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NOTICE: The Charter Vision project is dormant as of January 2008. This website is provided for archival purposes only.

Nerstrand Elementary and the Community

Carolyn (Nerstrand Elementary School) Originally published February 2005

Farmlands stretch for miles outside the windows of Nerstrand Elementary School. One gets the feeling that all is right with the world when such a beautiful area of southeast Minnesota unfolds before your eyes. Visitors to the school quickly discover the beauty of an exceptionally respectful school community inside, as well. A pervasive climate of respect permeates the halls and is evident throughout the day. Students and staff work together in mutually respectful relationships.

Nerstrand School encourages academic, social, and personal growth in each of its 154 Kindergarten through Grade 5 students. The school’s strong community service program provides opportunities for students to improve in each of these key areas. All of Nerstrand’s students participate in school wide service opportunities throughout the year. As a result, students learn civic responsibility and, despite their ages, make significant contributions to the school, the community, and the world.

Ongoing service projects include restoring and reforesting a nearby prairie remnant and deciduous forest, hosting community lunches and elders’ coffees, making sandwiches for a homeless shelter and placemats for a children’s hospital. Students have worked with an adult volunteer through the past five years to plan and develop an International Peace Garden. The representations of England, Mexico, Canada, the U.S., Tanzania, Poland, Japan, China, and Australia grace the school’s courtyard. Recently, a giraffe sculpture representing Kenya was added. The Peace Garden is a reminder that each of us must make a daily commitment to peace-filled relationships and to making the world a better place. When an area in the garden is planned students do research about the nation. They try to learn what life is like for a child there – the problems they encounter, the foods they eat, the games they play, and so on.

Our students and their parents have also contributed to a variety of world charities. One particularly memorable effort was collecting food and medical supplies, as well as sewing quilts, for the people of Guatemala.

Our students also honor local residents through service opportunities. Every household in our sleepy, little town receives a colorful May basket containing a warm greeting and a small gift on May Day. In addition, our students and staff recognize two community elders each year by interviewing them about the stories of their lives. From that information, songs are created and performed at a Community Celebration. We’ve learned that even the most “common” among us have dramatic stories to tell — and there’s always a life lesson to be learned from these wise, old people!

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