SHARP Literacy serves students in urban schools

In the midst of an urban food desert, 64 and Silver Spring, SHARP Literacy collaborated with community partners to restore and modernize a once inactive greenhouse at Silver Spring Neighborhood Center and Browning Elementary School. The greenhouse has been transformed into an interactive, science-based learning program for K-3 students.

Lynda Kohler is President and CEO of SHARP Literacy. She also sits on the Board of Directors of VISIT Milwaukee and the Board of Directors of UW-La Crosse Alumni. In the past, she has served on the boards of Make-A-Wish, the MACC Fund, and the Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin. She has an infectious personality – energetic, enthusiastic, and imbued with a love for teaching children.

You have had a long and successful career and are now the head of a thriving non-profit educational organization. Tell me about your path to success.

I grew up in Kenosha. My father was a postman. He believed in a work ethic, never complain, do your job despite setbacks. I learned from him at a young age. I graduated from Kenosha Bradford High School. I was an athlete and I went to UW-LaCrosse and raced on the track for all four years. I majored in Recreation Therapy, and this led me to my first job as an intern at Kimberly Clark where I helped staff stay in shape at the Employee Health Center. It was at the start of the corporate fitness trend.

How did you come to Milwaukee?

I graduated in 1983 and moved to Milwaukee as a customer service representative with Midwest Express Airlines. Eventually, I became the passenger service manager and oversaw all of the customer service representatives. I then lived in Boston and Kansas City in managerial positions. Then I ended up in Milwaukee as a senior executive overseeing all sales: corporate, charter, conventions, and other client groups.

You had a successful corporate career for 25 years at the same company, but then moved into the nonprofit arena. How did it happen?

I had served on several nonprofit boards such as the Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin. After the Midwest buyout in 2008, I was hired as president of Ronald McDonald House and worked there for four and a half years. We have served the parents of children in care at the Children’s Hospital. But I wanted to work directly with children, and in 2012 I was recruited to be president of SHARP Literacy following the retirement of the founder, Marlene Doerr Kreilkamp. I fell in love with Sharp’s mission.

Friends of Shepherd

Help support Milwaukee’s free weekly newspaper.


What exactly is SHARP Literacy’s mission?

Basically, it is hands-on learning through participation. SHARP partners with educators to foster a love of learning. We advance children’s futures through innovative STEAM-based experiences and programs. We are a year round school program, although we also have our summer and after school programs. We deliver our program to K3 students to 5 students in public, charter and elective primary schools. Our programs are free. Our corporate and private donors understand this and the impact we have on these children.

How does the program work and how is it different from traditional methods?

We have part-time educators who go to schools and support teachers with our educational programs. We develop all of our programs in-house and create and produce our own We Love to Learn books. For example, our second year program focuses on weather, water and the environment. This book focuses on the life cycle of salmon and teaches students about time and water cycles.

During the school year, for all of our programs, we have four to 18 in-class workshops. We also include educational tours, and these have a great impact on learning. For example, our second grade students will be spending interactive time at Discovery World with its educators. These tours take place on Mondays when Discovery World is closed. This way the students feel special and are not distracted. This is the experiential learning component of the SHARP program.

From what I understand, your curriculum not only teaches the environment, but also art.

We incorporate the concept of STEAM: science, technology, engineering, art and math. We focus on the A, on the art. Everything we do has an artistic component. We have found that children connect to art, to the visual process in learning. We like to be creative, to arouse their curiosity. In other words, we make learning fun. SHARP also offers a comprehensive summer learning program. This summer we had over 800 students at 26 different sites, nearly every community learning center in town, and also nine Milwaukee Public School Summer Learning Programs.

Right now we are in a public school, Browning Elementary, but you also work with all kinds of schools.

That’s right. We are in MPS, charter and elective schools as well as schools in Waukesha County. Eighty-one percent of our students are of color, half African American, half Latin American, and most come from economically disadvantaged homes. We have a very strong presence in primary schools on the south side and on the north side. Our educational programs are offered free of charge. Internally, they cost around $ 163 per student, which includes books, workshops, staff time, and educational tours. In 2021/2022, we will serve nearly 9,000 students in our school, extracurricular and summer learning programs.

One of your most successful programs is happening here at Browning Elementary and Silver Spring Neighborhood Center. You call it the Urban Greenhouse Revitalization Project.

We have been working in partnership with MPS Browning Elementary School for approximately seven years. There was a former vacant greenhouse attached to this building. In 2014, we published an urban agriculture book, There Grows the Neighborhood: Agriculture in the City, for our third grade students. I thought giving our students the opportunity to grow plants in a greenhouse would be a great hands-on learning experience. We have restored and revitalized the greenhouse and are now using it year round.

How did the renovation of the greenhouse go?

We worked with many community partners to bring this project to life. Johnson Controls, Milwaukee School of Engineering, Silver Spring Neighborhood Center, MPS, PortFish, Keep Greater Milwaukee Beautiful, and Teens Grow Greens have all played a part. We have partnered with MSOE and their honorary students in the development of a solar dehydrator, the largest in Wisconsin. We added greenhouse aquaponics and hydroponics, installed a video surveillance system, LED grow lights, a composting station, and three raised beds where students grow and harvest food.

With an aquaponics system associating fish and plants, students discover the components of the life cycle. Fish waste provides the nutrients necessary for plant growth, then children tend to the plants and harvest them later. During the winter months we have starter plants for the students to learn about the growing process. During SHARP’s summer apprenticeship program, they transplant these seedlings into three flower beds outside the greenhouse. It is really practical for the pupils: they dig, pull up weeds, water the plants and take care of them. They can actually grow 25 pounds of produce in about a month, fruits and vegetables like strawberries, lettuce, zucchini, tomatoes, onions, collard greens, and beets. We want children to be proud of growing things, a sense of belonging.

In other words, you give elementary school students the opportunity not only to grow their own vegetables, but also to harvest, produce and eat them.

It’s true. Through the SHARP program, students learn about plant life cycles, nutrition, and urban gardening in a food desert, from planting to harvest. It is quite wonderful. For some students, this is the first time they’ve picked a tomato or pulled a carrot from the ground. Most of these students live in urban areas and have never worked in a garden. We also teach kids to eat healthy and show them that vegetables can taste great.

For example, we baked zucchini bread and muffins, and even made homemade salsa. Students are encouraged to bring vegetables and herbs back to their families. We even send home recipes. Additional garden produce is also offered at the Silver Spring Neighborhood Center Food Pantry serving the local community. SHARP’s Greenhouse program teaches students that in urban gardens they can plant, grow and harvest their own nutritious foods.

Perhaps you could summarize the program of the Urban Greenhouse Revitalization Center in a few sentences.

The revitalization program provides these elementary school children with experiences and opportunities to learn about urban agriculture in a unique and hands-on way. What we teach students in the greenhouse environment they cannot learn just by reading a book.

Your students come from urban and disadvantaged backgrounds. They live in food deserts, mostly concrete and asphalt. You educate them to learn the basic cycle of life in the global environment.

Our students are essentially learning the right, nutritious foods and hopefully this knowledge will make them healthier as they grow older.

Source link

About Shirley L. Kreger

Check Also

Nigeria to achieve 95% digital literacy by 2030 – NITDA boss Kashiffu

The National Information Technology Development Agency, NITDA, has set an ambitious target for Nigeria to …

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *