Pumpkins Build Community for Badger Elementary

Question: What can $300 and a little creativity and teamwork do?

Answer: For Appleton’s Badger Elementary School and its families, A LOT.

Teachers Amanda Strupp and Jaynie Busche wanted to bring together Badger’s 370 students and their families while the Appleton Area School District delivers instruction virtually during the coronavirus pandemic.

Strupp applied for an Appleton Education Foundation (AEF) Fast Response Grant in September and received approval for the project September 30. Pumpkins and supplies to decorate were distributed to Badger students October 15.

Badger teachers will use the pumpkins for instruction in nearly every academic discipline for the rest of October. “Students will decorate the pumpkin, name it, write stories, weigh it, count and group seeds and write songs,” Strupp wrote in the application.

Once the formal learning is done, families are encouraged to take pictures of the pumpkins, to share on social media. Families also received virtual bingo cards and can win prizes, funded by the Badger PTO, for completing the activities.

Pumpkins will be returned to school, and on Thursday, October 29, Badger will hold a pumpkin parade 5-6 p.m., allowing families to drive by and see all the decorated pumpkins.

In addition to the challenges of virtual learning, more than 30% of Badger’s student population changes throughout the year, so building community and strong relationships between students, their families and staff often can be a struggle.

“We want all of our students and families to know they are an important and essential part of our Badger school family,” Strupp said.

“By strengthening family bonds and connections we are building family resiliency and developmental assets. Students are less likely to engage in at risk behaviors the more they possess these assets,” said Strupp. “These assets include family support, positive family communication, parent involvement in schooling and quality time at home.”

In response to pandemic-prompted virtual learning, AEF is offering Fast Response Grants and other grants on a monthly basis through the 2020-21 school year. Applications are due the 15th of each month, and grant decisions are made by the end of each month.