Thrive participants learning the parts of a flower. Photo courtesy Summer of Real Food.
Thrive participants learning the parts of a flower. Photo courtesy Summer of Real Food.

Summer school is important — it keeps kids out of trouble, improves grades, and has generally proven to help struggling students do better in school. But it’s also really boring and kind of feels like a punishment. Which is why a new pilot program for ninth and tenth graders, in which students learn gardening, practice yoga, and develop communication skills, sounds so exciting.

The program is called “Mission Thrive,” and it’s run in partnership with Baltimore’s Institute for Integrative Health and Real Food Farm, and it’s held at the REACH Partnership School in Clifton Park. Here’s what a typical day might look like:

8:30-11 am: At Real Food Farm, students learn about composting and chemical-free pest control. They harvest kale, which they take to a kitchen at REACH Partnership school. After a lesson on the nutritional properties of spices, they learn how to blanch and sauté the greens.

11-noon:  During a fitness session with certified personal trainer, students use resistance bands for strength training.  They measure their activity with accelerometers, digital devices that track motion, and graph the figures they’ve been collecting over the previous two weeks.

1:15-2:15: In a facilitated discussion, students identify their personal strengths and learn how to convey them in a resume or job application.

2:15-3:15: Instructors lead students in practicing yoga and mindfulness techniques, which have been shown to help teens (and others) maintain focus and cope effectively with stress.

Pretty rad, right? What’s even cooler is that students can even get paid to participate, and/or get service learning credit toward graduation. The free six-week program is in a pilot phase, but it’ll be exciting to see how this develops — it’s one of the most promising summer school programs I’ve heard of in a while. (You can follow along throughout the summer through the Summer of Real Food blog.)