Category Archives: Uncategorized

Experimenting with science classroom experience

young girl examining a test tube in a science class

Trying to find the right classroom formula takes considerable trial and error.

We are conducting a controlled experiment, of a sort, in a couple of high school science classes. We are seeking to determine whether we can capture the attention of seriously disaffected living environment students by significantly altering the their classroom experience. And to the extent that we can, we are seeking to determine whether teachers who are at their wit’s end will see the same progress with students that we see.

The context, which we see discouragingly often, are classes with many, many, students who show just about Continue reading

Bringing living environment into living environment

Natural area6Let’s get on the record here that the formal name of New York’s regents-level biology course is “living environment.” This is significant because real encounters with the real living environment just might do good things for teaching and learning about this subject (but generally Natural area2play a negligible role in our schools’ approach to the class).

Of course the ability of the great outdoors to stimulate the senses could contribute to teaching and learning about every subject. But imagine the possibilities especially in the living environment class of student discovery of channels in a chunk of fallen tree, such as in the accompanying photograph taken at Albany High School, and then student exploration that determines that a beetle or other insect probably bored these channels and perhaps killed the tree.

This could open doors to consideration of invasive species or interdependence of living things and perhaps the impact of human activity on the environment or maybe climate change. And connecting the class to real world issues and developments might even make the class feel more relevant to students than the usual presentation of topic after topic.

Realizing these kinds of opportunities, of course, would require some degree of change in mindset. For one thing, it takes a leap of faith for teachers to believe that capturing the imagination of students and nurturing their connection-making skills can safely cover the same ground that the more traditional linear approach does. On top of that, taking energetic students outside would require teachers to do a whole new round of establishing classroom expectations. And leaving fallen tree branches or trunks in situ would also mean different thinking about grounds keeping.

The payoff, however, could be great.

–Bill Stoneman

Moving outdoor classroom project forward

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

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

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

Why garden (#2)? Why the Vegetable Project?

July 2010 5What 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 collecting 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 Continue reading

In search of assistance from licensed professionals

Building permitContributing development of an outdoor classroom at Myers Middle School to the Albany City School District is a substantial project, but we think well worth the effort if it gets kids outside more often and closer to nature and learning with their hands. As with any volunteer initiative, however, widespread community participation is crucial to its timely completion. Thus, we would be so pleased if you would be part of it, maybe by sharing ideas, or possibly a bit of knowledge or elbow grease or perhaps introducing to us to other people or resources. Involvement can surely range from helping to address regulatory requirements and estimate construction costs to planning longer-range funding requirements to drafting detailed plans for specific elements to communicating and to fundraising.

We have built a list of pieces of the project we could really use help with. Here is a bit about one big item:

We need to bring electricity from the school building to any greenhouse that we build to power a fire alarm. We dearly hope to bring water from the building to a more central location, for watering our garden and likely to create simple food prep capabilities. The school district facilities folks estimate that an electrical conduit will cost about $20,000 and that extending water will run about $10,000. It appears that we need serious help with this from a licensed professional engineer or architect. We will need to organize our plan into a building permit application to the state Education Department.

Know someone who might lend a hand, at least to help us get our bearings?

—Bill Stoneman