E-news from The Baby Fold

Hammitt Elementary School's Garden Club grows

assembling the planter

The wooden planter boxes sitting outside Hammitt Elementary School are doing more than simply holding some plants. They’re also helping members of Hammitt Elementary School’s Garden Club grow and blossom into future gardeners.

The group recently assembled the wooden planters with the help of Teacher Therapists, Family Advocates, and The Baby Fold’s Maintenance Supervisor. The planter supplies were purchased with grant funding from the University of Illinois Extension in McLean County.

The Garden Club began meeting last school year. So far the club members have learned about the different parts of plants, how to care for them, and how to make new plants from existing ones. The new planter boxes will now provide the students the opportunity to really get their hands dirty outside, a definite joy for those who are more hands-on, tactile learners.

The planters are also helping students practice their collaboration skills as they work together to care for and eventually harvest their garden. While assembling the planters, they even got to problem-solve as a group when they discovered that the ground was too hard for the planter stakes to penetrate. After careful deliberation, they used a hose to wet and soften the ground to secure the planters.

As an added bonus, by growing their own vegetables in the planters, the students have access to healthy foods that they might not otherwise try. The Garden Club even had a taste-testing session to decide which vegetables to plant. Surprisingly, raw spinach and zucchini were among their favorites. The students also chose to plant leaf lettuce, tomatoes, green beans, sugar snap peas, carrots, potatoes, pumpkins, and cucumbers.

The Garden Club will be hard at work during summer school, tending the garden and even compiling recipes that feature their veggies. By late summer or early fall, the students will be proudly snacking on their delicious harvest!

adding soil to the garden planter
planting seeds

Kindness expands gardening possibilities at Cedar Ridge

the new garden shed

A small group from Eastview Christian Church chose to bless The Baby Fold’s Community Schools program last month by donating gardening supplies to be used by Cedar Ridge Elementary School’s Garden Club. In addition to garden hoses, gloves, a wheelbarrow, and other supplies (everything on their wish list), the group also donated a much needed shed to store and protect the new tools. 

The new shed was assembled by volunteers on May 6, and it was quickly put to use by the 50+ students in Cedar Ridge’s Garden Club. 

Expanding gardening possibilities at Cedar Ridge also offers new opportunities for families to come together to help garden. The Baby Fold’s Community Schools program works to strengthen connections among all of the stakeholders in a child’s life—family, school, and community—and the garden at Cedar Ridge will help to do just that. 

The garden will also ultimately offer fresh, healthy food for students and their families.

A Mother's Heart for foster care

text saying family within a heart

Ashley Johnson* is a very busy mom, but she wouldn’t have it any other way. Not only is Ashley running a nonprofit organization she recently established, but three years ago she and her son also opened their home—and their hearts—to foster children.

According to Ashley, the decision to become a foster parent was an easy one. She was happy and content being the best mom she could be to her son, but she felt that she had more love to give. She could also feel God leading her to foster care. 

Over the last few months, Ashley and her son happily grew from a family of two to a family of six as they welcomed a group of four siblings from foster care. 

Although it can be a difficult journey at times, Ashley also readily admits that being a foster parent is worth it. To her, the most rewarding aspect is “knowing that for a season you were a stable, loving, safe environment for each child. For a moment in time they didn't have to worry about being hurt, hungry, or happy. There will be challenges and bumps along the way, but overall, they can feel safe knowing their basic needs will be met.”

Ashley credits her family and friends for helping her balance her busy life and household. She also leans on her caseworker at The Baby Fold for support. “I have THE best caseworker! She has been there for all of my texts, tears, and tantrums (ha!). She has provided me with so much support that it has made some difficult moments much more manageable.”

Being a single mom to five children, Ashley ultimately looks to God for His support in her blessed busyness. “My strength comes from my faith in Jesus and knowing that I am being obedient to what God has called me to do (be a mom/fostering and starting my non-profit). When you are following the path that God has laid out for you, it doesn't make it easy, but it sure helps give you peace. That peace in return provides perseverance and strength to continue on in hard times.”

Happy Mother’s Day and Happy Foster Care Month to Ashley and to all of our foster care families!

*Name has been changed for client confidentiality

Graduation time at Hammitt Junior-Senior High School

staff member taking a portrait of a graduating senior

We’re excited to celebrate our ten high school graduates from Hammitt Junior-Senior High School! The caps and gowns are ready to go, and school staff members have been taking graduation portraits of the students. The official graduation ceremony is set to take place on May 22.

