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

Make a difference in lives of Albany kids

Garlic harvest copyWon’t you consider volunteering with the Vegetable Project?

We create hands-on teaching and learning opportunities with plants as a means of making a difference in the lives of Albany kids with great challenges.

Volunteers are invited to

  • Work with kids, or
  • Help in the garden, or
  • Lend a hand behind the scenes – with design, desktop publishing, event planning, fundraising, marketing, site planning, social media support media support and much more.

Please drop a line to thevegetableproject@gmail.com, message us at facebook.com/vegetableproject or text 518-728-6799 if you would like to get involved, learn more or just visit one of our gardens with one of us.

–Bill Stoneman

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

Why a garden? Why the Vegetable Project? (#3)

Broccoli June8What 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? And why do we try to keep it up all year long?

Please see the our first shot at making sense of these questions. And then another try. This time, however, please consider the experience of a number of Minnesota educators as presented in a couple of great videos by the Jeffers Foundation, which funds development of school gardens in the Gopher State and teaches teachers how to use the great outdoors as a classroom.

—Bill Stoneman

Surrounding pedagogy with nature to boost results

"Quaker Education – Outdoor Classroom"New research continues to strengthen the case for devoting school resources and time to connecting kids with greenery. One paper just published describes an experiment that found students better focused on instruction when they’re back in the indoor classroom after a lesson outside in a more natural setting. Even the sight of trees and natural landscape from classroom windows, according to the authors of Continue reading

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

Help wanted! Seeking volunteer communicators

Won’t you consider volunteering with the Vegetable Project?

Hands in garden-203KWe create hands-on teaching and learning opportunities with plants as a means of making a difference in the lives of Albany kids with great challenges.

We are especially looking right now for friends to help communicate about our work and create opportunities to tell our story to new audiences. We are forming a working group to plan and execute efforts to raise our profile, which surely is critical to continuing our momentum. And we invite participation in this group. Social media savvy would be great.

Please drop a line to thevegetableproject@gmail.com , message us at facebook.com/vegetableproject or text 5187286799 if you would like to get involved or learn more.

And if communications isn’t your thing, please remember that we offer opportunities to work with kids, to help create an outdoor classroom at Myers Middle School and to launch a summer program. Please let us to if you’re interested.

–Bill Stoneman

Why work so hard to get kids outside (#2)?

Summer club 2011-2Hang around the kind of high school where droves of students do not graduate or graduate on time and you might hear about all sorts of efforts to provide students with more support in classes seemingly posing the most significant challenges. Tutoring after school, breaking year-long algebra classes into two years and writing daily learning objectives on the board, among others.

These tactics, however, do not necessarily address issues that for too many Continue reading

Just what is an outdoor classroom (#2)?

Outdoor classroomThe Vegetable Project proposes to build an outdoor classroom at Myers Middle School. But what exactly is that?

We took one shot at answering this question on Aug. 12, 2017. But here is another: We are thinking of an outdoor space that offers teaching and learning opportunities that are unlikely to work quite as well indoors, taking advantage especially of stimulation of all the senses, the contribution that contact with nature makes to wellbeing and the real-world experiences that can make learning feel relevant. Perhaps, however, that still does not explain what exactly an outdoor classroom is.

It is worth knowing then that there really is no single definition. The term is used differently by different people, different developers and different schools. A look, however, at how others use the term reveals some pretty exciting possibilities.

The Jeffers Foundation in Minnesota, for example, casts everything on the other side of the schoolhouse window as an outdoor classroom and encourages teachers to bring classes outside to explore and to find creative ways to present the same lessons they teach indoors. The foundation, which describes its mission as supporting environmental stewardship through education, offers tons of great ideas and support material at its web site. We would presumably have to travel to attend one of its signature workshops, titled The Outdoor Classroom; Team Teaching with Mother Nature. But videos and PowerPoint presentations at the web site could really help an enterprising teacher get started.

—Bill Stoneman

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