Seeking help from friends with watering gardens

The Vegetable Project, as you may well know, is a volunteer group. And among the many pieces of what we do that we’re always eager for more help with is watering our gardens at Albany High School and Myers Middle School from now until the end of September, or maybe even the middle of October. Won’t you consider pitching in?

It would make a huge contribution to everything we do with and for kids.

So, we would be grateful for friends who sign up for dates and locations. But we also need/want to spend time with you, showing you the ropes, for at least the first time around. And that might take a bit of schedule coordination. So please reach out to Bill at thevegetableproject@gmail.com to say you’d like to find a time to get together.

How much help are we looking for? Once or twice on your own makes a show-you-around get-together worthwhile. More than that is even better. Perhaps you would consider taking responsibility for a week – Sunday through Saturday – at one garden. Or maybe a particular day of the week on an ongoing basis. We are flexible! And we would love to hear from you!

Thanks for support in all sorts of sizes and shapes for more than 12 years.

–Bill Stoneman

Measuring performance of earthy lesson

The school district where we work, like the rest of the school world, puts a lot of time and energy into measuring performance and progress and analyzing the data that all that measurement produces.

The  measurement folks probably haven’t noticed our worm composting bin initiative in the high school environmental sciences classes and might not know how to measure it. But the “thank yous” that we get from students time and again seem like a good sign. Or a really good sign when you consider that the six classes we’re in are filled with students who, at the risk of over-generalizing, are severely disengaged. Maybe half show up on any given day. And those who do, pay little attention to the teaching. They stare at their phones. They put their heads down. They talk with one another. The teaching didn’t cause this. These students were by-and-large enrolled in these classes because the school didn’t know what else to do with them.

So, here’s what we are doing with six plastic bins and 500 red wrigglers or their offspring: We invite one or two students at a time to visit with us. We explain that we have in the bins a tiny indoor demonstration of something that happens in nature every day and everywhere called decomposing. And we stop and ask students if they know what decomposing is. We stop and ask if they know what each next term we use means. And we truly give them a chance to do the best they can before saying something like, “Well, not exactly. Can I tell you?”

And over 10 or 20 minutes we talk through a very small handful of terms – decompose, organic material, nutrient. We talk about how important decomposing of organic material is to the health and stability of our world (it returns nutrient to soil, which then is removed by plants, upon which we humans depend directly or indirectly for every bite we eat; we would have piles of dead material miles high without decomposing). And we talk about how students can help keep the demonstration going by bringing fruit and vegetable scraps to the classroom and tossing them into the bins.

We do not have the data analytics power to be sure, but here are some reasons students probably thank us: We meet them where they are without insulting them. We explain why something we’re teaching about is important (we do all eat food). We explore a subject in some depth. We offer the opportunity to do and touch and experience, without a harsh word to or about anyone who is not comfortable getting too close.

It would be difficult to teach more than one tiny segment of the course curriculum like this. Plenty of students have declined every opportunity to spend a few minutes with us. And the interaction certainly isn’t instantly changing the trajectory of any of these students.

We would submit, however, that a positive glimpse at what teaching and learning could be is worth a check mark in the win column.

–Bill Stoneman

Shed project builds meaningfulness into learning

The garden shed construction you see in the accompanying pictures is happening in Art Erbe’s construction technologies classes at Albany High School’s Abrookin Career & Technical Center and is headed for the Vegetable Project’s garden just inside Albany High grounds by North Main Avenue. And we are so pleased! Indeed, the project is so important to us that we are funding it.

The obvious reason for our pleasure is that eight feet by 12 feet of storage space right at the garden will dramatically enhance our programming capability. We’ll have the right tools and supplies at hand when we need them, making everything about growing plants in the service of building teaching and learning around doing and touching and tasting and experiencing more likely to be effective.

But we could have achieved that end by buying something at a store.

Partnering with our Abrookin friends extends our endless pursuit of opportunities for doing and touching by creating what we suspect will be an especially meaningful project for the students who are involved. Meaningfulness is a crucial ingredient in student engagement that’s too often missing. So, if we are going to harp on the need to make school learning more meaningful, and we will, we are pleased to have accumulated the resources to fund this project and hopefully more after this one is completed.

Wouldn’t it be cool if students who build this shed note their role with pride when passing by in the years ahead? And wouldn’t it be good for all of us if participating in a job for a paying customer helps students grasp the importance of an education.

Thanks, Art, for making this happen.

–Bill Stoneman

Tonight: May 5 is Evening in the Garden at Myers

UPDATE ON THE EVENT: The event will be tonight, Thursday, May 5, and the weather looks beautiful and the plants are happy after Wednesday’s rain. Join us at the garden at Myers Middle School. Details below!

