YPSILANTI – The Bright Futures program at Eastern Michigan University is combining academic activities, nutrition instruction and local fresh produce in a special project to benefit families in the Ypsilanti Community Schools district.
The project consists of a weekly package of academic materials and local fresh produce organized through the Farm at St. Joseph Mercy Ann Arbor Hospital.
Packages are delivered directly to families from multiple Ypsilanti Community Schools Bright Futures sites. The package contains the materials and recipes for a cooking club, art project instructions that use the vegetables, a writing prompt/assignment, a related reading packet, and a cooking math activity with an overlay of nutrition education.
The partnership includes Bright Futures, Growing Hope, Ypsilanti Community Schools and the extension office at Michigan State University.
This project allows us to teach students in a real-world kind of way about nutrition, science, math and art,” said Lynn Malinoff, director of the Bright Futures program. “It’s amazing educational content.”
Bright Futures is an afterschool program in the office of Engage@EMU, funded by the Michigan Department of Education 21st Century Community learning centers grants, It meets 32 weeks during the school year and six weeks in the summers in 25 schools in the Ypsilanti, Wayne-Westland and Romulus school districts.
With classroom instruction being held remotely around Michigan, the program is one way to keep linking Bright Futures staff with area families. Bright Futures site coordinators pick up the vegetables from the farm and take the packet of academic materials and produce to their families.
“This is a completely leveling and marvelous partnership project,” Malinoff said. “It exposes families to all sorts of nutrition opportunities and locally grown produce in the state of Michigan, while teaching cooking and embedding academic content.”
Pamela Baker, Bright Futures site coordinator at Ypsilanti International Elementary School, one of 11 schools participating in the project, said that cooking clubs are one of the most popular clubs that Bright Futures offers in person, "so I am very happy we found a way to offer this remotely."
"Bright Futures is guided by student choice and voice in what kinds of enrichment activities we offer, and then we figure out how to embed the learning into those activities," said Baker, who's serving as overall project cooridnator in this initiative. "Many of us have taken our students to the Farm at St. Joes and the Growing Hope Urban Farm for field trips, so it's very cool how they have been able to partner with us in a new way during this time."
Will Spotts, assistant director at Bright Futures who supports eight sites in Ypsilanti Community Schools, says those Ypsilanti schools and three in Romulus are currently involved in the program, with further plans to expand.
Along with the education benefits, the program, which includes families K-12, also helps maintain and build the sense of community during the COVID-19 epidemic, Spotts said.
“We are a fat dose of social and emotional learning,” Spotts said. “We can give parents a break as their children do self-paced activities and virtual activities, using items such as art supplies and journaling equipment.
“It’s a great way to reconnect. Along with food, there are strong academic and social components. This is a way to get families to spend some time together. One of our key pieces is to maintain relationships between schools and families.”
About Eastern Michigan University
Founded in 1849, Eastern is the second oldest public university in Michigan. It currently serves nearly 18,000 students pursuing undergraduate, graduate, specialist, doctoral and certificate degrees in the arts, sciences and professions. In all, more than 300 majors, minors and concentrations are delivered through the University's Colleges of Arts and Sciences; Business; Education; Engineering and Technology; Health and Human Services; and, its graduate school. EMU is regularly recognized by national publications for its excellence, diversity, and commitment to applied education. For more information about Eastern Michigan University, visit the University's website.