Agricultural Literacy Grant awarded to Honeybees in the Classroom: “It’s all for the kids”

In Minnesota, Butterfield-Odin Public School’s third-grade teacher, Jen Harris, brings an observation hive into her classroom each fall. Students first think the honeybees will escape and sting. After Harris reassures them, and they take a good look at the hive, it’s hard for the students to pull away. They don’t want to miss anything. In the past, some students have even witnessed baby bees hatch.

Harris calls her project Honeybees in the Classroom, and it recently received an Agricultural Literacy Grant valued at $650 from Minnesota Agriculture in the Classroom. The grant will help Harris teach the students about different bee products that aren’t just everyday honey.

“I was very excited, to say the least when I found out I’d gotten chosen,” said Harris. “It’s all for the kids.”

Honeybees are crucial to Harris because they’re starting to disappear. Different theories behind the cause range from cell phone tower usage to insecticides and pesticides.

“I feel it’s just more important than ever to educate the kids on what they can do to help the bee population,” said Harris. “One that really stands out is dandelions. As kids, all of us, I’m sure, picked the dandelions and brought them in [for] our teacher, mom, or whatever. But I always tell the kids, don’t spray the dandelions because in the spring, what’s the first thing that pops up in our lawns? Dandelions. That’s one of the honeybees’ first foods or sources of nectar.”

Harris finds it amazing how many parents return to her to say, “Thanks, Mrs. Harris. We can no longer spray our dandelions,” and Mrs. Harris tells them, “That’s good!” After learning in the classroom, the kids are sharing with their families and helping to keep the honeybee alive.

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A gentle reminder to check-in

Here’s a gentle reminder to check-in

It’s comforting to hear some say winter makes them happy because the holidays bring more family time or the snow blanketing the earth looks divine. It’s soothing to me because it’s a reminder to take in the season.

Yet, winter can still feel too dark for some of us. Dark because some are worried about getting the heating bill paid, the weather has been battering producers, or others are grieving the recent passing of a loved one.

Here’s a gentle reminder to check-in with family, friends, and neighbors if you haven’t already. But also, check-in with yourself. Pay attention to how you feel when you wake up in the morning, on your drive to work, or when you get home after a long day, and how you’re interacting with others. If something isn’t quite right, make an effort to reach out if you need help. Your feelings are as important as anyone else’s. You matter.

Originally published in St. James Plaindealer on December 5th, 2019.

For my birthday this year…

I turned 23 years old on Nov. 21st. I’ve been questioning my every thought and action a little more than usual after my boyfriend asked me if I feel different. He seemed serious. He said I sound different. He’s known me for around nine years and has dated me for six. He’s noticed I talk more, and it appears like I like to talk.

I do enjoy talking, but it’s a struggle. There’s feeling shy, and then there’s social anxiety disorder, where a zero-danger situation feels physically overwhelming. Sweating, trembling, nausea, headaches, trouble breathing, your mind going blank, your heart trying to beat out of your chest, and all from just being asked how your day is going or if you want to hang out later.

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Parenting half the time

I’m trying to help raise my two little sisters while my mom spends around half her time at work. Valerie is 11, and Vianey is nine. I hadn’t realized how absent my parents need to be to provide until consistently hearing my sisters ask, “When are they getting back from work?” Then when they get back, they’re in real need of a nap, and my sisters need to wait to bond with them. This set up is pretty common, and a lot more kids don’t have anyone.

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A Country of Many Voices

As Hispanic Heritage Month continues to run until October 15th, I’m digitally digging through archives to find contributions from the Hispanic/Latinx community to U.S. history. As of now, I’ve learned a Mexican created the first color TV system, Cuba funded the end of the American Revolution, and, not only did Hispanic/Latinx immigrants fight in WWI, “temporary” Mexican agricultural workers feed the country.

Yet, I am struggling.

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Gus the Dog is loved at Nursing Homes and Hospitals

Lonnie Bloomquist of Jackson, MN sits on a patterned brown sofa, resting his cane against his thigh, and his cap slightly shadowing his face. He’s at Good Samaritan Society-Brandt Ridge visiting his aunt, Eunice Wheaton of St. James, MN on a Thursday morning. He’s brought his dog along.

“Gus, say hi,” Bloomquist says to the large black dog, cuddling up against Wheaton’s legs.

Wheaton sits on her rollator in the middle of her living room while facing the open front door of her assisted-living apartment. She sports dark brown cheetah print sunglasses and grips Gus’ red leash. She’s 93-years-old, and has been at Brandt Ridge for around 16 years.

“He’s tired,” Wheaton says about Gus. “He came in and he lays out by my feet…resting.”

Gus is half Border Collie and half Siberian Husky with two different colored eyes; blue and brown. He’s been with Bloomquist for about a year, and he’s already become a favorite for patients at the Avera McKennan Hospital in Sioux Falls, SD, and at three nursing homes: a home in Jackson, and two in Estherville, IA.

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High Tea Party: “very, very English.”

The red sofas in Judy Raatz’s living room pop against the white walls and the golden oak hardwood floor. She has invited her friends to her St. James, Minnesota home on a Thursday for afternoon tea or “high tea.”

The gals sit around the living room, some wearing patterned blouses and others wearing dresses with their sunhats on their head or resting on their laps.

“A high tea, also called a full tea, means you will have three courses,” Raatz explains to her friends while standing at the entrance of her living room. “A high tea also means a cake sitting, and of course, also means high society. The funny thing is what it really turns into is gossip.” The women burst into laughter. “Then I thought,” Raatz continues, “‘Oh my gosh, Sunday, the minister says thou shalt not gossip.’ Oh my goodness. Here we are.”

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My Old Little Sister Is Leaving for More Than Just College

My sister who is four years younger than me is beginning college in the fall. In the next week or so, she’s also completely moving out of my parents’ house…before me. Part of me thought, she’s way too young, moving way too quickly, and I have to talk some sense into her. But now I know she’s been pushed a bit ahead since as far back as I can remember, and I won’t suddenly try to stop her now.

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Tears of “Happy”

After landing a job as a staff writer at the local newspaper, in my mother’s eyes, I’ve “made it” because I work for people’s stories. I’ve felt guilty for thinking I’m not quite there yet because this is just the beginning. But for my mother, to finally have me working at a desk after her long hours at the factory hog farm while numbing the pain of her hand deformity with medication to pay off my college out-of-pocket, I’ve definitely made it.

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Antiquarians Damaris and Fernando Sanchez Choose to Go Out with the New and in with the Old

Edited by: Jade Sayson

Photo by: Guadalupe Valenzuela

Damaris Aquino-Sanchez sees trashed furniture and pictures something better.

“I know a lot of people will go [shopping] with me and I get really excited and they don’t see why I want it,” says Aquino.

This was the case when she found a hutch TV stand and wanted to convert it into a wine bar. Her husband and business co-owner, Fernando “Fern” Sanchez, couldn’t picture what she was imagining until after he started the upcycling process, boosting the value of the unwanted product.

The stand sits in the back work room. Sanchez replaced the inside of the hutch and the shelves with mirrors and added a glass hanger rack. He moves his hands along the frame as a guide when he explains what’s missing. They still need to fix the chipped corners, add shelves that look like X’s to the bottom of the stand, for the bottles, and include an ice bucket set to make it complete. Aquino and Sanchez are turning a $100 project into one worth $1,000.

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