| Program: || Project Common Ground, St. Paul and Stillwater, MN |
| Contact(s): || Anne Anderson, Director: (612) 351-8086 |
| Purpose: || To allow students to experience and appreciate diversity, develop leadership skills, increase inquiry skills, and learn ways to cooperate, solve problems and build communities |
In 1994, the superintendents of the St. Paul Schools, an urban district, and the Stillwater Schools, a suburban district, received a grant from the Amherst H. Wilder Foundation to create Project Common Ground. This pilot program is designed to promote understanding and interaction among students of diverse backgrounds, while increasing their academic skills. Wilder Forest, a local center for community building and youth development, serves as the site for this project.
The core of the program is a series of three- to five-day experiences at Wilder Forest that occur over one year. During these stays, students and teachers work in multiethnic cross-district teams to learn about each other's histories, cultures and strengths. By using historical reenactments and a creative use of art, music, writing, dance, people learn how to live and work through conflicts together. Leadership, community-building and problem-solving skills are also taught. The teachers involved in Project Common Ground work with the Wilder staff to incorporate academic objectives into the programming. Students continue their involvement in the program throughout the school year because the Wilder experience is integrated into classroom activities, and inter-classroom contacts are maintained. Parents are involved in Project Common Ground through parents' nights and by assisting with events. The program is supported by school district funds, state desegregation funding, partner contributions and civic group contributions.
Outcomes and Significant Accomplishments
In the fall of 1995, Project Common Ground began its first year with 240 third through eighth grade students from eight classrooms across two school districts. After great success in its first year, Project Common Ground expanded to include 16 classrooms, approximately 495 students, 30 teachers and Wilder staff, and eight schools and Wilder administrators. Evaluations conducted by Wilder Research Center/University of Minnesota with the students, parents and teachers involved in Project Common Ground show that the program significantly improved: interaction and appreciation across racial and cultural boundaries; inquiry skills and inquisitiveness; interest and knowledge in core academic areas; and teacher attitudes and teaching styles.