Experiential Education for Urban Youth







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Education for

Urban Youth

Urban Watch

Final report 2014


Table of Contents

Project Summary . . . .3

Urban Watch grantees and projects . . . .3

Results and the 3Ls . . . .4

Urban Watch—At a Glance . . . .5

Beez Kneez . . . . .6

Phyllis Wheatley Community . . . .7

Spark-Y and Minnesota Internship Center School . . . .8

The Renewables Research and Policy Institute . . . .9

Environmental Justice Advocates of Minnesota . . . . 10

Schoolyard Gardens project . . . . 11

On the cover: McKinley youth in beekeeper suits working at a hive with Beez Kneez.

Funding for this project was provided by the Minnesota Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund as recommended by the Legislative Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources (LCCMR)

Urban Watch final report produced by: Hennepin County Public Works Environment and Energy Department 701 Fourth Avenue South, Suite 700 Minneapolis, MN 55415 www.hennepin.us/enivronmentaleducation Staff contact: Mary Karius Mary.Karius@hennepin.us 612-596-9129


Urban Watch: Experiential Education for Urban Youth

In 2011, Hennepin County received a $200,000 grant from the Minnesota Environment and Natural Resources Fund for the Urban Watch project . The purpose of the project: Initiate new environmental education programs

for North Minneapolis youth; providing hands-on, experiential, outdoor learning opportunities .

Hennepin County then awarded five grants in 2012 to community organizations to work in North Minneapolis: The Beez Kneez LLC; Environmental Justice Advocates of Minnesota (EJAM); Spark-Y (formerly YEA Corps) and Minnesota Internship Center School (MNIC); Phyllis Wheatley Community Center and Urban Strategies Inc .; and The Renewables Research and Policy Institute (RRPI) . In turn, those organizations were able to work with 850 youth and collaborated with an additional 17

organizations .

The Urban Watch project also sponsored a Schoolyard Garden Project in March 2014 to get environmental teaching resources into teachers’ hands, furthering the long-term impact of the program .

Presentation by youth at Phyllis Wheatley Community Center.

Urban Watch grantees and projects

The Beez Kneez LLC ($17,000 + $23,000 for Schoolyard

Gardens project): Developed curriuculm based on bee biology and ecology and provided hands-on beekeeping classes and hives . The project reached more than 170 youth ages 8-14 . Hennepin County also contracted with Beez Kneez to coordinate the Schoolyard Garden Sustainability and Support teacher workshop held in March 2014 .

Environmental Justice Advocates of Minnesota

($49,917): EJAM partnered with Kwanzaa Community Church and worked with 80 youth from the Northside community to heighten their awareness of environmental resources and current issues, with community elders and experts as mentors .

• Spark-Y and Minnesota Internship Center School (MNIC) ($16,600): The partnership between Spark-Y and MNIC led to the esbtablishment of an aquaponics lab on the Unity campus of MNIC reaching more than 120 youth .

Phyllis Wheatley Community Center and Urban

Strategies Inc. ($45,000): This program worked with 135 K-8

grade youth throughout the year in classes and activities pertaining to the environment .

The Renewables Research and Policy Institute (RRPI)

($16,000): RRPI partnered with the North High School After School Learning Program to develop and implement Aquasol . The Aquasol project focused on building and maintaining an aquaponics lab at North High School . The lab was used with students from the school as well as youth from the Community Education program and children of students at the in-house daycare facility . More than 100 youth participated directly in getting the aquaponics lab up and running .

Schoolyard Gardens project ($54,000): Hennepin County,

University of Minnesota Extension and the Beez Kneez— working in conjunction with the Science Technology Engineering and Math (STEM) coordinators and the Farm-to-School coordinator from Minneapolis Public Schools— provided curriculum instruction to educators on how to maximize the potential of schoolyard gardens within the classroom . Fourteen teachers from 12 Minneapolis schools attended the workshop . Following the workshop, more than 300 students spent some time learning in their school garden . In teacher evaluations, 10 of the 14 participant teachers taught outside for at least 10 hours, for 2,840 contact hours .


Results and the 3Ls—Leveraging, Learning and Longevity

Hennepin County worked with Urban Watch grantees to

describe what success looks like . Together we came up with the 3Ls metric to measure quality and impact of the Urban Watch grantee programs: The 3Ls are Leveraging, Learning and Longevity . Overall, the Urban Watch project 3Ls were:

Leveraging: The Urban Watch grantees were successful

in leveraging groups and businesses in their community . Urban Watch identified existing resources in the community, in addition to connecting the grantees to environmental experts and educators . These partnerships provided an opportunity for the youth to use applied science and think about careers in the environment or science .

