Monday, November 26, 2012

Thanksgiving at Arlington Hills

Last week we celebrated Thanksgiving by having our Annual Thanksgiving Potluck!

Each class was in charge of cooking their own dish:

Teacher Cammy's class : Mashed Potatoes
Teacher Andrea's class: Sweet Potatoes
Teacher Jessica's class: Vegetable dish
Volunteer Class: Stuffing
Children's English School : Decorating

Teacher Andrea was gracious enough to be in charge of cooking all three turkeys and many volunteers helped by donating food or money!

We had over 80 people come to the party and had enough food to serve at least 100! Nobody went away hungry!

We even had musical entertainment from Teacher Cammy, Teacher Kirsti and Teacher Andrea's Husband, Greg.

                                                   Getting the sweet potatoes ready!

Cutting the apples

Carving the turkeys!

Reading the instructions on how to cook stuffing

Cutting the veggies 

Pam helping serve pie at the party!

Officer Lund stopped by for a visit and some food!

The happy teachers!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Paw Wah shows off a completed Manna Pack

Rice!  Soy!  Vegtables!  Chicken!

The tally of our hard work at the end of our shift

 Last week, the Employment Readiness classes took a field trip to volunteer at Feed My Starving Children. All of the FMSC employees were impressed at how hard our learners worked, and they invited us to come back many times in the future.

Our Fieldtrip

On Tuesday November 6, we go to Feed My Starving Children.

We take the bus.

We do food packaging.

Chicken, vegetables, soy, rice go in the bag.

Weigh the plastic bag on the scale.

Seal the bags, it is hot.

We count the bags.

There are 36 bags.

Put the bags in the box.

Finish, clean the table put the food in the bucket.

Take off the gloves.

Wash the hands water clean hands.

Take off the hairnet put in the bucket.

Eat a little food.

The food is good.

The food go to Africa, India, Kenya, Thailand, Bhutan, many many countries.

 Starving children eat the food.

                                                                                                  By Employment Readiness Class 1

Friday, October 12, 2012

Reflecting on the Summer

We have put our beds to rest, packed our tools away, and rolled our fences up for later use. Last week, the students bundled up against the cold, for the last day of gardening. There was not much left to harvest, but we gleaned what we could before emptying the gardens and piling our plants in a heap to be taken to the city compost.

Back in the classroom, the students reflected on the past few months of gardening and together they shared what they have learned and practiced.

As the students reflected, I did too. I thought about our first day in the garden and how the class time seemed to be so frenzied, yet somehow quite productive. I laughed, remembering the time the watering hose wasn’t working, so I went to the spigot, cranked the water pressure as high as I could, and came back to see the student who was helping me absolutely soaked with water. Then there was the time I tried to gage how heavy a bin of steel fence posts was and knocked the whole thing over, and myself with it, much to the students’ amusement. I never made it through a class period without laughter at some point--or often many --which is one of the reasons I will really miss my days at Arlington Hills.

Looking back on the season, the students have also been teachers to me. The early summer days were blessed with abundant rains, and equally abundant plant growth, both wanted and unwanted. When we went out to the garden to weed, half of the weeds were thrown into a bin for composting and the other half were gathered and taken home for dinners. If there is one thing the students are, it is resourceful. They do not waste food in any way, and they are quick to identify edible plants, which I have known as “weeds.” The students make use of all sorts of greens that I have never tried. Some of the students would leave the garden with bunches of clover, which I found to have a striking, tangy taste that mellows out when cooked. Other students gathered lambsquarters or even carrot-top greens. One particular day, a student began stripping the leaves off a honey locust tree next to the garden. As I am the “garden teacher,” a few other students naturally asked me if the leaves were edible. I had never heard of anyone eating these leaves, so I advised the students not to eat them—better safe than sorry, right? (I’m quite certain the leaves were taken home and eaten anyway.) That night, I did some research on the honey locust tree and did not find anything conclusive, as far as leaf edibility goes. I continued to see students pick leaves though, and after inquiring, I learned that one of the students in particular likes to cook the leaves at home, mixing them with water, oil, salt, and spices. Google may not have the final results in, but it seems that Arlington Hills students do, and the honey locust leaves continue to be consumed--for better or worse--by a number of the students. My most recent efforts to find more information on the honey locust, has revealed that scientists are considering the possibility that the leaves contain anti-cancer compounds so perhaps the students are on to something after all.

I know I will not forget these lessons I learned from the students and I hope that, likewise, they will not forget their lessons either. From the students, to the staff, to the ever-helpful custodian, my time at Arlington Hills has been graced with the kindness of the people there, as this place is quite obviously more than just a school, but a community that forges lasting ties and is sincerely invested in one another’s wellbeing. While my internship time at the school has come to an end, I do not really believe in goodbyes, only transitions that all relationships take at some point. Though I will no longer stop in every Wednesday, I am certain I will still be in touch with Arlington Hills in some way, whether it is checking in via blog updates, emailing staff to say hello, or crossing paths with students at a store or on the bus. I am most grateful for my experience at the school and everyone who helped to make my time so worthwhile. I will truly miss the community and will always think back on my days there with fond memories. Thank you, Arlington Hills, for sharing such a lovely summer with me!

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

A Season of Gardening

With cool nights and dry days, our growing season is coming to an end.  Looking back on the summer, we've enjoyed a variety of foods from our garden and have even taken the opportunity to plant several rounds of crops, from cool weather greens to warm weather peppers, to fall root crops.

