Category Archives: Outdoor classroom

Moving outdoor classroom project forward (#4)

TOAST pavillion2Our thoughts about developing an outdoor classroom at Myers Middle School began with the idea of building a structure that would provide some shade, where classes might gather. It is critical that we learn from the experience of others who have gone down any of the same paths we are looking at.

Thus, it would be very useful if a friend would reach out to teachers and building leaders at the Thomas O’Brien Academy of Science and Technology (TOAST) and seek out thoughts on the pavilion built there about five years ago. The important question to ask is “what would you do differently if you knew then what you know now?” Asking if teachers like the pavilion won’t tell us much. Asking if they use the pavilion might get us slightly closer to useful information. But really we want to know why they use it or why they do not.

This, of course, is just one of several pieces of the project we could really use help with. Please visit here to learn more about this project and the thinking about it. And please read the first, second and third previous posting on moving this project forward.

—Bill Stoneman

Just what is an outdoor classroom (#2)?

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

We took one shot at answering this question on Aug. 12, 2017. But here is another: We are thinking of an outdoor space that offers teaching and learning opportunities that are unlikely to 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 differently by different people, different developers and different schools. A look, however, at how others use the term reveals some pretty exciting possibilities.

The Jeffers Foundation in Minnesota, for example, casts everything on the other side of the schoolhouse window as an outdoor classroom and encourages teachers to bring classes outside to explore and to find creative ways to present the same lessons they teach indoors. The foundation, which describes its mission as supporting environmental stewardship through education, offers tons of great ideas and support material at its web site. We would presumably have to travel to attend one of its signature workshops, titled The Outdoor Classroom; Team Teaching with Mother Nature. But videos and PowerPoint presentations at the web site could really help an enterprising teacher get started.

—Bill Stoneman

Work group forming for outdoor classroom project

Site plan 2017-01Want to roll up your sleeves and help make development of an outdoor classroom at Myers Middle School happen? We are looking mission-oriented folks who see the potential value in teaching and learning outdoors and getting kids working with their hands and using all of their sense to join a work group that will plan, solve problems and move this venture forward. We will be meeting this Saturday, Dec. 9, at 10 a.m. Please drop us a line at thevegetableproject@gmail.com if this sounds of interest to you.

Please visit http://vegetableproject.org/outdoor-classroom and http://vegetableproject.org/myers-middle-school-outdoor-classroom-background for all sorts of information about this idea.

–Bill Stoneman

Moving outdoor classroom project forward (#3)

May 2010 3Building our garden at Myers Middle School into an outdoor classroom may take considerably more than a village – maybe a village and a team and a movement. And maybe more than that. So we would be so pleased if you would be part of it, maybe by contributing ideas, or Succession growth1possibly a bit of knowledge or elbow grease or perhaps introducing to us to other people or resources. Involvement can surely range from joining a committee working on all of this to helping to address regulatory requirements and estimate construction costs to planning longer-range funding requirements to drafting detailed plans for specific elements to 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 (#2)

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