Outdoor classroom for its educational value

Imagine a middle school where teachers can offer classes a change of scenery, and especially a change that will bolster seriously valuable contact with nature. And imagine a school where a greenhouse, with space for visiting classes to work, is warm enough in January to nurture slow growth of leafy green vegetables. Where a fruit tree orchard beckons. And where bird, mammal and insect habitat transforms science lessons into close-up encounters.

With confidence that doing and touching and tasting and experiencing can energize students and teachers alike, that these simple acts can stimulate hunger for learning like little else, the Vegetable Project proposes development of these and other schoolyard amenities at Stephen and Harriet Myers Middle School. With certainty that enriching whole-person teaching and learning is essential to unlocking the potential of Albany students, that test-prep focused teaching can only go so far, we invite you to take a look at visual representations of our thinking about what we call an outdoor classroom. An enormous thanks goes to Barbara Nazarewicz and Adam Fearing of Stantec Consulting Services for donating extraordinary landscape architectural services to this initiative.

We have written about the educational value of outdoor instruction and an outdoor classroom since long before the term coronavirus was part of our shared vocabulary. We would argue that building contact with nature into teaching and learning is more important now than ever. And we would add that the completed outdoor classroom project at Myers will lift spirits. It will promote teacher and student wellbeing. It will build equity. It will pave the way for similar initiatives elsewhere in Albany. It will captivate the parents who think the grass is greener on the other side of the city-suburb line. And it will draw interest of educators from miles around.  

Before all that can happen, however, we need to know that the community buys in to our vision. And we will need a whole lot of input and participation. Please let us know what you think. And stay tuned for invitations to come and take a closer look.

–Bill Stoneman

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