Every year Freeman Academy students in grades 1-2 have the opportunity to learn life skills in the school garden and kitchen. With the support of Suzanne Koerner, Dining Hall Director and School Garden Coordinator, the students help plant the garden, harvest the produce, and then use the fresh vegetables in a variety of ways.
They help make food for school lunch, process or preserve the produce for future Farm to Table projects, research recipes to make and gift to friends of the school as a service opportunity, or prepare it for school snacks as part of the Fresh Fruits and Vegetables Program that the school participates in for grades K-8. Throughout the garden and kitchen experiences the 1-2 students practice their collaboration and relationship skills by working in leader (2nd grader) – learner (1st grader) partnerships.
In addition to a focus on content area skills such as Math and Reading, throughout garden and kitchen experiences the students are presented with opportunities to develop a service mindset, to grow their perseverance when facing obstacles, and to think as a team. We appreciate Suzanne’s willingness to share her knowledge and skills with us!
In an effort to build strong community at Freeman Academy, every year high school students volunteer one lunch period per month to be a “Buddy” to a 1st grade student. This partnership often extends into other activities throughout the school year, such as the All School Retreat, where often the “buddies” swim together.
Every school year, the Lunch Buddy relationship not only gives the younger students a chance to get to know and be mentored by the older students, it also provides them an opportunity to show their heart to others by way of sharing out special cards, Valentine treasures, Art projects, and more, to their special high school friend.
After lunch, the cross grade level pairs head to the playground where they engage as a full group in physical activities. The 1-2 students appreciate this time spent with the upper classmen, and look forward to it each month. On non-Lunch Buddy days you will find high fives happening between these age groups because of the bonds that have been fostered through the 1-2 Lunch Buddy Program.
Monthly visits to the local Salem Mennonite Assisted Living Center to spend time with our elderly resident friends has been a long standing tradition for students that spend time in the first and second grade learning community.
Gatherings often include Bible study, holiday celebrations, snacks, and the building of cross generational relationships. During the monthly interactions students learn more about the lives of the residents, what it was like when they were growing up, parts of their faith journey, and eventually realize that even though there are many years difference in their age, they have several things in common.
Oftentimes there are relatives of the students that live in the Salem Home, so they get to create memories with great grandparents, great aunt/uncles, or 2nd and 3rd cousins. If you ask students about these memories they might list Bingo, Pumpkin Decorating, Origami Animals, Singing, Coloring, Game Time, or Puzzles, as some of their favorite activities.
The smiles that you see in the photo above are reflective of this special time at the Salem Home. We always look forward to time with our resident friends!