Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Showcasing the talent of Faribault’s student artists March 14, 2017

The art exhibit threads along hallways, into corners and into a room on the second floor of the Paradise.

 

EVERY TIME I VIEW the annual Student Exhibit at the Paradise Center for the Arts, I want to snatch several pieces from the walls for my art collection. I’m that impressed by the student art. And I’m not just saying that because I want to be nice and tell the kids they do a great job. My praise is genuine.

 

Gracie, a sixth grader from Faribault Lutheran School, created this cat art.

 

The soulful eyes drew me to this drawing by Faribault Middle School eighth grader Victoria.

 

Variations of a block print by Adreanna, a student at Roosevelt Elementary School.

 

From block prints to paintings to collages to weavings to drawings done in a range of mediums, this art is diverse, introspective, often colorful and worthy of showcasing.

 

Abstract art created by students from Divine Mercy Catholic School.

 

Twelfth grader Derek from the Faribault Area Learning Center drew this fox.

 

Lincoln Elementary School students created this art.

 

What I especially appreciate about this second floor show is the opportunity for students to put their art out there in a public venue. I expect one day the works of some of these artists will hang in the Paradise’s main floor galleries or in other galleries.

 

This photo shows part of high school student Audrey Petersen’s “Peacock Feathers” acrylic on canvas. Her art is currently displayed in the Corey Lyn Creger Memorial Gallery.

 

Already the Corey Lyn Creger Memorial Gallery in the Paradise is devoted to artwork by a high school student artist.

 

Student artist Faith created this cartoon style character.

 

Lots of variation in the art showcased on this wall.

 

Roosevelt Elementary fifth grader Jose painted this portrait.

 

It’s reaffirming for young people to have their talents validated and appreciated, whether on the floor of a basketball court, the stage of a theater or in the hallways and rooms of an art center. All too often the arts lag behind sports in societal importance. Arts are to be valued, too.

 

Art angles into a corner.

 

A streetscape by Brooklyn, Faribault Lutheran School fourth grader.

 

I angled my camera upward to photograph this floral art by Faribault Middle School eighth grader Baylee.

 

To the students from the nine Faribault schools—Roosevelt, Jefferson, Lincoln, Faribault Middle School, Faribault Area Learning Center, Faribault Lutheran School, Cannon River STEM School, Divine Mercy and the Minnesota State Academy for the Blind—with artwork on display, thank you. I enjoyed your creativity.

 

So much creativity…

 

This skull art by Faribault Middle School eighth grader Bailey features symmetry.

 

The variety of subjects and artist styles and mediums impresses.

 

I see a lot of potential as these artists continue to grow and learn.

 

Bold, vivid art by students from Divine Mercy Catholic School.

 

FYI: The Student Exhibit will be on display until April 1 at the Paradise, 321 Central, in downtown Faribault.

Please check back for a story on art created by students from the Minnesota State Academy for the Blind.

© Text copyright 2017 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Artwork is the copyright of each artist and photographed with permission from the Paradise Center for the Arts.

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Should this Minnesota country schoolhouse be saved? June 24, 2016

 

The Le Sueur School District 18 schoolhouse, located at 35278 141st Avenue, rural Montgomery, Minnesota.

The Le Sueur County School District 18 schoolhouse, located at 35278 141st Avenue, rural Montgomery, Minnesota.

THE WEATHERED SCHOOLHOUSE sits on a slight rise along the gravel road, surrounded by a clipped lawn bordered by farm fields.

Hardy daisies thrive next to the schoolhouse.

Hardy daisies thrive next to the schoolhouse.

On this Sunday summer afternoon when I’ve discovered the aged building just off Le Sueur County Road 26 two miles east of Montgomery in Montgomery Township, the wind is rippling grain fields and bending daises nestled into an exterior corner of the schoolhouse.

Windows need repair/replacing.

Windows need repair/replacing.

As I brace myself against the wind, I notice shingle debris scattered across the grass. I notice the weathered grey of unpainted siding, the rotted boards, the barn swallow and wasp nests. I notice how much this schoolhouse needs care and upkeep.

A rear shot of the country school.

A rear shot of the country school.

In 1888, Wencel and Mary Petricka sold this parcel of land to Le Sueur County School District 18 for $1 to build this school. In 1957, when the Le Sueur district consolidated with the Montgomery School District, the little one-room country school closed.

