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You Are Your Words

Posted by admin | Posted in Analyze, Art, Character Education, Create, History, Language Arts, Middle/High School, Primary Elementary, Secondary Elementary, Teacher Resources, web tools, Websites | Posted on 27-03-2012

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What it is:  The American Heritage Dictionary has a new webtool that lets students create a self-portrait using their words.  Students can link to places where they have already written (Facebook or Twitter) or write something unique specifically for their portrait.  The unique image can be shared, saved and printed.  You Are Your Words works best in Firefox, Google Chrome, or Safari Internet browsers.  I’ve found that pictures with high contrast work better than pictures with similar coloring and low contrast.  After you create you image, you can adjust the colors, contrast and font.

How to integrate You Are Your Words into the classroom: You Are Your Words would be a great getting-to-know-you activity.  It would give students a neat way to share who they are with the class.  At the beginning of the year, a You Are Your Words bulletin board or classroom display would be a fun way for everyone to get to know each other.  This site could lead to really interesting discussions about the power that our words have, what they reveal about us, and how they impact people’s perception of us.
You Are Your Words would also be a great way for students to create a mini biography about a hero, person of interest, historical figure, etc.  Students could upload a picture and include famous quotes or words that describe the person.  These could be used as part of a larger project, or as an independent research project.  The site asks where the eyes and mouth of the picture are, so uploading another image or diagram to describe might not work.
Students can create character description cards with words, quotes and phrases that describe fictional characters in the reading they are doing.   If you have a class or small group that is reading the same book, each student can choose a character to do this for.  Create “trading cards” of the characters that students can create and share with each other so that each student has a card for each character in the book.  If students are doing an author study, they could create a “You Are Your Words” about the author.
As students are learning about different roles within government, they could create a You Are Your Words image about each position using a picture of the person who holds that position in government.  The writing could be related to the job description of the position.
The picture above is an example of a You Are Your Words image that I created with the words from this post!
Tips: If you have an iDevice, the Word Foto app works very similarly and lets you use ANY picture.  This allows students to define vocabulary words with pictures.

Please leave a comment and share how you are using You Are Your Words in  your classroom!

New issue of Project PLN and The Nerdy Cast…

Posted by admin | Posted in Project PLN | Posted on 26-03-2012

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I am totally falling down on the job.  The new issue of Project PLN came out a week ago (two weeks?) and I am just now getting around to posting about it.  Fail.  It is a good thing @thenerdyteacher and I decided to go bimonthly on it.

This month Nick and I shared some of our favorite educational blogs.  Of course our lists could have gone on and on (kind of like my Google Reader feeds), but we managed to narrow it down into a reasonable number.  Nick introduced me to a few new blogs I wasn’t following and I’m happy to say I’ve increased the number of feeds I subscribe to to include them.  Worth the extra reading time!  I hope that some of these awesome bloggers are new to you and that they encourage you and inspire you.  They certainly do that for us!

You can check out the new issue here.

We started out as an every monthly e-zine dedicated to sharing great stories from our PLN with he world around us. After a year, the time constraints of running a monthly magazine took its toll on us as we tackled new challenges and built new schools. We had hoped to move to an every other month format still wanting to bring stories to everyone out there looking for educational inspiration. After some long breaks and deep discussions, we have finally decided that quality is much more preferred over quantity. Below you will find our new schedule effective this year.

The thought of stopping Project PLN was never really an option for us because we just love sharing too much and we want to give others the chance to share with everyone as well. Although we are the editors of Project PLN, we feel this is everyone’s magazine. We are excited to move into a more structured format to all of our readers a chance to submit their ideas and see the thoughts on their PLN here.

We might just make another creepy video for old time’s sake.

Thanks again for all of the support over the past couple of years. We hope you stick around for the new changes.

-Nick and Kelly

Editors – Project PLN

Publication schedule for a year:

Call for Articles: June

Issue 1: August –

Call for Articles: August

Issue 2: November

Call for Articles: November

Issue 3: February

Call for Articles: February

Issue 4: May

In other Nerdy Teacher News, @thenerdyteacher and @tgwynn have a new project: The Nerdy Cast.  How those boys have time for this, I will never know!  I will say, that I will happily sit on the receiving end of their genius.

Web Adventures: Explore Science

Posted by admin | Posted in Analyze, Apply, Evaluate, Interactive Whiteboard, Knowledge (remember), Middle/High School, Science, Secondary Elementary, Teacher Resources, Understand (describe, explain), Websites | Posted on 21-03-2012

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What it is:  Web Adventures-Explore Science is a site by Rice University.  Web Adventures lets students explore science-one game at a time.  Each adventure has a section dedicated to students and a section dedicated to teachers who are using the adventures in the classroom.  In the Cool Science Careers section, students can experience what it means to take on science as a career.  They can go through Profession Pathfinder to see which science careers best match their personality based on their answers to career interest questions.  Students can select from five different science career fields to virtually try out activities that are typical for the career.  With Zoom In, students can learn about different science jobs and read interviews with real scientists.  In the CSI: Experience, students learn all about what it takes to be a forensic scientist.  There are four cases that students can work to solve.  As they solve the crimes, they will learn about forensic biology, ballistics, toxicology, medical examination, fingerprint analysis, digital forensics, fire investigation, and facial reconstruction.  In the MedMyst section, students will use the scientific method and scientific process to investigate infectious disease outbreaks.  Students can work with the N-Squad forensic scientists to solve an alcohol related crime.  Throughout the game, students learn what alcohol does to the digestive, circulatory and nervous systems.  In the Reconstructors series of games, students can learn about the health effects of drug abuse while learning neuroscience.

