Working for kids in Albany schools

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 resilience to social competence to academic performance. The late physician-writer Oliver Sacks put much of this under the heading of the healing power of gardens. And that’s plenty of reason to keep planting seeds – of course, both literally and figuratively.

We have been raising salad greens under grow lights in Albany High School classrooms, for example, and are developing tasting events to plant ideas about healthy eating. Within our Garden Club at Myers Middle School, we’re doing more cooking this year than ever, thanks to a wonderful new partnership with Cornell Cooperative Extension’s Capital Region Eat Smart New York Program and its nutrition educator, Kim Maercklein. Giving kids a turn at the stove, and especially with vegetables fresh from our garden, might be the ultimate hands-on exercise in starting seeds of curiosity and engagement.

Seeds for Peace, a nonprofit in Saratoga Springs that provides garden tools and vegetable and flower seeds to people in war- and weather-ravaged places around the world, captures the idea here with language we wish we came up with. The group, whose founder, Sue Johnson, recalls seeing former combatants in Bosnia come to terms with each other working together in a garden, casts itself as “Changing the world, one garden at a time.”

We would be proud if we accomplished something similar, of course in a much smaller neighborhood, but one where serious stresses can also take a toll.

Please keep up with the Vegetable Project by visiting and liking the page.

–Bill Stoneman

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