Consider the hands that once turned this knob opening the door to an education.

Consider the hands that once turned this knob opening the door to an education.

And here it stands, a year shy of sixty years after closure, seemingly abandoned. Except for that mowed lawn and that patch of daisies. Someone still cares. And that gives me hope. Hope that someone will find the money and the inclination to save this piece of rural Minnesota’s educational history. Before it’s too late.

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Three rooflines: entry, classroom and bell tower.

Three rooflines: entry, classroom and bell tower.

IT’S EASY FOR ME TO WRITE, Save the School. But the issue of financing often blocks the path to such endeavors. Do you have any creative ideas to fund a repair and restoration project? Perhaps I should first ask, should the schoolhouse be saved? I don’t even know who owns it.

Perhaps an American flag will fly again some day on the corner of the schoolhouse.

Perhaps an American flag will fly again some day on the corner of the schoolhouse.

In September of 2015, Le Sueur County School District 18 held its first ever reunion. With 31 alumni and guests in attendance (including a former teacher), there’s clearly an appreciation for this Minnesota country school.

© Copyright 2016 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

How you can make a difference in one Minnesota kindergarten classroom August 24, 2013

Looking to the front and one side of the school.

Long gone are the days of ink well desks, blackboards and Big Chief tablets.  Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo of Little Prairie School, rural Dundas, Minnesota.

MY ELDEST DAUGHTER’S friend, Laura, teaches at Earle Brown Elementary School in the north metro, in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota, Independent School District 286.

I’ve met Laura once. Mostly I “know” Laura because I follow her “These are a Few of my Favorite Things” blog. Click here to reach her blog and you will meet a young woman who is passionate about life, about teaching, about helping others (she’s been on summer mission trips to Africa), about photography, her faith and more.

Laura is the kind of person you would hope would teach your children or grandchildren. She cares. Deeply.

Presidential portraits grace the blackboard by the teacher's desk.

Technology long ago replaced the blackboards of my youth. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

That said, this passionate teacher is looking to buy two iPad minis for her classroom to use in literacy and math centers. Her school district, she says, doesn’t have the monies for such purchases. She needs about $900 and has set up a donation venue at DonorsChoose.org. Click here to reach her Donors page, where you will find more details.

Laura writes in part:

My kindergartners start school already behind academically. Many of them have never set foot in a school environment. Others don’t come to school with clean clothes or proper school supplies. A third of my class doesn’t speak English as their first language.

But the thing is, my kids don’t know they are behind. They don’t realize the challenges they are facing. They are five, and this is life as they know it. They come in my door ready to learn, EXCITED to learn. I want to capitalize on this eagerness and provide them the best environment with the best tools at their fingertips. My goal is to have them leave kindergarten at or above grade level. My goal is for each of my students to know that they matter and they are loved. I want my students to know that they have what it takes to accomplish something in this world.

Can you sense this teacher’s enthusiasm and love for her students? I can. She wants (let’s reread this) her kids “to know that they have what it takes to accomplish something in this world.”

You should also know that the label of “high poverty,” based on the percentage of students eligible for free or reduced lunches, is attached to Earle Brown Elementary.

Please consider donating. For the sake of those five-year-olds.

Click here to link to Ms. Karsjen’s project and give.

© Copyright 2013 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

No first day of school tears here September 6, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 8:35 AM
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My oldest daughter and my son in a photo taken in May.

MY YOUNGEST STARTED his first day of his final year of high school this morning.

I feel as if I should be crying or something. But I’m not.

By now, by the third child, after 20 years of first days of school, it’s not such a big deal any more. The excitement and the anticipation just aren’t there.

It’s not that I’m a negligent mom who doesn’t care about her child or her child’s education. Rather, the first day of school novelty wore off long ago.

Last night in our house, there was no last-minute packing of the backpack, no pre-school-day jitters. Rather my concern leaned more toward making sure the 17-year-old got to sleep at a reasonable hour.

He is a night owl. If my teen had his way, classes would start around 11 a.m. So today, really, begins the battle of trying to get him to get enough sleep. This issue causes much strife in our household. Next year, at college, he’s on his own.

My focus right now is directed in guiding my son toward selecting a college. He has the smarts—an ACT test score of 32 and nearly a 4.0 GPA—to get in anywhere. But he certainly doesn’t have the money. However, I’ve encouraged him to apply wherever he wishes because maybe, just maybe, he’ll get a financial aid package that will allow him to afford a school he couldn’t otherwise afford.

