With a mission that includes harnessing the power of exposure to nature, the Vegetable Project proposes to develop an outdoor classroom at Stephen and Harriet Myers Middle School in Albany. We work with teachers to bring classes outside from time to time. We hold up scholarly research as we come across it that explains how exposure to nature contributes to wellbeing. And of course, we encourage kids – gently – to experience working their hands in soil and to experience the taste of freshly harvested produce.
At a time when school buildings are closed and students and educators are managing as best they can with distance learning, we believe the Vegetable Project’s plans and commitments and mission are more important than ever. And so while we are not working with kids right now, taking cues from Governor Cuomo’s halting of in-person teaching, our work to build paths from traditional school building classrooms to more meaningful outdoor learning opportunities continues with enthusiasm.
Three recent data points in particular drive these thoughts home.
- The disparities in Covid 19 infection outcomes should remind us of the terrible disparities in health and wellbeing. Without doubt, people and communities of color have been hit so much harder by the coronavirus pandemic than European-descended white people and communities have been. And they will be at particular risk again and again until we build more concern for wellbeing into our communitywide thinking.
- When Governor Cuomo appointed a panel earlier this month to “reimagine education” in New York earlier this month, he effectively said the group’s work should produce greater dependence on technology. With no disrespect to everyone who has worked heroically in recent weeks to keep schools going by moving online, let’s recognize that intrinsic motivation, curiosity, resilience, development of critical thinking, working with others and so many more pieces of the teaching and learning puzzle are woven out of human connections and doing, touching and experiencing – core elements of our effort.
- By many measures, the ongoing health crisis and lockdown is contributing to soaring incidence of depression and anxiety. While no cure-all, exposure to nature soothes life’s stresses.
In you are not convinced of any of this, than please learn more about opportunities and challenges in the lives of disadvantaged kids by working directly with them. Perhaps consider volunteering with the Vegetable Project. And please read some of our earlier posts about Why an outdoor classroom, Why a Garden and Why the Vegetable Project.
The Vegetable Project’s mission is to create hands-on learning opportunities for children in Albany, and especially children with great needs, by building gardens, growing plants and harnessing the power of exposure to nature. The mission matters more now than ever.