Category Archives: Uncategorized

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

Time to get serious about composting at Myers

Biosoil farmersStunted tomato plants at Myers Middle School are sending a loud and clear message that our garden soil needs attention. So lucky for us that Chad Currin and Noelle Dommasch of BioSoil Farm in Schenectady, which produces low-dose, high-efficiency plant nutrient from food waste, learned about the Vegetable Project recently and paid us the other day.

They gave us 40 pounds of worm castings, offered some quick impressions of Continue reading

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

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

Co-op offers kind words about garden initiative

Coop Scoop articleMany thanks to the Honest Weight Food Co-op for a great piece about the Vegetable Project in the current edition of the Coop Scoop Magazine. Pick up your own copy at the store, at  100 Wavervliet Avenue in Albany, or click here to read. And a big thanks to the Co-op for all sorts of great support, year-in and year-out.

–Bill Stoneman