Learning: Based on community needs, an organization’s

expertise and youth interests, the grantees created unique hands-on environmental education experiences . Examples of learning themes that emerged from the Urban Watch progam:

Ecosystems and the interdependence of our actions upon ecosystems: The Beez Kneez taught youth about

the important connection between bees, plants and pollination and the role and effect of humans on that relationship .

Food production and systems and their impacts on the environment: RRPI focused on the importance

of locally grown food as a way to reduce our carbon footprint .

Healthy eating: Phyllis Wheatley featured a class called

“Active Chefs,” where youth learned how to manage a garden and cook and preserve their produce .

Cultural heritage: Youth in the EJAM program grew

traditional produce in their gardens that was familiar to older generations of their families .

Advocacy and environmental justice: EJAM and

Kwanzaa brought together youth and elders in the community to discuss environmental history, issues and priorities and how the youth of today are the new stewards of our environment— taking charge of the health of their home, food and local environment . They provided an opportunity for a multi-generational participants to share stories and cultural norms to find a common ground in approaching environmental issues .

Entrepreneurship and business practices: Spark-Y

mentored the students of MNIC to create their own business, “Unity Gardens .” They elected a CEO, grew and sold produce in their community, and completed a business plan .

Applied science, math and technology: Aquaponics

labs—created during RRPI and Spark-Y projects— involved youth in designing, building and maintaining living systems . From engineering the correct filtration system to water chemistry, aquaponics leveraged science in all aspects .

Longevity: All the grant projects have at least one element

that was sustained after funding was completed . The Urban Watch project funds launched a network between the grantees to continue supporting each other’s work . Groups continue to collaborate on established and new projects . For instance, Beez Kneez works with EJAM and Spark-Y to highlight the pollinators’ role in our natural and food systems; Phyllis Wheatley continues to teach the classes that were developed for Urban Watch to a whole new group of youth . The collaboration between groups continues to spread beyond the grantees .

In addition, the Schoolyard Gardens project was intentionally designed with longevity in mind . The goal: Get environmental education resources into teachers’ hands . The Teacher Workshop also gathered key stakeholders in the same place, nurturing relationships between teachers, Master Gardeners and the Minneapolis Public Schools . Master Gardeners are now mentoring these teachers on their school gardens .

The Urban Watch project also helped facilitate Hennepin County’s access and partnerships in North Minneapolis . Collaborating with small organizations and non-profits allowed us to reach North Minneapolis youth in specific, individual ways . Programs were tailored for youth of all ages with the express intent of getting them more aware of and active in the environment . Hennepin County has continued much of this work through its Green Partners program that directly funds environmental education projects .


Urban Watch—At a glance


Youth engaged


Youth of color


Northside Partner



Schools and Community

Education Partners


Gardens installed


Beehives established


• Honey

• Tilapia Tacos

• “Salsa so good it don’t

need chips”

• Compost Tea

• MN State Fair Presentation

• National Conference


Increased knowledge

• Aquaponics Cycle

• Ecosystem Health

• Food Production

• Pollinators

• Sustainability

• Healthy Eating

• Urban Gardening

Strengthened community

• Entrepreneurship

• Cooperation

• Community Service

• Leadership

• Risk Taking

• Cultural Heritage

• Multicultural focus


Beez Kneez

Flower Team extracting honey

Project summary

The Beez Kneez LLC and McKinley Community Supported Agriculture staff taught at the Elizabeth Hall Elementary in North Minneapolis throughout Spring 2013--teaching how bees are essential to the food that we eat and grow . Students were hands-on with the bees and their hives, learning about the interdependence of bees, pollen and food we eat . Youth learned how to care for bees and the environment they depend upon and how humans can impact them directly and indirectly .

Leveraging: The Beez Kneez LLC collaborated with McKinley

Community CSA, the McKinley Neighborhood Association, and Elizabeth Hall Elementary over the course of this project . They also assisted several other community groups, including Project Sweetie Pie, to help teach youth about the importance and uniqueness of bees .

Learning: At Elizabeth Hall Elementary, Beez Kneez worked

with 60 second graders, talking about bees, pollination and our

food system . They brought bee hives and beekeeper suits to the school . When the kids put on beekeeper suits and worked with a hive, they greatly increased their knowledge of bees and pollination . Beez Kneez also learned the most engaging parts of working with bees is those initial few times in the hive . Building confidence and skill through a two-year program is valuable, but where they saw the most measurable change was in that initial interactions . They plan to concentrate their efforts on bringing this opportunity to more youth and adults .

