Mickey Zacher sat down at a common table at All Saints Senior Living a few minutes early to wait for 19 kindergartners to come streaming through the door. Zacher, a former nurse, said she loves it when the children visit because it allows her to care for people like she used to.
Sun Path Elementary School teacher Sara Connell‘s kindergarten class walked through the senior home entrance, single-filed and quiet and reducing the average age in the building by about 50 years.
“Here they come,” Zacher said, laughing. “It’s about to get loud.”
Every month, Connell’s class visits All Saints to do a craft activity and play games with the residents. While students receive help gluing and pasting and coloring from the residents, they also give help, offering questions and laughter to the seniors, who graciously accept their young and energetic company. Connell said this setting allows her students to learn how to start conversations by taking an interest in and showing kindness to the people around them.
Lillian Stjernstrom has six grandchildren — all boys — who visit her regularly. But that didn’t stop her from welcoming a class of 5- and 6-year-olds.
“Don’t get glue on the table, now,” she said gently to her new friend, who was gluing paper in the shape of a pumpkin as part of his craft activity.
Jerry Baker just moved into All Saints, and he was beaming the entire hour as he sat in his chair, watching the children run by with glue sticks and paper scraps. He created a 3-D pumpkin and showed his new friends what he made. He patted the back of a 6-year-old who walked by with his own pumpkin.
“I don’t get to do this stuff,” he said, in reference to his art project. “This is really fun.”
On the other side of the room an All Saints staff member, said, “Agnes, we got a pumpkin!”
Agnes Mctott broke out in a smile as the staff member helped her glue a pumpkin onto her paper.
The short field trips are a result of the Shakopee Educational Endowment Fund, which granted Connell’s classroom the money to make the monthly visits, Kathy Busch, Vice Chair of SEEF, said.
SEEF has existed since Shakopee School District’s levy was reversed in 1992, and grants anywhere between $18,000 and $30,000 each year to classrooms or programs in Shakopee with innovative ideas that need a budget boost. The fund relies on private donors.
A teacher can ask for one specific grant for his or her class. For example, one teacher received a grant to purchase a class set of ukuleles at Sweeney Elementary School. Other teachers may request a grant that benefits the entire school, such as technology updates. The bottom line, Busch said, is that the grant request shows an innovative idea.
“We’d like to award more than we’re awarding right now,” Busch said, adding that next month SEEF will send letters to small and large businesses asking for donations.