Category Archives: Outdoor classroom

Mich. district planning to teach everyone outdoors

Broccoli June8Teaching outdoors, a big Vegetable Project priority, continues to gain steam.

The Grand Rapids, Mich., school district plans to “create outdoor educational experiences” for all of its 16,700 students, according to an account at mlive.com. (Thanks to the Children & Nature Network  for bringing the news article to our attention.)

With leadership from a nearby teachers’ college and local foundation funding, a three-year pilot project is slated to start next fall.

Clayton Pelon, associate director of the Center for Educational Partnerships in the College of Education at Grand Valley State University, explained, according to the mlive.com article, that schools are moving to “offer an outdoor education experience because research shows there are benefits to moving students outside of the four walls of a classroom to explore and discover the world around them.”

That’s our reading as well.

–Bill Stoneman

Myers outdoor classroom project advancing

Seating3The Vegetable Project has begun development of the outdoor classroom that it proposed creating at Myers Middle School. We purchased and assembled seating that can swing back and forth between benches with backs and benches with tabletops.

With conviction that a change of scenery now and then, and especially one that bolsters contact with nature, can transform academic lives, we will be Continue reading

Make a difference in the lives of Albany kids

Three girlsThe Vegetable Project has been working to create hands-on teaching and learning opportunities in Albany schools since 2009. With help from friends like you, we will build more lessons in the year ahead the joy of discovery. We will ensure that more students learn a bit about where our food comes from. We will work with professional Continue reading

Schools tackle social/emotional learning outdoors

Climbing treeThe Philadelphia School District has embraced the outdoors and contact with nature as a means of meeting deep student needs beyond anything the Vegetable Project has spoken of. The big city school system pays Outward Bound $340,000 annually “so students can climb tall trees, take nature walks, and complete physical challenges in one- and multi-day expeditions, all in the name of social and emotional learning,” according a great article at philly.com.

Maybe, however, we should put building high ropes courses on our to-do list, too.  An Outward Board staffer says in a video clip with the article that her charges “are working on figuring out how to face challenges and come out on the other side.” Goodness knows algebra classes have limited success in helping kids figure out how to face life challenges, such as that very class. Talk to educators in our schools about daily challenges and you’ll hear plenty about kids who are not so good at continuing forward when things are difficult.

Or as a Philadelphia high school teacher is quoted saying, “As soon as they feel like something’s tough, they shut down.”

Pushing past a fear of heights, however, even as it sets the heart pounding, can help kids reassess how much they can really do.

Plentiful research suggesting a link between contact with nature and myriad measures of wellbeing, such as resiliency, makes a good case for our efforts to move some teaching and learning outdoors. Building an outdoor classroom at Myers Middle School, for example, is high on our to-do list. We’ll keep our ear out for word about what Philadelphia schools accomplish putting all its ninth graders and many other students through an Outward Bound program. It’s not surprising, however, that early experiences point to students gaining confidence in their ability to face adversity.

–Bill Stoneman

Invitation to make a difference in lives of kids

Amoyiea MyersWith this holiday season upon us, I am writing to ask you to consider making a gift to the Vegetable Project. It’s as easy as clicking here to initiate an online payment.

The Vegetable Project has been working to create hands-on teaching and learning opportunities in Albany schools since 2009. With your help, we will make touching and tasting and really doing a bigger part of students’ learning experience. We will bring more students aboard as members of our teaching team. We will develop an outdoor classroom at Myers Middle School. We will make a difference in the lives of students who are not thriving in the main school program.

With gardens at Myers Middle School and Albany High School, we lead kids outdoors to drop seeds in soil and to pull carrots and garlic out, to leave science class recitation about producers, consumers and decomposers behind as we introduce them to the real things, and to capture nature’s power to build equanimity. With produce from those gardens and sometimes just a bit of seasoning and other times real kitchen experiences, we overcome resistance to trying unfamiliar tastes. And with constraints that come with a locale that has four seasons, we build teaching and learning opportunities around hardy plants that make it through cold months in simple greenhouses and tender plants that grow under indoor lighting.

The Vegetable Project, led entirely by volunteers, does all of this and more in classrooms, after school and through paid employment of teens, during the school year and over the summer. And it does this with a particular focus on students with the great challenges in their lives, who typically pose the greatest challenges at school, who would benefit most from touching, tasting, doing and having more contact with nature.

Please learn more about the Vegetable Project at http://vegetableproject.org and https://www.facebook.com/vegetableproject. Please support our work to build hands-on teaching and learning opportunities, to reach more kids and to create an outdoor classroom at Myers that will make taking classes outside occasionally an irresistible option for teachers.

We are a 501c3 nonprofit corporation, making your contributions deductible to the extent allowable based on your specific circumstances.

Thanks very much and Happy Holidays!

–Bill Stoneman

Why build outdoor classroom at Albany school (#2)?

