Spann Elementary (Jackson) and Wisdom Foundation, Raising Cane's

Duration of partnership: 2 years
50+ volunteers
Impacts 475 students

In many Muppet productions, Kermit and his gang sing, “If just one person believes in you, deep enough and strong enough, maybe even you can believe in you too.”
One of Spann Elementary’s valuable adopters, The Wisdom Foundation, has set their course to provide children the tools to do just this: believe in themselves. When the partnership began in 2010, Elizabeth Keller, founder, would come to Spann and read to kindergartners. Always building critical background knowledge for our students, she enriched their reading experiences – bringing dried corn and foods learned about from "Carlos and the Cornfield" – teaching them how to dig in the earth to grow corn themselves, and provide masterful manipulatives to enhance math centers. These small acts of kindness began to literally multiply into vast examples of volunteerism and educational opportunities provided for Spann’s student body. Today, our students have a 10,000 square foot garden at their fingertips where they plan, plant, analyze, evaluate, investigate, and harvest learning experiences that will last a lifetime.
In both 2010 and 2011, The Wisdom Foundation recruited volunteers from around the country and conducted Camp Wisdom – a free, full day, two-week summer program for students at Spann and other local JPS schools. Teachers, businessmen, administrators, moms, physical trainers, youth workers, and musicians descended upon the Spann campus to conduct the academically challenging and creatively enriching summer intensive.
Over 100 children, youth, and volunteers explored life through children’s books, explored math concepts via goods production/selling/banking, interacted with technological tools, sang, danced, exercised, and discussed the nutritional benefits of their healthy lunches donated, prepared, and served by caring community members and volunteers.
In fall 2011, Wisdom Academy opened its doors for students from Spann and local feeder pattern schools. Open from 2:30-7:00 Monday-Friday and all day Saturday, for a mere $40.00 per week students are immersed in an instructional environment that supports the goals and objectives of classrooms with a handful of paid workers and small battalion of volunteers.
How does one summarize extensions of these groundbreaking experiences provided by The Wisdom Foundation – the annual Father/Daughter Dance, Weekend Gatherings in the Garden in conjunction with Spann Adopters – Raising Cane’s, Wisdom Across America – taking small groups of Spann 4th/5th grade girls to historic American locations, and Wisdom Academy? As one group of 3rd graders noted, The Wisdom Foundation “is amazing” because Mrs. Keller and others “made this happen by hard work.”
Camp Wisdom involves sessions of physical exercise, free play, exploration of technology, theater, valued Read Aloud sessions, authentic math experiences, music, art, etc. Students spent time over the summer honing math skills and participating in reading/language experiences. Relationships among partners, school staff, other Spann adopters, and community volunteers help foster developmental learning goals that focus on social and emotional development and serve as promoters of language and intellectual development.
Spann was noted to be “at risk of failing” and later increased state test scores to the level of “successful” school. Students showing specific growth in mathematics and language arts skills. Students better prepared to enter the next grade.