Our teachers and staff are all extremely proud of every single one of our graduates. These students worked hard to overcome personal hurdles and get to where they are today. They’ve all reached individual milestones and put in the hard work to earn their diplomas—an achievement that may not have felt attainable to them prior to experiencing the highly customized curriculum at HJSHS.

Several graduates mentioned that they’ll miss the friends they’ve made at HJSHS. As they move into the next stage in their lives, however, every single student also said that they will miss the school staff. The personal connections students made with our staff played a key role in helping the students find academic and social/emotional/behavioral success. And that’s all the more reason to be proud.

graduating senior

Two of our graduates plan to attend Heartland Community College this fall. The others are looking forward to joining the workforce in a variety of different positions. One student, for example, hopes to work outside at a landscaping company; another would like to work at an Amazon fulfillment center near his home. 

Our graduates will take many memories with them from HJSHS—memories of their friends, the relationships they built with staff, and the special occasions such as the school’s annual Thanksgiving Dinner celebration. Several seniors will also, of course, miss the pork fritter they enjoyed at lunch…

Congratulations, HJSHS Class of 2023!

Students and staff dress up for spirit week

staff and students during spirit week

Hammitt Junior-Senior High School students recently got the opportunity to have fun and get creative during a school Spirit Week. The week was sponsored by the Student Council as a way to celebrate the end of the school year and to have a little fun before final exams. 

The daily themes included heroes and villains, sports, go crazy, summer time, and black tie or pajamas. Students were encouraged to showcase their creativity and individuality in what they wore for the various spirit days.

staff members during spirit week

Planning Spirit Week provided members of the Student Council with the opportunity to practice their collaboration and brainstorming skills as they came up with the various themes. They also practiced their leadership and communication skills as they shared ideas with their classes and gathered feedback from their peers.

The Student Council is now busy planning an end-of-year luau that includes a dance party. The council members are definitely working hard to fulfill their mission of engaging their peers in fun activities and making school a fun place to be! 

Crafting creative cars

cars on the raceway

Hammitt Junior-Senior High School’s Classroom 142 held a Pinewood Derby Car Show on May 4, followed by a Pinewood Derby Race on May 5 in the school’s training center.

Ms. Henkel and Mr. Brooks worked alongside students for two months to help design, shape, and paint their derby cars, made from bricks of pinewood. 

The cars and race added hands-on learning to lessons on aerodynamics, acceleration, velocity, and related physics course material. Students began designing their cars on graph paper and brought them to life with garages made out of cardboard boxes. During the car show, students from across HJSHS left kind comments on their designs and cars.

Cars such as “The Glitter Neon Unicorn,” “Choo Choo Charles,” “Mr. Penut,” and more competed in a speed contest at the derby. The winner was “Swift Cheese,” crafted by Ms. Henkel. Students were also encouraged to challenge each other to races for some friendly competition!

The derby track itself, “Roeder Raceway,” was donated by Justin Roeder and his family in 2005. The track, alongside its handcrafted sign, have been used throughout the years to execute the pinewood derby.

pinewood derby car
pinewood derby car
pinewood derby car
pinewood derby car

Hatching some classroom fun

student with chick

Chirps and clucks filled two Hammitt Elementary School classrooms last month as students got to watch baby chicks hatch from eggs.

The classrooms took part in the Chick It Out program from the University of Illinois Extension, 4-H McLean County, and McLean County Ag in the Classroom. The program provides classrooms with eggs, incubators, curriculum materials, and food for their freshly hatched little chicks. Students learned about egg development and how to care for baby chicks when they hatch. It’s an egg-cellent learning opportunity, and Hammitt has taken part in the program for over 20 years. 

As part of Chick It Out, the students monitored the eggs and even used candling techniques to watch the chicks form. They also practiced and enjoyed safely holding and caring for the new babies, a few of whom they named Pippy, Sonic, Nugget, and Sunny.

In another class activity, students created their own “clucking” chickens out of plastic cups, string, and sponges. The classrooms were filled with a chorus of creative clucks, as well as laughter from students and staff.

After hatching, Pippy, Sonic, Nugget, Sunny, and their fluffy friends spent a couple of days in the classrooms at Hammitt before they were returned to the University of Illinois Extension. They were then sent off to their forever homes on local farms.

student with chicks
student with cup
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