Category Archives: Teaching

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

Strawberries as a tool for teaching and learning

Strawberries June 3The handful of strawberry plants that we brought to Myers Middle School a few years ago spread like wildfire for some time. But then, for reasons we never figured out, they died way back the last two years. They did not produce berries and they did not produce the runners that start new plants.

Fortunately, things are looking much better this spring. Plants look healthy. Continue reading

For some, taking classes outdoors an act of faith

6-2016, Bill Stoneman, Albany school gardensConsiderable research suggests that contact with nature can ease stress, help keep attention where it belongs and sooth emotional pain. A particularly notable paper, published earlier this year, reported on students focusing better in a standard indoor classroom after a lesson taught outdoors than after a lesson in the standard classroom. Insights in these findings could be really important in schools where we work.

And so we develop ideas that would take classes outside, if only for a single class period, and pitch them to teachers. We think that putting teaching and learning in an outdoor setting occasionally could help with the social and emotional underpinnings to successful classroom outcomes. And we would posit that social and emotional needs often pose the biggest issues for students who disrupt and then fail classes with a resounding thud.

Problem is, taking a class outside, with really energetic students, who generally ignore boundaries, feels like a risky proposition to many teachers. And understandably so. It takes some faith to believe that even the most challenging students could become easier to work with after a turn or two or three, even if things look even worse initially.

Maybe it’s too easy for outsiders like us, without direct responsibility for students’ conduct and test scores, to say that it will work. But we still would encourage a couple of thoughts. One is that research, while hardly definitive, paints a compelling picture of the good that seems to come from contact with nature. Another is that command and control efforts in traditional classrooms are not especially successful with the most challenging students.

–Bill Stoneman

Catching student attention with delightful surprise

Pea shootsWe can do something in and around the garden that does not happen in the classroom often enough: capture attention with a moment of pleasant surprise. Take, for example, what happens when we offer a taste of leaves and stems from a live plant.

Some students, of course, cheerfully pop the greens in their mouths. Many Continue reading

Why a garden? Why the Vegetable Project? (#4)

April 21 Isaiah JamesWhat 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 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 it’s so cheap in the supermarket?

Please see our first take at answering these questions and then another and then still one more. And here is another try.

Vegetables can be a tough sell, at least when alternatives full of sugar, salt and fat Continue reading