I’ve suggested he make two college lists: a dream list and a realistic list.

In the meantime, during the first semester of his senior year of high school, my boy is enrolled in a rigorous course of study: Introduction to Economics, Advanced Placement Calculus, Advanced Chemistry and CIS Anatomy/Physiology. He’s also taking speech and logic at the local community technical college. By graduation in June, my son should have more than a semester of college credits earned.

I’ve encouraged him to pursue these college credits. They’re free, I keep telling him. Why wouldn’t you? He understands.

And so these are my thoughts this morning as my last child, who is eight years younger than his oldest sister and six years younger than his other sister, begins his senior year of high school.

No tears shed in this household. But next year at this time, when my husband and I are dropping our youngest off at his dorm, or seeing him off at the airport—if he manages to get into a college on his dream list—I expect the tears will fall fast and steady.

IF YOU’RE A PARENT with school-age children, how did the first day of school go for you? Share your thoughts and/or experiences in a comment.

© Copyright 2011 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Reflections on Independence Day July 4, 2011

A flag and portrait of George Washington at the former District 20 Millersburg School, now a museum.

“I PLEDGE ALLEGIANCE to the flag of the United States of America and to the Republic, for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

As a child, my school days began with that pledge. My classmates and I arose from our desks at Vesta Elementary School, turned toward the American flag in the corner, placed our hands across our hearts, fixed our eyes upon the stars and stripes, and recited the pledge in unison.

I doubt we ever thought too much about the rote words we spoke. They were simply part of our routine, something we did, although I do recall feeling a sense of pride in speaking those words daily.

So much has changed in the decades since then. The Pledge of Allegiance, in most cases, has been banned from public schools in the name of political correctness. We are no longer one nation under God. While the U.S. remains one country, we as individuals are certainly divided in our views of anything and everything. That’s as it should be in a democracy. Liberty and justice have managed to prevail.

As we celebrate our nation’s Independence Day, it would be wise for all Americans to reflect on the Pledge and the words of other documents and songs that focus on the flag and freedom.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.—The Declaration of Independence, signed on July 4, 1776

Vietnam veteran Joel Kukacka's patriotic garage in the hamlet of Heidelberg, Minnesota.

Oh, say does that star-spangled banner yet wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?
—The Star Spangled Banner

An American flag painted on a shed in Dundas in southeastern Minnesota.

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.—The Bill of Rights, Amendment I

Weeks after a devastating Sept. 2010 flash flood in Hammond, in southeastern Minnesota, an American flag marked a ravaged business.

God bless America,
Land that I love,
Stand beside her and guide her
Thru the night with a light from above;

From the mountains, to the prairies,
To the oceans white with foam,
God bless America,
My home, sweet home.
God bless America,
My home, sweet home.

Flags decorate a vintage tractor at the Rice County Steam & Gas Engines Show near Dundas.

© Copyright 2011 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Pancakes for paper May 13, 2011

MY KNEE JERK REACTION went something like this: I pay taxes and now the school is hosting a pancake breakfast to buy “needed supplies.”

Because things aren’t always as they seem, I called Faribault High School to inquire about the Pancake Breakfast flier which was mailed to me on Thursday along with my son’s mid-quarter grades and information about ordering a $75 high school yearbook.

When the woman who answered the phone couldn’t help, she transferred me to Assistant Principal Dennis Germann’s voicemail. He explained everything to me in two return phone calls and now I feel much better and more informed.

Faribault Masonic Lodge #9 and Faribault Eagles Club #1460 are teaming up to raise monies for school supplies for students at FHS. Notebooks, inexpensive calculators, paper, project supplies, etc. will be given to students who can’t afford to purchase those basics, Germann told me. He added that nearly 50 percent of FHS students qualify for free or reduced school lunches. Translate that into families that could use some extra help with school expenses. The United Way has provided some assistance in the past with school supplies.

Germann welcomes the monies that will be raised at the Sunday, May 15, Pancake Breakfast from 8:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. at the Faribault Eagles Club. Cost of the breakfast, which includes all you can eat pancakes with a serving of sausage and eggs and milk, coffee or juice, is $7 for adults, $5 for students and free for those five and under.

