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home : education : education Wednesday, May 22, 2019

10/31/2017 5:19:00 PM Email this articlePrint this article 
Noble Academy Opens New Garden And Wins Innovation Award

By Eric Bestrom

Dr. Yang Dao presents the Innovation Award to Neal Thao.
Superintendent Neal P. Thao and Deputy Superintendent of Academics Dr. Mai Yia C. K. Chang presided over the ribbon-cutting and dedication ceremony of Noble Academy's new garden on October 18, 2017. The Brooklyn Park, Minnesota charter school's assembled students, staff, community members, and supporters murmured admiringly at the garden's features. Paved paths, a wooden outdoor pergola and theater area with stone seats for the audience, a waterfall feature, a butterfly garden, multiple raised box gardens, and numerous birdhouses impressed the crowd. The 2015-built school building towers a hundred yards away from the garden. A playground and extensive Minnesota prairie flora can be seen in the distance.

The City of Brooklyn Park, Hennepin County, University of Minnesota Extension, Taher Incorporated, and Audubon Center of the North Woods donated funds, materials, expertise, and/or planning help to create the garden for the charter school, which serves about 1,000 pre-K through 8th grade students, of whom more than 75% are Hmong. Hennepin County donated the garden's 32 fruit trees. Taher Incorporated, which prepares Hmong and other food for Noble Academy's students (and includes several Hmong employees on site), provided extensive effort and discussion to planning food students will plant and harvest in the garden, and eventually eat. Audubon Center of the North Woods, the charter school's authorizer, was pleased to contribute ideas toward a project so consonant with its vision: "to authorize a portfolio of high performing charter schools that instill a connection and commitment to the environment in their school communities..."

The garden is designed to be closely interwoven with Noble Academy's focus on Hmong language and culture, high expectations for general academic excellence, and "Environmental Education as an interdisciplinary curriculum component." In addition to the biological, meteorological, agricultural, cultural, and culinary studies which teachers and students will undertake using the garden, art, music and other creativity will be inspired by the space. Teachers may lead students in composing poems and essays in Hmong and English, making music, and eventually constructing additional garden equipment, decorations, butterfly houses, and more birdhouses.

After the ribbon-cutting, the crowd processed along the winding garden path for Dr. Yang Dao's presentation of the West Metro Hmong Community's Innovation Award to Noble Academy.

The 74-year-old scholar and educator, pioneering promoter of the ethnic term "Hmong," and the world's first Hmong Ph.D. spoke under the garden pergola and bestowed the art-glass apple-shaped award to Neal P. Thao.

"As a Hmong scholar who has always supported education since my youth," said Dr. Yang Dao in his speech, "I want to express my warm congratulations to all of you for your far-reaching vision of education... helping your students of all ethnic and cultural origins to build a strong academic foundation in preparation for a better future."

St. Paul, MN



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