In July, despite the heavy heat waves plaguing MN--and most of the U.S.--the garden blossomed under the attentive care of the Arlington Hills students.  We spent a few weeks trimming back the garden, which was teeming with greens and herbs, while the beans and eggplants were just beginning to flower.  The garden was producing a hearty supply of greens, which students took home each week, but under the intense heat, the greens began to bolt and it was finally time to take them out.  While we usually  have just enough veggies for the class that works in the garden, on this particular day, all the students in the school were able to enjoy this impressive yield.  In place of the greens, students planted a mid-summer crop of cucumbers, beets, radishes, and kale.



In August and September the garden exploded in flowers and flourished with vegetables. The students took home tomatoes and peppers from the bucket gardens, and eggplant, cucumbers, okra, and carrots from the external gardens.





With plenty of produce, the gardening lessons often carried over into "Jobs Club," where students divided, weighed, and labeled the harvest.



Now, as the October days grow shorter and the nights threaten to frost, it is time to end our gardening season. In spite of record breaking heat and drought, the garden has given us much to be thankful for. This week, we will gather the last of our crops and put our garden to rest for the winter.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden

Last Friday, the employment readiness classes went on a field trip to the Eloise Butler Wild Flower Garden in Minneapolis. Here is what the students wrote about it:

The Big Garden

On Friday we go to big garden.
See the vegetables.
What are names of vegetables.
See many many plants and flowers.
See wild ginger and two turkeys.
Walking and talk to the four garden teachers.
Eat the leaves.
No eat the berries.
Eat the ferns.
We like the big garden.
Next year we go to the garden.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

A Very Green Thumb

If you're at Arlington Hills on a Wednesday afternoon, you'll probably run into Courtney Kocher, our Summer Garden Teacher. Courtney has been a part of the Arlington Hills since May; teaching English lessons that are focused on gardening, as well as planning out and leading the learners in weekly garden tasks to keep the four school community gardens growing and thriving. Courtney recently responded to some questions that we had for her about her experiences.

What drew you to the garden teacher position in the first place?
This position is the perfect combination of two things I love: Working with ELL students and the great outdoors. I had been looking for ways to get more involved in the urban gardening movement within the Twin Cities and I had also spent the last year and half volunteering with various ELL programs. When I saw the opening, I was instantly excited about the possibility of being a part of the Arlington Hills MLC community.

How have you enjoyed your experience working with the gardens so far this summer?
Wednesday might just be my favorite day of my week. Each Wednesday I come to work outside with the students and I always leave with my spirits lifted and feeling energized for the rest of my day. While I serve as a "teacher" to the students by sharing my experience gardening in the U.S., all of the students are also "teachers" to me. I learn about edible weeds that most people in the U.S. would toss away and I learn about countries far away from my own. As we all work together in the garden, I especially enjoy checking in with the students individually to practice English and also to learn a little more about them.

What is some of the work that you've done with the learners?
We've planted a wide variety of vegetables, flowers, and herbs, including lettuce, mustard greens, arugula, cilantro, basil, beans, peppers, tomatoes, eggplants, broccoli, zucchini, carrots, and sunflowers. Each week we tend the garden by weeding, watering, and harvesting what is ready. We always start our time with a short lesson in the classroom, then we move out to the garden where the students can put their new vocabulary to use in a hands-on way.

What are some of the challenges that you've faced so far?
Communication! But that can only be expected when working with an ELL group and it is actually part of the fun -- figuring out new ways to communicate, to share, and to connect with one another across cultural and lingual barriers, which are not so great as they may initially seem. Some of the most special moments come when we are having conversations that begin with some communication difficulties, but end with these "ah-ha" moments of comprehension and often laughter. We learn that people who have grown up so far from one another are not so different after all, and we have shared human experiences that all of us can relate to at some level.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012


The students of Arlington Hills have been “digging in” to the garden activities with enthusiasm for the past several weeks.  Many hands make light work, and it has been exciting to see how quickly the students can transform a grassy patch of earth into a freshly turned garden plot, an empty canvas waiting to be planted with the season’s crops!

The students...
turned the soil...
put up a fence...
and planted seeds.

With plenty of helping hands and just a few hours, we have the beginning of what is sure to be a bountiful garden.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Pen Pals

For the past 3 months, the Level 5-6 class has been writing letters back and forth with their pen pals. (Volunteers from the Arlington Hills Church). Every Friday the class studies writing with their teacher, Jon. They have practiced letter writing style and how to respond to questions from their pen pals.

Last Thursday, we had a Meet and Greet with the students and pen pals. MLC volunteer Jon planned a great mixer that let all the students converse with the volunteers. Then, over refreshments, the pen pal pairs were able to sit down and talk with each other. It was a great event and we are so happy to be able to partner more with the church!

                                 Roxanne and Yenework engaged in deep discussion

                 Pastor Roger and John discuss a time when they were both surprised by something

Blanca talks with her pen pal about favorite foods

                                                        The happy group

Friday, April 20, 2012

Garlic Mustard

Yesterday both our job clubs worked with staff from the Big Urban Woods to help remove exotic plants.

Our job was to help remove Garlic Mustard which is a non-native plant to Minnesota and has taken over this particular area. Our students were very excited about this, because they love to eat it!

It was a cold, damp day, but our students were up for the challenge and dug right in!

                             Sa Ki Na and Harlimaree show off their Garlic Mustard Bouquets


         Students also helped to remove other plants such a burdock, honeysuckle, and buck thorn.

 Than Thin shows me some stinging nettle by saying, "It's hot teacher! It's hot!" My response? "Put it down!"

                               Paw Lam Mung and Ah Pyon take a quick photo break

                                                       Mu Mu hard a work

                      Joe, one of our supervisors, and three students help to remove a buck thorn bush

                  All together our students removed over 120 bags of garlic mustard! All in a days work.

This morning Joe dropped of a homemade bread (still hot!) for the students as a thank you gift of all their   hard work! It was thoroughly enjoyed by all.