Altered Shoes and Life Journey Project

Name: Theresa Zingery                 Phone: 763-504-8301

Address:      305 Willow Bend , Crystal Learning Center                                       

City:              Crystal           State: MN                      Zip:     55428


Job Title:      Program Director                                                                      

Program/Agency Name and Location: Adult Academic Program of Robbinsdale Area Schools, Crystal Learning Center

The “Altered Shoes and Life Journey Project” was a Level 1 Academic Skills art/writing project. Students painted and decorated a pair of shoes to create visual metaphors that reflect their personality and life experiences. All student participants were immigrants/refugees, and many had experienced a great deal of trauma. Their experiences, as well as a desire to provide a means for self-expression through the arts, were the inspiration behind the project. 

This hands-on project strengthened classroom community and incorporated a variety of instructional methods and materials using Universal Design for Learning principles. It gave students a better understanding of what it is like to “walk in in each other’s shoes.” Classroom volunteers assisted students as they implemented their shoe ideas and wrote descriptions and explanations of the elements they chose.  The culminating event was an art show: other classes in the building were invited to see and read about the projects. The initiative was also shared via a story in the local paper, which included details of the life stories behind the art.

The teacher based the lesson on an initiative by the New England Literacy Resource Center, which describes the focus on relieving stress as a tool for increasing learning. The center’s website states that early implementers of the project “were guided by trauma-informed theory” and “project-based learning.” The teacher, Colleen Crossley, paired the art portion with reading, writing, and math under the theme of relieving stress using the arts.

Crossley also borrowed other ideas from the stress management program in New England, including stress circles, diagrams students made that help put their stress in perspective and determine what factors are under their control.

The shoe project began with an introduction to metaphors, symbolism, and idioms. Students also learned about sequencing, read the Langston Hughes poem Mother to Son, listened to the 1968 song “Walk a Mile in My Shoes,” and viewed examples of other Altered Shoes projects online.

Staff and students of the Adult Academic Program donated shoes. Students in the class chose from the donated shoes for their projects, or brought their own from home. Due to the high number of leftover shoes, many students were able to also bring some home for themselves or their families.

This sort of artistic expression has a distinct goal that both transcends and complements the primary language learning experience. The idea is stress management through artistic expression, which in turn helps engage and stimulate deeper learning. The students are immigrants, and a number are refugees who have experienced a great deal of trauma, which was part of the inspiration behind the project.

Students embellished their shoes after focusing in on what they would like the shoes to say. They then completed the written portion to help connect critical thinking and expression with writing skills. In addition to their shoe descriptions/reflections, students created a timeline of their lives using the Read WriteThink online timeline maker. For the students, it was a unique experience to create both written and visual art.

Students reported that the project relieved their stress and strengthened the sense of community in the classroom. The shoe project was therapeutic for these students. The final art show featuring the Altered Shoes, students’ written descriptions, and life timelines allowed students and the wider community to see and celebrate their achievement.

The traumas endured by some of the students in the class might seem unfathomable to the average U.S.-born citizen. However, the students’ experiences have stuck with them, in some cases for nearly two decades or longer. The stories were shared in the local paper where it might help local residents understand the immigrant/refugee experience. This story was also shared with the larger Robbinsdale Area School district.

Other students were inspired by the stories they heard and the means of stress reduction they learned by visiting the student exhibition of the project.

This project has been shared with the ABE community through the ABE electronic Newsletter ABE Connects and will be shared in other venues as well.

Student Advisory Board Leadership Project

Name: Student Advisory Board Leadership Training Phone: 763-504-8300  

Address:                 305 Willow Bend , Crystal Learning Center                          

City:   Crystal                      State:            MN                Zip:     55428

Program/Agency Name and Location:            Adult Academic Program of Robbinsdale Area Schools

The Adult Academic Program identified a need to encourage student input into the operations of the program and to assist with integration of new students to enhance persistence. For some time, we have had a Student Advisory Board (SAB) but attendance was inconsistent and the group had trouble finding a focus for their efforts and feeling comfortable with making substantive input.  Two new roles which we felt would help bring focus to their work were in assisting with integration of new students and aiding students in the Resource Room. We developed a series of eight lessons to help SAB members develop skills that would be helpful in these areas.

The development of the SAB, the curriculum and funding were the result of teamwork between many parties. Two instructors (ESL/Basic Skills) and the program director met to develop a new vision for the SAB utilizing student input. These two teachers, in cooperation with PANDA have developed and delivered six modules and are in the process developing two more. Program teachers were asked to convey this vision to students in their class and encourage participation in the SAB.

We utilized existing staff as well as the Supplemental Service Provider (PANDA) which is housed in our program to develop the curriculum. Classes were held as a regular part of the SAB meetings which are during class time at our main facility. While the two staff liaisons were holding the meetings and doing training we utilized Educational Assistants and cooperative teaching so that students who were not involved didn’t have their instruction compromised. The only funding needed was for the time to develop the curriculum and this came primarily from regional transitions funding in exchange for piloting and sharing the curriculum.  Additional modules were developed with funding from our Support Services grant.

Module topics were developed that we thought would be most helpful to SAB members in enhancing their functioning as a body and in their work to serve as new student mentors and in helping those visiting the Resource Room in finding resources to assist them in addressing non-academic issues. Topic covered: What is Leadership; Communication Perception and Style: Active Listening; Trust and Confidentiality in Peer Relationships; Telephone and Internet skills, Resolution and Peer Mediation; and in process: Stress Management/Mental Health, and Self-Empowerment.