Longevity: Beez Kneez will continue to maintain the hives

at McKinley and plan programming for future summers . The curriculum developed during this two-year program will continue to be used with all other classes and will be shared with interested teachers . Staff learned through this project the most engaging parts of working bees is those initial times in the hive . Building confidence and skill through a two-year program is valuable, but the most measurable change is in that initial few interactions .


Project summary

The Phyllis Wheatley Community Center (PWCC) and Urban Strategies Inc . in North Minneapolis offered Environmental Explorer classes, including Teen Earth Corps Class; Science, Technology, Engineering, Math (STEM) Fair; Active Chefs Intro Class and more .

Leveraging: PWCC worked with the University of Minnesota

Urban 4-H and the Red Wing Environmental Learning Center . The Urban 4-H partnership provided access to U of MN Extension curricula, “Driven to Discover” scientific inquiry, county and state fair presentations, content specialists and introduced the partnership with Master Gardeners . The Red Wing ELC provided outdoor exploration for youth with a trained naturalist on the North Shore .

Learning: 135 unduplicated youth attended multidisciplinary

environmental programs focusing on environmental impacts, heathy eating, water resources and recycling . Classes centered on healthy eating choices related to the two student gardens;

environmental issues in their own neighborhoods; identifying and implementing community service projects such as how to increase recycling in their homes and communities; introduction to environmental serivces and potential careers; field trips to introduce and strengthen confidence in the outdoors .

Longevity: Youth continue to create a sustainable

environmental entrepreneurship project, using the garden’s produce to help sustain program costs in the future . PWCC will continue a partnership with volunteer Master Gardeners to support the youth gardens . The classes that were taught through this project will continue to be used to introduce youth to environmental and social issues . The established garden will continue to be the centerpiece of the summer scheduling and the leverage for community outreach through events and celebrations .

Setting up the garden at Bethune


Spark-Y and the Minnesota Internship Center School

Project summary

Spark Y worked closely with staff and students at the Unity Campus of the Minnesota Internship Center School developing and installing an aquaponics laboratory . Students were involved and directed every aspect of the project from design to plant materials grown, maintaining the system daily . The key was to teach students how to build sustainable systems that can produce food and entrepreneurial opportunities .

Leveraging: Spark Y worked with “Chef E,” who is involved with

urban agriculture on the Northside of Minneapolis . Chef E and the students used the commercial kitchen at Unity to prepare freshly grilled tilapia tacos at the year-end celebration . Another partner was Avenue Eatery, a restaurant on Broadway and Emerson . The Avenue’s owner came to Unity to talk to students about entrepreneurship and food systems, relating directly to their own efforts to grow, price and sell their produce . One of the highlights for Unity students was their fellow program participant, Travon Williamson, CEO of Unity, sharing the stage with Will Steger and U .S . Representative Keith Ellison . Travon spoke at an environmental rally in North Minneapolis and spoke directly about his experience at Unity . This project,

Spark-Y, and the Rally are about taking a stand for a sustainable future .

Learning: 145 youth were directly involved in all aspects

of the aquaponics project at the Unity Campus . 95% of the students were African American; 5% a mix of Caucasian, Native American and Asian . The age range was 15-24 . Additional estimates of 50 youth were reached through increased project awareness, related events and system interactions .

Longevity: Spark-Y has transitioned lessons learned from the

Unity campus to other schools within the metro area . The most important lessons staff learned were how to integrate science and environmental issues into everyday life for at-risk youth . The aquaponics systems will stay at Unity for current and future students to learn and benefit from . Unity Gardens continues to be an entrepreneurial opportunity for these youth . Focused, consistent faith and trust and attention placed in our youth allow them to grow beyond limitations, and create the foundation for improving our culture and society to be sustainable .

Setting up the tilapia bin at MNIC Unity Campus


The Renewables Research and Policy Institute

Planting seeds at the North High School greenhouse

Project summary

The North High School (NHS) AquaSol project—a partnership with NHS and the Renewables Research and Policy Institute— provided a two-part, STEM-based education laboratory to teach renewable energy and eco-friendly agriculture .