 The Vegetable Project’s fifth annual* Evening in the Garden is tonight (Thursday, May 5) Wednesday, May 4, at the garden at Myers Middle School. You won’t want to miss it. The food will be great. We’ll show you around the garden. Learn from demonstrations. Kids can pot up pansies, the perfect Mother’s Day gift.

The garden is behind the school building. 

We would be pleased if you would let us know that you are coming at Eventbrite or our Facebook event.

We would be grateful if you would stand up and be counted as a friend of our all-volunteer effort to create hands-on learning opportunities for Albany kids with great needs by becoming a member of the event’s honorary committee. We will include your name in an event program when you make a $25 contribution. Again, please visit Eventbrite.

Many thanks for 12 years of support. Please look for the Vegetable Project on Facebook, Instagram and Eventbrite for word of the fabulous local eateries that are contributing to this event. And please help us spread the word.

–Bill Stoneman

* Annual, except for a hiatus since September 2019, due, of course, to the Covid pandemic.

 

Thankful for newspaper report, hands-on volunteers

A number of thanks are in order as we wrap up our milk jug greenhouse project, which without doubt was our biggest undertaking since we started digging in the dirt with Albany students in 2009.

A big one goes to Leigh Hornbeck, a Times Union writer/reporter, for capturing so well what the Vegetable Project does and what we’ve been talking about for many years. Fairly sure we have something important to offer to Albany kids, we are always eager for a wider swath of the community to know about us. Please read here from Sunday’s paper.

Then, we are indebted to the amazing team of volunteers who guided every Continue reading

Touching experiences central to greenhouse project

We will lead more than 500 Albany schools students through turning plastic gallon milk jugs into miniature greenhouses by the time we wrap up next week. A number of small lessons are embedded in the project – such about what a greenhouse is and how it works, the incredible diversity of nature and the needs of seeds. Maybe even more important than these, however, are the tactile experiences that we are Continue reading

Short ride on truck or trailer would complete project

The Vegetable Project is seeking help in moving a shed four-tenths of a mile, from Albany High School’s Abrookin Career & Technical Center to our garden at Albany High, likely in early June. The shed, to be built by high school construction program students under the direction of Art Erbe, will be 12 feet long, eight feet wide and nine feet high.

We would be appreciative beyond words for help specifically with a flatbed truck or a trailer that a member of our team can tow.

And lest there be any doubt, we are thrilled to partner on this project with Abrookin/Albany High students and Mr. Erbe. We build teaching and learning around doing and touching and tasting and experiencing, mostly in the garden. But creating similar opportunities elsewhere in support of the garden is just as appealing to us!

Please reach out at thevegetableproject@gmail.com if you might be able to lend a hand.

–Bill Stoneman

Building on hands-on learning momentum

The Vegetable Project organized the kind of day at Myers Middle School yesterday that we bet educators, kids and parents alike would like to see more of – quite full of doing and touching and preparing for tasting and experiencing. And we have so many more days like this on the drawing board.

Won’t you please help make them a reality?

We led 125 eighth graders on Monday in turning plastic milk jugs into miniature Continue reading

Thanks for more plastic jugs than imaginable

Thanks to many, many, many friends who answered our call for empty plastic gallon jugs. We’re at about 500 now, slightly overshooting our goal of 300. A really big thanks goes to the good folks at the Starbucks on Western Avenue near the Albany/Guilderland line, who collected 10 to 20 jugs a day for the past two weeks.

Next up is putting these to use. The plan is to guide every kid in as many Albany schools classes as we can get to in making his or her own miniature greenhouse, for the hands-on experience with tools and project work that is nearly guaranteed to engage, for the exposure to some science and the for opportunity to make a connection between the field where food is produced and the table where it is served.

We still could use a ton of help. The more pairs of volunteer hands we have on the team the better. Won’t you please consider pitching in for maybe an hour or two or three? Please drop a line to thevegetableproject@gmail.com and we’ll make arrangements to talk and spend time together making one or two mini greenhouses for practice.

The Vegetable Project is a volunteer-driven tax-exempt nonprofit corporation. In addition to hands-on participation in our programming, we are grateful for financial support that we promise to use for the benefit of Albany kids with the greatest needs. You can make a contribution right here.

–Bill Stoneman

Offering garden bed sponsorship opportunities

The Vegetable Project, which digs in the dirt with Albany High School and Stephen and Harriet Myers Middle School students and which is proud to partner with the Friendship Garden of the Delaware Community, would be pleased to showcase the names of friends who help make its research-based work with Albany students possible. We will mount a Continue reading