Brief moments in our garden behind Myers Middle School in Albany, N.Y., can go a long way toward explaining what we’re doing. And so each of the Vegetable Project’s adult volunteers probably has an anecdote that captures some of our purpose and some of our accomplishment. One of my recent favorites is from September, just after school opened, when we took class after class out to walk around our heirloom tomatoes and sweet potatoes and cucumbers and beans and squash and many different leafy greens.
We asked students to share what they knew about different plants. We pulled a few fruiting vegetables from their vines. We dug a few root vegetables from the ground. We offered sixth, seventh and eighth graders a taste of very, very fresh produce, knowing that not everything would already be familiar to everyone with us. And we rushed back to the classrooms to keep each tour within its allotted 42 minutes.
The accumulated dirt under the fingernails – we’ve been at this since planting garlic on a cold and windy Veteran’s Day in 2009 – felt so worthwhile when one kid held up some fennel and declared to a group around him, “I’ll try it if someone else will.”
This is but one example of creating hands-on learning opportunities. We’ll talk about many more in the weeks ahead.
– Bill Stoneman