Leveraging: For the AquaSol project, the Renewables Research

and Policy Institute partnered with North High School, Project Sweetie Pie and the Northside Resident Redevelopment Council (NRRC) . Project Sweetie Pie has a long history with North High and began using the existing space at the high school for agriculture and entrepreneurial efforts by growing produce and selling to local restaurants .

Learning: Through the course of this project, Renewables

Research and Policy Institute worked with 150 youth in North Minneapolis . During the first phase of AquaSol, they cultivated the inner courtyard beds for a planting project . Youth from project Sweetie Pie and NRRC, along with Master Gardeners, enabled a successful second year outdoor phase .

Longevity: The program made contributions to North High

School’s learning environment, including a laboratory and extensive cultivated plots . Pre-gardening activities each year will allow a different set of children access to the outdoor locations while returning students can graduate to Controlled Environment Agriculture (CEA) aquaponics lessons . North High School has long been an area of strength for the

Northside community . Investing in curriculum and aquaponics infrastructure for this school by using community partners strengthens the link between youth and adults .


Environmental Justice Advocates of Minnesota (EJAM)

Project summary

In partnership with Kwanzaa Community Church,

Environmental Justice Advocates of Minnesota (EJAM) created TROUPEmn—an environmental education program for kids in North Minneapolis .

Leveraging: For its Urban Watch project, EJAM collaborated

with Kwanzaa Community church, which has a long history of building youth, women and community leadership in North Minneapolis . They also worked with We Win Institute, working with children and families to create urban gardening and environmental justice curriculum . A unique aspect of this project paired youth with community elders . These relationships helped youth learn directly from guiding adults about their culture, environmental priorities and historic efforts .

Learning: EJAM reached 20 youth directly, 60 or more youth

overall during their program . The majority of youth were African American, but also Somali and Hmong . The students

learned about food, moving from a preference for store bought produce to growing their own . They also gained increased awareness of waste, pollution and environmental justice . An added benefit was a deeper appreciation of other cultures and their own cultural heritage, and the advantages of youth and elders working together .

Longevity: EJAM extended the work of the project by

connecting to younger youth through the We Win Institute and will continue to build youth leadership development through on-going partnerships with Kwanzaa Community Church and We Win Institute . EJAM is also developing an urban farm curriculum with We Win Institute


Schoolyard Gardens Project

Bertand Weber, Director, Minneapolis Public Schools Culinary and Nutrition Services, speaks to teachers at the Schoolyard Garden teacher workshop.

Project summary

Hennepin County, University of Minnesota Extension and the Beez Kneez— working in conjunction with the Science Technology Engineering and Math (STEM) coordinators and the Farm to School coordinator from Minneapolis Public Schools—provided curriculum instruction to educators on how to maximize the potential of schoolyard gardens within the classroom . Fourteen teachers from eleven Minneapolis schools attended the workshop .

Leveraging: The project focused on getting the right

stakeholders and interested individuals into the same room, focusing on common needs and coming up with workable solutions .

Learning: Technical experts mentored teachers and

administrators throughout the workshop . Participants learned from each other what their specific barriers and goals were in getting youth out into the community and their natural world . In many cases, schoolyard gardens and learning areas were underutilized .

Longevity: Relationships established during this day-long

workshop continue . Master Gardners are mentoring teachers, District administrators are paying attention and disparate school departments are collaborating . Teachers are being guided by curriculm experts on how to get their students outside and recognize the world they live in .

Each teacher used the technical assistance and resources provided to transition two or more of their classroom lessons to be taught outdoors, in their gardens . Lessons ranged from Math to Art to Social Studies using the garden in new and innovative ways . This spring more than 300 students spent some time learning in their school garden . In teacher evaluations, 10 of our 14 participant teachers taught outside for at least 10 hours this spring, for 2840 contact hours .

Seven Hennepin County Master Gardeners (HCMGs) volunteers attended the workshop as participants, and were paired with participant teachers as consultants for spring 2014 . These Master Gardeners will act as the schools garden “mentor” providing technical assistance and expertise .

All participants transitioned at least two lessons to be taught outside . Eleven teachers transitioned more than two lessons, with some teachers teaching outdoors every day for a few weeks, and others committing every Tuesday for the spring . Because of the positive response from the Minneapolis Public School District and overwhelming interest from teachers outside the district, The Beez Kneez LLC will be continuing to offer Schoolyard Garden Sustainability and Support workshop to interested schools and districts . With Hennepin County support, The Beez Kneez has developed a sustainability plan for this workshop, and will continue it in 2015 .


Hennepin County

Public Works





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