Grounded & Propel Andrew Street High School: Bringing Green Playces to Life.

This Spring, Grounded Strategies had the chance to revisit one of our Green Playces: Student Ambassador projects at a vacant lot owned by Propel Andrew Street High School in Homestead. Last fall, the Green Playces: Student Ambassador project worked weekly with Propel students to learn environmental justice principles and apply them to the vacant lot project.  

On April 13, 3 Propel staff, 17 students, 6 alumni, and 2 Grounded staff picked up paint brushes, wheelbarrows and went to work. We painted bee boxes, mounded soil, and planted perennial beds for “Homestead Homestead”, the aptly named lot home to a beekeeping course, mobile clay oven, and bread-oven.
Utilizing principles from the Green Playces Initiative to support the work of Propel teachers has been one of our most successful endeavors.

We wanted to learn more about the history and success of the beekeeping course.

Mr. Keat, the teacher of the beekeeping course, has ongoing momentum.  The course, which started out with only a half dozen of students, has now entered its 9th year.  Mr. Keat admits, “The class started as a student suggestion/idea in the beginning. “I knew pretty much nothing about beekeeping, and it was a great experience to learn alongside the students.  In fact, it made me realize that I could and should ‘teach’ things I don’t actually know about. Going through the learning process with the students (rather than ‘teaching’ them everything) created a great learning environment.”

His work at Propel has cultivated over 50 students with environmental stewardship. This year the group has expanded to 17 students with many of the graduate students returning to help out at one time or another.

I asked Mr. Keat about the beekeeping program and here is more of what he had to say:
How many hives do you have?
As of May 3, 2018, we have 13! We installed 10 new ones. We had four last year.I think our peak previous to this was five.”

During the 9 years, what have you learned?  What are your takeaways from the class? Every year do you have a greater outlook?
“That students who struggle in traditional classrooms often excel when given other ways to learn. That confronting your fears is empowering. That doing real, hands-on work engages and activates students in  ways that are difficult to achieve inside a classroom.”

What are the takeaways from the beehive course that students stress toward the end of the class? 
For one thing, there are many for whom this becomes a real part of their identity. They take pride in it and see it as something that makes them special. They also have an increased awareness of the natural world and its interconnections.”

How many students graduate with the goal to go into the green industry?
Hmmm – I know a few who have kept bees after the class, and others who have expressed an interest in doing so.  I can’t say I know of any student from this class – or this school -who have gone into the green industry  (but there may be some).  As far as students’ relationship to green thinking, I would say that this program increases their awareness considerable.  The course also helps many of them connect with nature in a way they never had before. Things students once feared become fascinating to them.  Also, this class tends to attract a large proportion of students who struggle in traditional classrooms (about half the students here are IEP students).  I have found that many (most) of them thrive in this class.  My best beekeepers are often students who struggle academically.  I feel like they probably learn more here than in any of their other classes.  I had a student tell me that beekeeping is the only reason she comes to school.  It gives students a chance to learn in a different way and to show another side of themselves.  And it’s just fun!

What joy if any do you get out of the beekeeping class?
This class is certainly a highlight of my job. Just getting outside on a regular basis is very important to me.  

Being around tens or hundreds of thousands of buzzing, working insects is both thrilling and gives me a feeling of peace.  Interacting with students outside the classroom, in such a strange in interesting context, is a real joy. 

It also helps to build relationships in a way that doesn’t happen inside the school walls.  There is a joy in not only caring for the bee but in producing honey and hive products – to have something we can hold in our hands as proof of our work.”  

Grounded’s’ investment in the community and educating young minds is the fuel that sparks rejuvenation and reclaims vacant land.

We are proud to be a part of programs that bring tangible possibilities such as “Homestead Homestead” to life.

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