The program was begun last year and continued and expanded this calendar year.  SAB members who have continued with our program have shown leadership at the school and in the district. Two of them have become members of the Community Education Advisory Council and one of them has been hired to staff our Student Resource Room. We have seen individual members having increased involvement in mentoring new students. In addition, the SAB has taken on some more substantive input to the program such as an international desert pot luck and an International fashion show and a student run bulletin board. While increased confidence is hard to measure students who have participated seem to feel more self-assured and their attendance has been more regular. These efforts are still at an early stage and we hope to see more advancement in future as SAB members complete the training and gain experience in the new roles.

This initiative has benefited the program by enhancing student input, involvement and persistence for both the students involved and those for whom they are serving as a peer leader/mentor. The local community benefits by their increased involvement in local institutions such as the CE Advisory Council.

The curriculum for this program (attached) has been made available to the Regional funders and will be made available to all ABE programs once the final two modules are completed. We feel that this off-the-shelf curriculum will assist in the replication of this initiative in other programs in the state with hopefully similar increases in student confidence, involvement and enhanced persistence. Modules can also be used in other settings than Student Advisory Boards such as units in existing classroom materials. They are topics that are useful for all adult students and which have now been testing through this effort with students of all levels.

Job Olympics Event

Name: Job Olympics Event                                          Phone: 763-504-8367

Address: Adult Academic Program, 305 Willow Bend, Crystal, MN 55428                                                               

City:  Crystal                       State: MN                                       Zip: 55428

Program/Agency Name and Location: Adult Academic Program – Robbinsdale Area Schools

Name: Julie Kleve              Phone: 763-504-8367

Address: Adult Academic Program, 305 Willow Bend, Crystal, MN 55428

City: Crystal                         State: MN                                       Zip: 55428

Our Job Olympics Event is all about teamwork! Immigrant students from Levels 1 & 2 Academic Skills classes and our Level 4 ELL class team up with students from the Robbinsdale Transition Center (RTC) to learn and practice job search skills including: Interviewing, On-line Job Search, and Job Application Completion. Throughout the year, these students get specialized training to learn and improve their work skills while at the same time practice finding and interviewing for a job. Their lessons have included online job searching, networking, and interviewing among other topics. Students have also benefited from job-skills seminars presented by AAP’s school counselor and HIRED a local job-counseling organization who is a valuable partner in our iEL Civics grant program.

On the day of the event, AAP’s and RTC’s students are divided into three teams to compete against each other. Although it’s a competition, the students form a camaraderie where they root for each other and give each other tips on how to give a great performance. At the closing ceremony when students are given their certificates and awards, everyone cheers for one another whether they are on the same or opposing teams---it’s a true example of team building!

The Job Olympics is a culminating event for AAP and RTC students who, throughout the school year, learn and practice workplace skills. While the event itself is one day, staff preparation takes a few weeks leading up to the event. Preparation and implementation for Job Olympics are paid primarily from an iEL Civics grant. The success of the event weighs heavily on getting unpaid, volunteer judges. The judges, many coming from local businesses, social services, and AAP’s frequent volunteers provide invaluable encouragement and constructive feedback for the students.

During the event, students compete in three categories: Online Job Search, Job Application Completion, and Job Interviews. For each category, the volunteer judges fill out a Score Sheet. The students receive a score of 0 to 3 on different aspects (predetermined by AAP and RTC teachers) for each category. For example, for the Interviews, students are scored on their appearance, eye contact, and response to questions to name a few aspects. After students finish the event, the judges tally all of the score sheets and determine the Bronze, Silver, and Gold winners for each of the three teams

Every year, our Job Olympics event creates a lot of excitement and enthusiasm among the Adult Academic and RTC students. Students enjoy the challenge and competitive nature of the event. We end the event with a closing ceremony where all students earn a certificate and the students with the top three scores on each team win a Bronze, Silver or Gold medals. Adult Academic Program gives out prizes, many of them donated, to each of the medal winners. The names of all participating students go into a drawing for even more prizes. Prizes include gift certificates to local retail stores, personal care products, and useful work/school supplies such as insulated lunch boxes, pens, and notepads. The excitement of the event, the constructive feedback to each student from the volunteer judges, and the valuable prizes help motivate

students to do their best for each Job Olympics category. During our 2017 Job Olympics, a local news reporter wrote an article that captures the students’ achievements throughout the event. Please click on the following link to view the article: for-the-workforce/

The majority of AAP’s immigrant students and RTC’s transition students have limited work experience yet these students have a willingness and determination to work. The Job Olympics event helps these students to prepare for the job search experience so that they may have a better chance at acquiring a job. In turn, the local community benefits from these hard- working adults. Every local community can benefit from new adults joining the workforce. The adults bring different work skills, new perspectives, and unique experiences that can enhance the existing work community; the local workforce remains vibrant and healthy. The volunteer judges also become familiar with the abilities of our students and become ambassadors for the program.

At the 2016 ABE Summer Institute, Adult Academic Program staff shared the idea and logistics of a Job Olympics at the Poster Session. During this poster session, many teachers, managers, and staff from other ABE programs learned how to hold a Job Olympics at their own school. When other ABE programs hold their own Job Olympics, their respective communities can also benefit from their adult learners joining the local workforce.