Why do we work so hard to get kids outside?

Jeffers winter sceneWhy do we talk so much about getting kids outdoors, in January when it’s freezing and in July when it’s broiling, when we know it is such a big challenge for their teachers? And so many of the kids aren’t eager either?

Here is a take on the subject from the Jeffers Foundation in Minnesota, which Continue reading

Connecting students to nature supports good health

A new study concludes that children’s respiratory health benefits from living near greenery. http://www.childrenandnature.org/2017/07/28/urban-biodiversity-affects-childrens-respiratory-health/?mc_cid=78c824fddc&mc_eid=3ddfa7c2d0

Arranging lives so that more children are raised near green spaces is awfully difficult. Schools, however, that see their mission more broadly than the Common Core, or at least recognize that the critical role that health plays in academic performance, can support some of the same possibilities by taking steps to get students nearer to nature more often, by bringing teaching and learning outside.

Indeed, the more attached we are to our digital devices, the more important developing outdoor classrooms become.

—Bill Stoneman

Moving outdoor classroom project forward

Site plan 2017-01We would be so grateful for all the help we can muster as we seek to build an outdoor classroom at Myers Middle School. More than that, community involvement will make a huge difference in our ability realize ambitious hopes for the project. So we would be so pleased if you would be part of this volunteer initiative, maybe by contributing ideas, or possibly a bit of knowledge or elbow grease or perhaps introducing to us to other people or resources. Continue reading

Why build outdoor classroom at Albany school?

Purple loosestrifeWhat exactly drives us to propose building an outdoor classroom at Myers Middle School? Why would we stay up nights thinking about taking on more than caring for vegetable garden beds? The garden beds already saddle us with those time-consuming fundraising initiatives, like soliciting Boxtops for Education, and those time-consuming chores in the garden, like Continue reading

Planting seeds to connect with disengaged students

Arugula seedlingsThe tiny specs of green in the accompanying photo, taken in the morning on Sunday, Oct. 1, are arugula seedlings. We scattered arugula seeds four days earlier, on Wednesday, Sept. 27. It’s worth noting that some seeds still germinate at this late point in the season. We are fairly confident, if not 100 percent certain, that leaves on these plants still have enough Continue reading

Something definitely worth finding down there

Last childIf we could hire Richard Louv, the author of Last Child in the Woods – Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder, to explain what school gardening and the Vegetable Project and our work to create an outdoor classroom at Myers Middle School are about, he might come up with something like his essay There Might be Something Down There, posted at the Children & Nature Network website on Tuesday.

Pushing back against advocates for longer school days and longer school years, he says, “That approach just doesn’t seem to be working” and argues instead for encouraging kids to spend more time outside experiencing and exploring nature. “Nature connection doesn’t have the same impact on every young person. It’s not a panacea for education. It’s a doorway. That’s what a growing body of scientific evidence suggests.”

We could not agree more. Hope you will give it a read.

And here is a really nice piece on CNN about a kindred spirit of an individual and organization in Harlem.

http://www.cnn.com/2017/08/10/health/cnn-hero-tony-hillery-harlem-grown/index.html

Together, we can make a difference.

–Bill Stoneman

Hope to see you at the Myers garden next Tuesday

Our second Evening in the Garden is coming quickly, on Tuesday, Sept. 12, from 5:30 to 7 p.m., at Myers Middle School. And we would love it if you would join us. Take a tour of the garden. Taste from the garden and five great local food purveyors, from Caffe Italia RistoranteHonest Weight Food Co-opCapital City GastropubKismet Mediterranean Grill and Berben and Wolff’s Vegan Delicatessen. And enjoy demonstrations of garden and food-prep related opportunities.

Most of all, we would love to share with you our plans for an outdoor classroom at Myers.

Hope to see you there. Can hardly wait!

–Bill Stoneman

Why garden (#2)? Why the Vegetable Project?

July 2010 5What exactly drives us to build gardens at Albany schools and then lead kids out to them? Why would we bother with those time-consuming fundraising initiatives, like collecting Boxtops for Education, and those time-consuming chores in the garden, like weeding and watering? And what is the big deal about growing some of our own lettuce and tomatoes, when Continue reading

In search of assistance from licensed professionals

Building permitContributing development of an outdoor classroom at Myers Middle School to the Albany City School District is a substantial project, but we think well worth the effort if it gets kids outside more often and closer to nature and learning with their hands. As with any volunteer initiative, however, widespread community participation is crucial to its timely completion. Thus, we would be so pleased if you would be part of it, maybe by sharing ideas, or possibly a bit of knowledge or elbow grease or perhaps introducing to us to other people or resources. Involvement can surely range from helping to address regulatory requirements and estimate construction costs to planning longer-range funding requirements to drafting detailed plans for specific elements to communicating and to fundraising.

We have built a list of pieces of the project we could really use help with. Here is a bit about one big item:

We need to bring electricity from the school building to any greenhouse that we build to power a fire alarm. We dearly hope to bring water from the building to a more central location, for watering our garden and likely to create simple food prep capabilities. The school district facilities folks estimate that an electrical conduit will cost about $20,000 and that extending water will run about $10,000. It appears that we need serious help with this from a licensed professional engineer or architect. We will need to organize our plan into a building permit application to the state Education Department.

Know someone who might lend a hand, at least to help us get our bearings?

—Bill Stoneman

Explain that again: What is an outdoor classroom?

UTennessee coverThe Vegetable Project proposes to build an outdoor classroom at Myers Middle School. But what exactly is that?

We are thinking of an outdoor space that offers teaching and learning opportunities that may not work quite as well indoors, taking advantage especially of stimulation of all the senses, the contribution that contact with nature makes to wellbeing and the real-world experiences that can make learning feel relevant. Perhaps, however, that still does not explain what exactly an outdoor classroom is.

It is worth knowing then that there really is no single definition. The term is used Continue reading