What 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 selling seeds each winter, 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 right Continue reading →
If mainstream grocery stores shape your understanding of food, you may not be familiar with garlic scapes. Backyard growers and shoppers at occasional earthier grocers, such as the Honest Weight Food Coop, however, look forward the moment when hardneck garlic plants are ready to yield their scapes. We cut ours down this year on July 2 at Myers Middle School, a week or so later than some years.
Many thanks to old friend Lorraine Doyno Evans for passing along this recipe for garlic scape pesto from Fruition Seeds in Naples, N.Y.
Raising garlic, of course, is about much more than adding a dash of taste to what you eat for the Vegetable Project. It’s a part of harnessesing the power of exposure to nature, such as by gently encouraging getting hands dirty, to give a hand to Albany kids with great needs. We create opportunities for at-risk high school students with paid internships to do real business with adults. We give teens first jobs during the summer, set high expectations and help the teens meet those expectations. We partner with classroom teachers where the going is tough.
Another school year is winding down. Another growing season is shaping up. And the Vegetable Project continues to build hands-on learning opportunities, seeking more than anything else to make a difference in the lives of kids with great needs.
We know from our own experience and from voluminous scholarly research that contact with nature can be a force for good health – physical, mental and emotional – and thus support vital outcomes that range from sense of purpose to Continue reading →
Learning, like any other slice of human development, is far too complicated to explain successes or failures in terms of a single factor or two. But contact with nature appears to be a very important one. And education policymakers ought to get their hands around this, starting with a peek at voluminous research supporting this notion.
Goodness knows, sitting at desks in traditional classrooms is not working for many, many students.
“It is time to take nature seriously,” write university researchers in Frontiers in Psychology, “as a resource for learning and development. It is time to bring nature and nature-based pedagogy into formal education – to expand existing, isolated efforts into increasingly mainstream practices.”
This conclusion is drawn from hundreds of publications that show and describe how contact with nature supports learning in many different way.
“Report after report – from independent observers as well as participants themselves – indicate shifts in perseverance, problem solving, critical thinking, leading, teamwork and resilience,” write authors of Do Experiences with Nature Promote Learning? Converging Evidence of a Cause-and-Effect Relationship.
The authors, from the University of Illinois and the University of Michigan, explain that nature promotes learning by improving learners’ attention, lowering stress, strengthening self-discipline and boosting interest and enjoyment of learning. In one of many examples, they cite research suggesting that learning in nature improves motivation and most strongly among students are who least motivated in regular classroom.
Neither tougher standards nor stricter discipline, more after-school tutoring, uniforms or better recreational outlets are likely to make much difference with many especially challenging students without addressing perseverance, problem solving, critical thinking, leading, teamwork and resilience issues at least at the same time. But fortunately research shows that setting can lead to some progress on those fronts.
From taking our Myers Middle School Garden Club kids outside to developing an outdoor classroom at the school, the Vegetable Project is working to make this important issue a part of our collective conversation about teaching and learning. With your support, we will build ever more opportunities to boost kids’ contact with nature.
Please take a look The Healing Power of Gardens, a posthumous publication of an essay by Oliver Sacks, the late physician/writer, in this morning’s New York Times.
We try from time to time to answer such questions as Why a garden? Why the Vegetable Project? And Why do we work so hard to get kids outside? And Why build outdoor classrooms at Albany Schools? Dr. Sacks does it for us even better than we do.
What does healing have to do with teaching and learning? Well, for starters, it could make an incredibly valuable contribution in in-school suspension rooms in schools where we work, where disillusioned, disengaged and angry students, each with a personal story behind all of that, spend time when they disturb the peace of hallways and classrooms.
Start your own garden this year, maybe in a couple of planters on the back deck, or maybe add a few square feet to that special space – for the beauty you’ll create, for the hope you’ll inspire and for the stewardship of our environment you’ll provide. And please support the Vegetable Project when you do by buying High Mowing Organic Seeds from us from now until Friday, March 15.
The Vegetable Project has begun development of the outdoor classroom that it proposed creating at Myers Middle School. We purchased and assembled seating that can swing back and forth between benches with backs and benches with tabletops.
With conviction that a change of scenery now and then, and especially one that bolsters contact with nature, can transform academic lives, we will be Continue reading →
The Vegetable Project has been working to create hands-on teaching and learning opportunities in Albany schools since 2009. With help from friends like you, we will build more lessons in the year ahead the joy of discovery. We will ensure that more students learn a bit about where our food comes from. We will work with professional Continue reading →
With 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 https://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.
Not 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?
The Vegetable Project in Albany, N.Y., established in 2009, creates hands-on learning opportunities that involve science, the environment, entrepreneurship, tasting really fresh food and responsibility for care of living things by growing vegetables and other plants.
Support the Vegetable Project with a tax-deductible donation.
Save those boxtops
Saving Boxtops for Education is just one of the ways you can help us buy grow lights, red wriggler worms, materials we use to build greenhouses and more. Find the boxtops on scores of packaged products.