Grants in Place: ROOTed Projects to Begin this Fall

RSC and Compeer Financial announce Rural Schools ROOTed in Place Grant Recipients

August 30, 2023 |

Rural Schools Collaborative is proud to be a recipient of the Compeer Financial General Use Grant, which underscores Compeer's commitment to champion the hopes and dreams of rural America. With this support, RSC is pleased to announce three recipients of the $2,500 ROOTed in Place grants, awarded to rural teachers in Compeer's service area who were interested in completing an agriculturally-focused place-based education project.

Thank you again to Compeer Financial for their partnership on the ROOTed in Place grants program!

Brittany Culjan (L) & Kathy Schutlz (R), Co-STEAM Teachers

Brittany Culjan (Utica, Illinois), from Waltham Elementary K-8, will construct a greenhouse, add compost bins and add rain barrels to make the soil more conducive to growing, all to support a new self-sustaining curriculum. Students will cultivate the soil, plant vegetables, weed, compost, and harvest crops. Brittany will also lead her students in studying the broader issues of food deserts and local soil composition. The overall goal is by the time Waltham Elementary K-8 students leave in 8th grade, students will understand the seed life cycles and as they get older, how to use the produce grown locally and how to market and sell surplus produce. By the end of 2024, the hope is to finish the greenhouse, prepare the soil and seedlings, add a broad variety of flowers, fruits and vegetables to use in the curriculum for 2025 and share with the local community.

Jay Gesin (Platteville, Wisconsin), of Platteville Middle School, and his 8th graders will explore local agriculture and environment of the Driftless by visiting and studying with Frank Lloyd Wright's Taliesin, Wisconsin's only UNESCO World Heritage Site, to connect the students with the significance of the location, the monumental work of Frank Lloyd Wright, and young adult authors to engage in collaborative learning.

Jay Gesin (Platteville, Wisconsin)

Students will learn how Wright's principles of organic architecture connect with local agriculture and environmental organizations. For example, because of the deep agricultural connection in the Platteville area, students can conduct studies at the renowned Pioneer Farm at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville which is also the home of one of three Dairy Innovation Hubs in Wisconsin. Students can study animal welfare, food production, worker responsibilities, innovation, and conservation all within relation to the land, culture, history, and economy of the region, and beyond. Furthermore, students will learn how other writers use their talents to tell stories and why those stories matter in communities. Check out the announcement from Platteville Middle School here!

Gina Morken (Spring Grove, Minnesota) is the Assistant Superintendent and Transformational Leader at Spring Grove Schools. She uses a blend of expertise in place-based, experiential, whole child, project-based, and community-based learning.

Gina Morken (Spring Grove, Minnesota)
Gina Morken (Spring Grove, Minnesota)

Morken will work with an interdisciplinary team of educators to guide the K-12 students at Spring Grove Public Schools through an exploration of environmental landscapes and local careers by visiting local farms and parks to learn about animals, plants, and farm processes. With the ROOTed in Place Grant, Morken, the teachers, and the students will collaborate to create a design lab in a community building within walking distance from school, to expand the theater programming and to increase the nature and outdoor learning experience in the elementary. The goal is to continue to establish and engrain competencies within the system, and to increase the amount of interactions for students within the community in meaningful ways.

Rural Schools Collaborative is proud to support these three innovative rural teacher leaders in deepening their school and communities’ connections through local agriculture and community assets. Place-based teaching strategies bolster a student’s sense of place and they connect learning to the greater community. Through these agricultural place-based education projects, the students will feel a sense of pride for their rural communities’ and all while supporting Compeer’s commitment to uphold and support the hopes and dreams and future of rural America through young citizens.

Gesin's students in writing workshop for NaNoWriMo in October 2021

About Rural Schools Collaborative:

Rural Schools Collaborative is a national nonprofit launched in 2015 to build sustainable rural communities. With a keen focus on place, teachers, and philanthropy, RSC's mission is realized through four signature efforts: The Place Network, Rural Teacher Corps, Grants in Place, and Impact Philanthropy. RSC is powered by a small, dedicated staff and board, as well as Regional Hub Partnerships.

About Compeer Financial:

Compeer Financial is a member-owned Farm Credit cooperative serving and supporting agriculture and rural communities. The $25.4 billion organization provides loans, leases, risk management and other financial services throughout 144 counties in Illinois, Minnesota and Wisconsin. Based in the Upper Midwest, Compeer Financial exists to champion the hopes and dreams of rural America, while providing personalized service and expertise to clients and the agriculture industry.

Compeer Financial is the third largest cooperative of the Farm Credit System, a nationwide network of lending institutions supporting agriculture and rural communities with reliable, consistent credit and financial services. Learn more about Compeer Financial.

About the Fund for Rural America:
The Compeer Financial Fund for Rural America is the corporate giving program of Compeer Financial, structured to support Compeer Financial’s mission to enrich agriculture and rural America. Compeer Financial’s Board of Directors has dedicated one percent of annual net earnings to support the Fund’s focus areas of agricultural advocacy and development, agriculture education, cooperative initiatives, rural development and community enrichment; and youth engagement. The Fund is managed by a Board of Trustees, made up of team members from Illinois, Minnesota and Wisconsin and members of the Compeer Financial Board of Directors. More information about opportunities available through the Fund can be found at

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