
Photo credit: Christine Morrison of Math and Science Academy
Food is a meaning-making activity enjoyed by all – it transcends race, ethnicity, and income to bring people together by its different tastes, aromas, and ingredients. Cooking with Friends is a program that occurs every few months at Hopkins’ Eisenhower Elementary School. “It’s a partnership with the BRCC (Blake Road Corridor Collaborative) and so anyone who wants comes, and they generally plan a meal…from…various cultures and they bring their recipes and the BRCC purchases all the ingredients and it’s great,” elaborates Mayor Cummings. “It’s a great opportunity to cook and visit and everyone gets involved.” The city hopes that Cottageville Park’s community garden can help expand the Cooking with Friends program to different neighborhoods across the city, instilling the benefits of better nutrition and increased exercise to all residents (Wakefield, Yeudall, Taron, Reynolds, & Skinner, 2007).
In 1999, the Landfall Teen Center opened, quickly becoming a destination spot for youth in the community. Teens come to participate in after-school activities, like community gardening, cooking classes, job and career guidance, and biking trips. The center also offers computer stations, 3D printing, and space for music production. “They do a lot of organized biking trips and just learn different things about being a teenager,” explains Edward Shukle, City Administrator. “[The Center] also helps with homework. They’ll help mentor those that are having trouble in school.” Teens have also helped volunteer to transform the center, fostering community pride. Many teens in the area were reluctant to bring friends to their manufactured-home community, but now, many are sharing what they have built at the Teen Center with friends from neighboring communities. After school programs have impacts that range from academics to health.
The Investigation Station is the go-to place for elementary school-aged children in Landfall. Upon arrival, kids flow toward the activity spaces that offer music, games, woodworking, computers and Legos. They can read in the library and collect stars to earn books. Staff assist kids with daily homework assignments and longer-term projects. Visiting artists nurture art skills while a nutrition educator teaches youth about food groups and food preparation. Research supports that elementary school students who regularly attended the high-quality afterschool programs demonstrated significant gains in things like standardized math test scores, work habits, and social skills (Vandell, Reisner, & Pierce, 2007). The program is supported by FamilyMeans, a nonprofit agency committed to strengthening communities by strengthening families. The organization has a satellite office in the basement of Landfall city hall, offering a presence in the community.
Located below the Teen Center, the Youth Bicycle Program propels students to get fit and explore the community around them–see the health benefits of cycling. A well-equipped repair shop allows youth to learn and practice bike repair skills, ranging from fixing a flat tire to building a wheel. Weekly bike rides take cyclists to Dairy Queens, surrounding communities, and into Wisconsin. The youth cyclists and mechanics report pride in what they accomplished, becoming stronger and safer cyclists, achieving more than they expected to, and gaining skills they can use later in life. In 2017, 36 youth participated in the program, collectively riding 4,394 miles, roughly the distance from Landfall, MN to Paris, France.
Brooklyn Center’s Health Resource Center offers free and low-cost medical, dental, vision, and mental health services to youth of Brooklyn Center Schools and the community ages 0-19. The 2,300-square-foot clinic is located within Brooklyn Center High School, built in former classrooms, paid for through donations, and supported by Park Nicollet and Pohlad Family foundations. Close to 57.5% of residents in Brooklyn Center are people of color, who may be uninsured and underinsured. Low-income communities with racial and ethnic minorities often face unmet health needs and inadequate health care resources and School Based Health Centers have been documented as able to reach this population (Brindis, Klein, Schlitt, Santelli, Juszczak, & Nystrom, 2003). A health clinic in a high school provides these students with access to health professionals and medical, dental, eye, and mental health care.
“We Want You Back” is a partnership between Rochester Public Schools and the United Way of Olmsted County to re-engage students who have dropped-out and encourage them to come back to school. According to Minnesota Department of Education 2017 data, students of color graduate at a rate of 69 percent compared to 88 percent for White students. When Superintendent Michael Muñoz noticed in 2012 that almost 300 students have not finished the year, he decided to hit the streets. Volunteer community members and teachers show up at students’ doors and talk about the importance of education. “That’s been effective and it continues because sometimes people, either the parents are both working, or whatever and the kid just stays at home or feels that nobody really cares…‘I won’t be missed,’” says Mayor Brede who is also a volunteer for the program.
“We Want You Back”
Photo credit: John Danilenko-Dixon from Rochester Public Schools