Paramount School of Excellence (PSOE) is a K-8 charter school and a project partner of KIB, both through the KIB Clubs program and the IPL Project Greenspace program. Together, KIB and PSOE have completed multiple tree plantings, built picnic tables, planted gardens and removed a quarter of an acre of invasive species. One challenge project partners, such as PSOE, often face is that of being able to continually maintain the spaces they create with KIB.
Enter PSOE Director Tommy Reddicks and his exciting Success through Education, Agriculture, and Mentoring (STEAM) program! Not only a solution to the constant maintenance needs of the school’s green spaces, STEAM takes its mission a step further, offering students a productive and educational way to spend their summer.
“We define success by having students show up. If they’re not here, they’re getting into trouble.” – Tommy Reddicks, School Director
The program selects 10-12 middle school-aged participants to receive training and become paid members of the summer “STEAM Team.” Students work Monday through Friday with school and community partners as they nurture and care for the school’s garden, maintain local community gardens, and run summer farmer’s markets. Students also develop coping skills, social skills, leadership skills and a deeper respect for environmental sciences.
I had a chance to spend some time with the STEAM Team last week and was very impressed with the time and care students took with the school’s green spaces, as well as how much they seem to have learned during their time in the program.
“I didn’t know that insects help the soil. I thought that worms and all that stuff would eat the plants so I used to kill them. Now I know it helps, so when I start planting my own garden at home I will use worms and ladybugs to help protect the plants.” – Kavante Whitfield, STEAM participant
A typical day begins in a classroom setting, with Mr. Reddicks reviewing environmental science concepts and planning out each task for the work day ahead. The students then head outdoors to begin work in the gardens and along the school grounds. The fact that the program offers a financial stipend to each student provides an opportunity to teach financial literacy lessons as well. As Mr. Reddicks explains, “The goal of the financial literacy aspect of the program is to teach students that they have to be planning for down the road or they will never be able to be independent. You have to have short term and long term goals for your money.” The students are catching on:
“We learned the 50/30/20 rule: $50 for things you need, $30 for what you want, and $20 for saving.” – Raina Oxlaj, STEAM participant
Several of the participants will be moving on to mentoring positions next summer to teach new students and lead them in continuing to care for the school’s green spaces. Thank you, Paramount School of Excellence, for showing us your incredible creativity and work ethic – excellence, indeed!