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BGCL and Groundwork Lawrence Partnership Develops Life Skills in Local Youth

July 27, 2016

The Explore, Learn, and Thrive summer program is well underway at BGCL, with "high-yield" learning activities designed to prevent summer learning loss by incorporating reading, writing, math, problem-solving, and other life skills.

Groundwork Lawrence is an important partner in the initiative, which is especially crucial for hard-working, low-income parents who cannot otherwise afford a summer enrichment program for their children.

"Lawrence children need support in raising their academic outcomes, and they cannot risk losing ground over the summer months," said BGCL Executive Director Markus Fischer. "It's because of partners such as Groundwork Lawrence that we're able to significantly lessen the achievement gap between children in low-income and high-income families."

Sixty club members and other community youth in grades 2-5 are currently participating in Groundwork Lawrence's month-long Urban Adventures Summer Camp, a STEM- and nutrition-based program that takes place at BGCL. With the theme "What a Waste," campers act as waste detectives exploring their community to find ways to make change happen. Field trip sites have included the Clean River Project in Methuen, as well as learning about waste solutions at Market Basket in Lawrence and KMC Auto in South Lawrence.

"Waste is not an obvious choice for a summer camp theme," said Stephanie Cross, education program manager at Groundwork Lawrence, "but getting such a diverse group of kids at the club to think about trash for four weeks will create a ripple effect throughout the city. That's what we're looking for."

In addition to role-playing, outdoor exploration, and games, campers prepare their own nutritious snacks using vegetables and herbs which Groundwork Lawrence staffers plant and maintain at the club for the school-year enrichment program for Lawrence Public School students. The crops, which are thriving in seven raised beds plus several planters fashioned from tires, include lettuce, arugula, kale, Swiss chard, bok choy, beets, radishes, carrots, tomatoes, squash, basil, and native mixed flowers.

Alex Stenner, a FoodCorps Service Member with Groundwork Lawrence, said that youngsters have used the fresh produce to make salsa, guacamole, smoothies, lots of salads, and other nutritious foods. Even if they protest that they don't like something, they are encouraged to try it since increased exposure has been shown to ultimately lead to acceptance. In fact, one girl excitedly told Stenner that she brought a recipe home and made it with her mother.

"There's something very powerful about putting a seed in the soil and turning it into food, and then sharing it with another person - and as a young person, it feels really good to be in a knowledgeable position," said Stenner, noting that the students constantly ask if it's their turn to water the plants. "It's huge for these kids to develop a real connection with fresh food - in its whole form, unprocessed - and then become familiar with basic culinary tools and skills like measuring, cutting, and chopping. Our goal is for them to benefit from this knowledge for the rest of their lives."

 

Did You Know?

The Boys & Girls Club of Lawrence serves over 3,500 inner-city children every year.