St. Francis Area Schools provides students a high quality education in a system with choices. At St. Francis Learning Center (SFLC) there are several different educational programs, each offering choices to students.
Crossroads - Bar None is for at-risk youth, many of which reside at a nearby residential treatment center. Saints Academy is an alternative learning program for students in grades 9-12, providing opportunities to gain academic learning skills, vocational skills and work experience. Saints Online is an option for students in grades 3-12 offering a personalized, high-quality, online learning experience. Transition-15 is a program that transitions special education students into the work environment. Adult Basic Education offers students general education development diploma preparation and more. All programs align with the district mission, “Our mission is to equip all students with the knowledge and skills to empower them to achieve their dreams and full potential while becoming responsible citizens in a dynamic world.”
SFLC features an open commons area, individual classrooms, state-of-the-art technology, wood shop, greenhouses, full gym and cafeteria. A recent addition is the Victory Garden, an outdoor classroom. Its purpose is to provide a learning sanctuary for students, increase student engagement with a hands-on living laboratory, teach students about food from seed to table, while encouraging a healthy lifestyle and providing lifelong skills.
In the first year of the Victory Garden, the impact has had an amazing effect on the entire school. Students love to visit the garden and admire the beautiful tomatoes, eggplant, cabbages, zucchini and green beans growing in the garden. Students have been interviewed by local and regional media and commented on how the garden has a calming effect on them. The level of engagement is evident and the garden has become a positive motivator for students.
The Anoka County Master Gardeners were an integral part in making the garden a reality and continue to support the project. Through donations and a community effort, the garden has eight raised beds and a fence with front and rear gates. Art students created a beautiful ceramic tile sign and several lively garden gnomes.
During the winter, volunteer Master Gardeners visit the school to help with lessons ranging from pollination to plant propagation through cloning. Students participate in a ceremonial planting day. Throughout the school year, they continue to plan and plant the garden, build trellises and keep careful records. As the plants are grown and harvested, a nutrition educator from the University of Minnesota Extension teaches students to make delicious meals using the produce.
Because of the first-year success of the Victory Garden, plans are being made to double the size of the garden and build a small tool shed.