Grand Haven Area Public Schools’ Ferry and Voyager elementary students in grades K-4 are working with local businesses to create a unique opportunity for students and businesses alike to explore, ask questions and solve problems together.
With 65% of students receiving free/reduced lunch, combined with pandemic-based challenges, many young students have limited or no exposure to school experiences beyond the traditional classroom.
“Our teachers wanted more equity for their students,” says school principal Shelly Hammond. “The goal is to create equitable learning experiences while cultivating a growth mindset in each and every student.”
Each grade has a project
First graders are expanding their financial vocabulary while observing the inner workings of Lake Michigan Credit Union. Second graders are exploring the concept of neighborhoods with City Hall, while third graders and the Grand Haven Department of Public Works are learning persistence as they work out mapping systems and city infrastructure.
At The City Farmer, students are spending time in the greenhouse growing native plant species, and at East End Park, naturalists and students are working to remove invasive species and replace them with local favorites.
This spring, Love in Action and kindergarten students will be practicing empathy while serving the community at the donation center, health clinic, and food truck.
Ferry and Voyager third graders are learning about city infrastructure at the Grand Haven Department of Public Works.
‘Changing the narrative’
The collaboration is rooted in a vision that emerged two years ago in partnership with the High Impact Leadership grant program.
“The teachers and staff developed a vision of changing the narrative about how students engage and interact with the community,” says Marie DeGroot, implementation facilitator at High Impact Leadership.
Teachers also focused on growth mindsets and how to build flexibility, empathy, persistence, resilience, and optimism in students.
Partnerships with the Ottawa Area Intermediate School District’s Doing More Together program, MiSTEM Network, and the Chamber of Commerce of Grand Haven, Spring Lake and Ferrysburg helped to bring the school’s vision to life, and Harbor Transit, which donated rides for every student to attend off-site learning opportunities.
These experiences are among the examples of GHAPS schools “doing more together” with the community to provide rich interactions and real-life, hands-on learning experiences, DeGroot says.
The collaboration has been just as rewarding for local businesses that have participated through the Chamber of Commerce.
“Every classroom is learning something different, and we're finishing up in May with having some final activities between the classroom and the business partners,” says Nancy Manglos, the Chamber’s director of talent and leadership development.
The collaboration began in the fall when Manglos invited a group of businesses from the neighborhood to hear from Hammond about her vision of teaching the students about optimism, empathy, and accountability – and how those skills are used in the business community.
“It’s been really amazing to watch the kids – just the questions that they ask and the things that they're learning from the businesses, who are very excited to be involved," Manglos says. "Our businesses are very eager to engage with our school system to be able to help these young people begin to understand their community and different career paths because they're our future workforce.”