Category Archives: Teaching

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

Stylish T-shirt shows support for hands-on learning

T-shirtsBe the first one on your block to sport a stylish Myers Middle School Garden Club T-shirt – now selling for $15 for adult sizes. Add in another $15 and we’ll make sure that two kids get a shirt as well.

Please make an online payment by clicking here. Or mail a check, payable to Vegetable Project, to 10 North Pine Ave., Albany 12203. Drop a line to thevegetableproject@gmail.com and we’ll tell you about sizes and arrange a delivery.

Many thanks to Justin Whittle, now a ninth grader at Albany High School, but a Myers eighth grader when these particular creative juices flowed, for the Garden Club logo design; Myers visual arts teacher Michelle Patka for working with Justin; graphic artist extraordinaire Lori Hanson at Albany Medical Center for the shirt design; and Duke Dufort with Cooley Brands for the printing.

And please remember that you’re supporting creation of hands-on teaching and learning opportunities in Albany schools when you wear this shirt, for the benefit especially of kids who need something more than the traditional classroom.

–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

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

Myers student captures Garden Club vibe in logo

Logo Myers Garden ClubwinnerWith great thanks to Justin Whittle, who just completed eighth grade at and graduated from Myers Middle School, and Myers visual arts teacher Michelle Patka, we are pleased to present a new logo for the Myers Garden Club. Justin’s design, which reflects the spirit of our after-school and summer-time gathering just about perfectly, creates wonderful new opportunities to get word out about our longest-standing gardening-with-kids initiative. And we are delighted. Launched in the fall of 2010, the Vegetable Project’s Garden Club gets Myers students outside and into a bit of nature throughout the year, gently encourages getting hands dirty in our garden, introduces the taste of really fresh greens and so much more that contributes to wellbeing. We know anecdotally and research confirms that these are effective Continue reading

Garden Club: The Summer Edition starts next week

6-2016, Bill Stoneman, Albany school gardens

Myers Middle School Garden Club: The Summer Edition will meet this summer, its eighth, on Tuesday evenings from 6 to 8 p.m. at the garden behind the school, beginning on June 26.

Students and adults alike are invited to get hands their hands dirty, enjoy the company of other growers and learn about caring for vegetables and other plants once, once in a while or all summer long!

Drop a note to thevegetableproject@gmail.com for more information.

–Bill Stoneman

Soil wildlife grabs hold of students’ attention

common-house-spider-2We were digging in the dirt the other day when a student shrieked, “A SPIDER,” and then offered to kill it with a handy shovel. We do not encourage chasing down spiders or any other living creatures with a shovel. In fact, quite the opposite.

We talk at every opportunity about the value of spiders, worms and other Continue reading