It’s the first time apparently that the high school has been selected as the recipient of this Pancake Breakfast fundraiser. That’s why the flier caught me by surprise and I really didn’t understand the definition of “needed supplies.”

As the parent of a high schooler, and two FHS graduates, I’m happy to see secondary students benefiting from a fundraiser like this. Typically the focus is on elementary age kids. I know how quickly costs add up to buy school supplies for a teen. Last year, if I remember correctly, I forked out $100 for some fancy schmancy calculator my son needed for a math class. Students won’t get fancy calculators like that through this program (I think the school has some available to borrow). But at least they’ll get basic school supplies.

So much has changed in the decades since I graduated from high school and we really only needed 3-subject notebooks, pens, pencils, folders and loose leaf paper.

Now it’s way beyond paper, to needing computers and internet access at home. I bet many families out there can’t afford internet service. Thankfully free internet is available at the public library. But it isn’t always easy for students to get there when they need to do online research.

I wonder also about the cost of class field trips, if some students can’t afford even basic school supplies. I recently wrote a $27 check for my son to go on a field trip to the Science Museum to view the King Tut exhibit. I gave him another $15 for lunch, which even he told me was expensive. How do families with already stretched budgets manage these additional costs?

We shouldn’t need pancake breakfast fundraisers to supplement the cost of education. But we all know times are tough. So thanks, Eagles and Masons, for doing your part to organize this event that will help Faribault families.

© Copyright 2011 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

An aha moment at parent-teacher conferences March 5, 2011

EVER SINCE OUR TEEN stopped accompanying us to parent-teacher conferences, my husband and I have felt more open to asking candid questions about him. Not that we’re trying to talk about him behind his back, but his absence certainly allows us to ask questions we probably wouldn’t ask in his presence.

He’s a great student, near the top of his class. He’s taking rigorous courses, earns straight As and scores exceptionally well on tests. In other words, academics are not an issue.

So, then, you might wonder why we even bother to attend parent-teacher conferences. First, it’s important to show our son that we care about his education.

Secondly, it’s important for his teachers to know we care and to connect with them.

Third, I want to know what he’s learning, because I certainly don’t hear that information from him.

I’ll qualify that, though, by saying that this time, when our 17-year-old was helping me with dishes the night before conferences, I asked for an academics primer. I wanted a list of the classes he’s taking, the names of his teachers and what he is currently studying. Surprisingly, he obliged and I felt better prepared for conferences.

Just a note. I could have pulled his course information from a file, but engaging him in conversation about school seemed the better alternative. Also, I wasn’t completely oblivious to his class schedule or assignments.

When my husband and I headed off to conferences on Thursday evening, I wasn’t sure exactly what information I wanted to glean from or exchange with his teachers. Last time we focused on his future—his main interests, career options and college choices.

This time, though, a conversation with a friend several days earlier niggled in my mind. We were discussing our sons, who are both wired with strong science and math brains. Neither one cares all that much about engaging in social activities. My husband and I have worried for some time about our teen’s lack of interest in socializing and minimal participation in extracurricular activities.

About now, if you’re the parent of a teen, you’re probably thinking, how lucky to have that “problem.”

Well, as parents, we want a well-adjusted teen.

We were reassured by every teacher we asked that our son is well-liked by his peers, participates in class and socializes, has a great sense of humor that they enjoy, loves to learn, etc. In other words, they alleviated our worries.

While talking with his journalism teacher, I had one of those aha moments. My son, I realized, is confident enough in himself that he doesn’t feel the need to conform, to give in to peer pressure, to be surrounded by a group of friends. All the while I’ve been focusing on the negative when I should have been focusing on the positive, seeing the strengths in his personality.

Not everyone is interested in sports or theater or music, etc. And just because we as parents, as educators, as a society, think every kid should be intensely involved in extracurricular activities, we must also accept and realize that not every teen wants to be so involved. Not every teen is a social butterfly outside of the classroom.

My son doesn’t think like most teens. That’s OK. But he’s strong, smart, confident, inquisitive and more. When he focuses on a task, he wants his efforts to be invested in a real project, with real results. He doesn’t want to do something just to compete, although when he competes he’s very competitive. I finally understand that about him.

It just took asking the right questions at parent-teacher conferences to get there.

© Copyright 2011 Audrey Kletscher Helbling