Home Madison “This School is Doing a Lot Different.” Lt. Gov. Barnes Visits Badger...

“This School is Doing a Lot Different.” Lt. Gov. Barnes Visits Badger Rock


Lieutenant Governor Mandela Barnes visited students at Badger Rock Middle School for a “garden-to-classroom table” experience on Wednesday afternoon. 

“I like to get around to places that are doing things a little different,” he said. “This school is doing a lot different.”

Barnes joined students and staff in the classroom before touring the garden and checking out Badger Rock Community Center’s chicken coop. The center offers a place where neighbors can connect through social activities and community dinners. Like other community gardens, Badger Rock Community Center offers plots of land for community members to grow food.

“We try to provide a space so that people can sell food,” Badger Rock Neighborhood Center Director Hedi Rudd said.

Principal Hong Tran said about 90 percent of the students who use the center are of color and about 50 percent of the students hail from the neighborhood, granting their families easy access to Community Market Days. These events feature local food provided by vendors like Les Delices de Awa, West African Cuisine, and Sweets by Sweet, a pastry catering service. 

Tran said students also have an opportunity to showcase their culinary skills as well, like they did with Barnes yesterday. Barnes joined students in picking apples in preparation for their meal of sweet potatoes and hot applesauce. 

“Every Friday, we do a community dinner so kids get to show off their work, their cooking,” Tran said.

He shared Badger Rock Middle School’s goal of providing opportunities for students of color to learn about sustainable food sources and cultivate life skills, which are then connected back to subjects like science and history. 

The school dedicates the last hour of the day to immersion learning which includes classes like Spanish and gardening. Tran said one of the primary goals is for kids to learn collaboration and problem solving. The staff said Badger Rock Middle School has a unique opportunity to do so because of its home inside the neighborhood center.

“We like to think of ourselves as a people-of-color-forward space. Everything here is run by the members of the community,” Rudd said. 

She emphasized the importance of having a space that’s shared among those who live in the neighborhood. Rudd said no single member of the community or family has a monopoly over the space.

“There’s a high degree of parent involvement here,” Tran said.

Parents often visit for the center for community dinners and activities hosted by the school. Tran said the school’s governance board is primarily made up of parents. He said students’ families are often involved in their child’s education at Badger Rock Middle School.

While Barnes learned a lot from students at Badger Rock Middle School, students also received an opportunity to learn from him. Students asked him questions about his role and personal life. Some students were curious as to how many other schools Barnes traveled to within the state.

“I go to so many schools across the state,” he responded. 

Lt. Gov. Barnes and Gov. Tony Evers have both been adamant about their commitment to equity across the state as well as education. Barnes said students are learning necessary skills at Badger Rock, especially in regards to growing food, reducing waste, and thinking sustainably.

“These are valuable skills that adults could use,” he said.