TurtleNot that taking care of a vegetable garden and creating hands-on teaching and learning opportunities in isn’t enough to do, the Vegetable Project seeks to develop an outdoor classroom at Myers Middle School. But why? Why would we stay up nights thinking about taking on more? 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 weeding and watering. Why isn’t that enough? And why in the world would we harbor thoughts about taking lessons learned tackling an ambitious project at one school to others around town?

Well, the Alabama Outdoor Classroom Program identifies a few benefits (and we explore those big Why questions additional when we can). The program says in its Planning Guide that an outdoor classroom

  • provides an alternative classroom setting
  • includes learning stations for hands-on activities
  • introduces students to nature and the outdoors
  • provides multi-disciplinary teaching/learning opportunities
  • increases local community and business support for the school
  • increases parent involvement in the school
  • establishes habitat for local wildlife
  • helps beautify the campus
  • provides teaching/learning opportunities about wildlife and related natural resources
  • engages students in active, hands-on/minds-on learning
  • provides real-world experiences in a living laboratory
  • creates fun and exciting learning environments
  • helps connect students to their environments and communities
  • makes learning locally relevant
  • enhances biodiversity
  • helps teachers and administrators reach out to at-risk students
  • offers alternative teaching strategies for learning-disabled students
  • provides service-learning projects for students
  • develops a sense of stewardship in our children for the Earth’s natural resources
  • provides opportunities for students to work as a team
  • demonstrates to students that they can make a difference
  • helps combat childhood obesity
  • teaches responsibility
  • provides an alternative to costly field trips
  • excites educators about teaching
  • and motivates students about learning.

That actually is a pretty long list of benefits. We, however, completely agree.

—Bill Stoneman

Evening in the Garden on Tuesday, Sept. 11

2018 Facebook art

Please join us. Bring your friends and family.

Enjoy delicious offerings from Berben and Wolff’s Vegan Delicatessen, La Empanada Llama, Restaurant Navona, the Honest Weight Food Co-op, the Capital City Gastropub, Albany Ale & Oyster and the culinary program of Albany High School’s Abrookin Career and Technical Center.

https://www.facebook.com/events/1113763558765057/

Enjoy salsa- and pesto-making demonstrations. Tour the garden. Admire how well apple trees planted two years ago are doing. Learn about the Vegetable Project’s work to create hands-on teaching and learning opportunities, including its outdoor classroom plan. Bring a sample of soil from your garden and for determination of its pH. Tap you feet to the rhythms of Myers music teachers.

— Bill Stoneman

An opportunity to support connection with nature

Bench1An outdoor classroom needs a place for students to sit. And with your help, the Vegetable Project intends to provide such seating at Myers Middle School. Won’t you consider contributing to this important project? For a gift of $250, we’ll affix a plaque to a bench near the Myers garden with your personalized inscription, creating a lasting tribute in a space that will be used by Continue reading

Buying seeds supports the Vegetable Project

High Mowing seed packsContributing to the Vegetable Project is as easy as buying High Mowing Organic Seeds from us from now until Tuesday, March 20.

You can view our offering and place orders online, through farmraiser.com, which supports fundraisers built around healthy eating and local products.

Or if you would rather do business on paper, maybe so you can invite friends and family to go in on an order with you, that’s okay, too. Please click here for a printable brochure describing what we are offering. And then print an order form. Please get orders to us, with cash or a check, by Friday, March 16, so we can complete necessary handling.

Either way, the Vegetable Project receives half of all sales in our eighth annual seed sale fundraiser. You will have your seeds in time for the coming season’s planting. And you will be supporting our four-season growing and our work to create hands-on teaching and learning opportunities in Albany schools, by providing us with funds for supplies, tools and equipment.

And rather donate the full cost of seeds or more? That’s okay, too. Just click on the Donate button at our web site to make an online contribution.

High Mowing’s seeds are organic and free of genetically modified organisms, which we think is important. And based in Vermont, many of its seeds were raised in the Northeast, meaning they’re especially suited to thrive in the kind of conditions that have.

The Vegetable Project reaches out especially to kids with the greatest needs. These are kids in Albany schools who are challenging and disruptive, who do not respond well to admonitions like “sit still in your chair” and “look up at the board.” We garden, prepare tasty dishes with what we grow and teach about scientific method. But most of all we engage kids. Working at two Albany schools so far, we have four programs: a year-round after-school Garden Club at Stephen and Harriet Myers Middle School, development and assistance with plant-related classroom activities and curriculum at both Myers Middle School and Albany High School, a paid garden assistant internship mentoring program for at-risk students at Albany High and a work site for a city summer jobs program that gives high school-age students a first exposure to employment.

In addition, we are building development plans for an outdoor classroom at our middle school home, with a greenhouse, a shaded sitting area, a fruit tree orchard and naturalized space where science classes would conduct meaningful scientific investigations. The completed space should be as irresistible to art or history teachers as it is to science teachers, thus increasing kids’ time outdoors in fresh air and amid greenery, which research shows supports wide ranging healthy outcomes.

Happy gardening. And please help us spread word about this great offer.

–Bill Stoneman

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