By Erin Grabinger
Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch
A new event at our Minot campus has Ranch kids growing plants, giving grants, and building confidence!
The GROW (God Rewards Our Work) Garden Sale began this year and is already proving to be a success. A spinoff of the event previously known as BLT Day, GROW was organized and implemented by Ranch kids. The idea was to hold a one-day garden sale in the Minot Thrift Store parking lot—selling plants and items grown or created by the kids.
Students were given the opportunity to join Botany Club, and then grew plants from seed in the Ranch greenhouses. They cared for the plants as they grew, and according to one student, "We even pollinated them ourselves, flower by flower."
The plants included everything from vegetables, to succulents, and flowers, and many were sold in planters built by the kids in Mr. Meier's shop class.
The GROW Garden Sale, held on Saturday, May 11th, 11 a.m. - 3 p.m. at the Minot Thrift Store, was a huge success! The event was planned and executed entirely by Ranch kids—with a little support and guidance from their teachers and cottage staff. Megan, a delightful 15-year-old with a beaming smile and boundless energy, said, "We were all dancing outside, and we got a bunch of customers. And [they] bought almost everything!"
When everything was tallied and counted, the kids had raised over $4,000! And that was just the beginning. It was now up to them to determine where the money could best be used. A select committee of four Ranch students created a grant process and sent notices to everyone onh campus, encouraging them to apply for dollars to fund special projects.
The committee, advised by Science Teacher Josh Hvidsten and Dean of Students Sherry Wagner, received 13 grant applications and had a comprehensive process for determining the proposals to fund. They developed a scoring guide, called a rubric, and started by each scoring the grants individually. Then they tallied their scores and discussed each proposal at length.
They learned about conscious and unconscious bias and tried to take their emotions out of the decision—by choosing projects that would benefit the most kids and staff, rather than those that would benefit their cottage, club, or favorite staff person. The GROW grant committee awarded full grants to four projects and partial grants to another four. They made giant checks and went around campus surprising recipients with the news. The students decided it was important to inform the people who didn't receive a grant right away too, so they sent them all emails.
Michael, one of the students on the committee, said it was hard not to tell people what they decided before the big reveal. "They would always ask us...'did we win?' 'How much money do we get?'" he said. "And I'd [say], 'I can't tell you. You have to wait.'" Projects funded included a grant to the school for a new smart screen, one to Thatcher cottage for new outdoor activities and equipment, and one for a science project. In addition to these grants, the committee was given about $600 to use for a project of their own making. After touring the thrift store warehouse and seeing how building shelves would remedy a safety hazard, the group chose to issue those dollars to the warehouse for new shelves.
In the end, students who participated in the event loved the experience and learned a great deal.
"I learned that I enjoy planting and helping people in the community," said Courtney, a Ranch resident who hadn't gardened or worked with plants before coming to the Ranch.
Megan said, "Every time we had a GROW meeting, I was so excited to go. I grew a little...GROW family here."
Students in the grant committee all agreed the project brought them closer and gave them skills they can use long after they leave the Ranch.
"The GROW sale lets kids be involved in what happens here," Courtney said. "And they feel like they can make a change."