These games are really entertaining while giving students information and understanding of science in body systems, drugs, environmental science, forensic science, infectious diseases, science careers, and the scientific method.

How to integrate Web Adventures: Explore Science into the classroom: This is a fun find.  Web Adventures Explore Science, helps students explore science in a new way.  I like that the focus of the site isn’t just to deliver information.  The mission is really to engage students in science and reveal how science is used in a variety of careers to solve problems.  The games drop students into the middle of a mystery, their job is to help solve crimes, discover answers and connect the dots.
This is a fun site for middle and high school students to explore.  It can be used to introduce a new scientific discipline or topic, to help students dig deeper in the learning and skills they are getting in science class, or to help them discover what it means to be a scientist.  The games are best in a computer lab or 1 to 1 environment where students have access to a computer for an extended amount of time.  They aren’t really short enough to be a center on classroom computers.  A whole class could explore and solve together using a projector-connected computer or interactive whiteboard.  While not ideal, it would allow them to pick up the benefits of the adventures.
At Anastasis, we started “crave” classes.  These are classes that we offer every Wednesday afternoon.  Students are given a catalog of classes at the beginning of a 5 week block.  They get to choose which class they would like to enroll in for the 5 week period based on what they are “craving.”  Our teachers choose an area of passion to teach.  @bestmscott is currently holding a forensic science class for her crave.  The kids are LOVING it!  After learning about some forensic science, they set out to solve some mysteries.  I have a feeling they would geek out over the CSI adventure on Web Adventures Explore Science.  Today the kids were creating their very own mysteries that needed forensic science to be solved.  I was teaching my own class so I didn’t get to see how the whole lesson fleshed out.  What I do know: kids were taking my finger print, asking me to pop balloons covertly, and creating a list of suspects.  Their classmates will have the job of using the forensic clues to solve the mystery.  SO stinking cool.  Our students are the best.  Our teachers are out of this world.  I have to brag on them!

Tips: Web Adventures has a new iPad app called NeuroKnowledge that quizzes students on scientific understanding.  The app is free in the app store.

Please leave a comment and share how you are using Web Adventures: Explore Science in  your classroom!

BBC-History of the World

Posted by admin | Posted in Analyze, Create, Evaluate, History, Interactive Whiteboard, Language Arts, Middle/High School, Secondary Elementary, Teacher Resources, Understand (describe, explain), Websites | Posted on 19-03-2012

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What it is:  The BBC is full of fantastic resources for learning.  Recently, I came across the British Museum’s History of the World.  It is WAY cool!  This is like a fantastic virtual museum collection that makes it possible for students to see primary sources up close.  Each piece in the collection adds a little bit to the story of the history of the world.  The objects in the collection each have a quick overview about the piece, and the option of delving in deeper and learning more.  Objects can be filtered by location, theme, culture, size, color, material, contributor and BBC area.  This is a really neat way to view and explore world history.  SO much better than the dry textbook fact collection that I had.

How to integrate BBC History of the World into the classroom: The BBC History of the World collection is a great way for students to explore and engage history.  Being able to go through the objects and primary sources connects them to story and people from another time in a way a textbook just can’t touch.  This is a fantastic place for students to begin an exploration of history; to find an object that “speaks” to them and learn more about the object and the people who created the object.  This site gives students the opportunity to engage history.
Instead of starting a history course chronologically, let students select an object or piece from the collection that interests them.  Let them learn more about the object, the people and the time period that the object was created in.  Let them teach others about the object and its importance.  How was it that this object was so well preserved? What does it tell us about that period?  What stories does it tell?  Give students creative license to do this.  Do they want to make it a creative writing piece where the object is personified? Do they want to write a letter as if they were from that period of time explaining the object?  Do they want to create a mockumentary about the object?  Whatever they do, place the object, along with the others chosen by the class, on a timeline so that students can get a sense for where their object falls in history.  Let the kids teach each other and explain why they chose the object they did.  Not only will kids be exploring world history, they will be learning something about each other.
Write a class story with a common thread.  Create a time traveling team as a class, these are the characters that visit the time period where they find the objects that they have chosen from the BBC History of the world site.  Write the beginning and ending of the story as a whole class.  Each student can be responsible for writing their own “chapter” where the time traveling team visits their time period.
I didn’t enjoy history when I was in school.  It wasn’t ever presented as a story (which I love).  Instead I got a collection of facts, dates and names to memorize for the next test.  I had a really hard time understanding why anyone would be passionate about history.  It wasn’t until I was an adult that I realized that history is really just a set of rich stories that we try to piece together to help us understand who we are in place and time.  That I enjoy. That I can get behind.  Help your students discover the story in history!

Tips: At the bottom of the window, you will see a back and forward arrow.  This lets students time travel.

Please leave a comment and share how you are using BBC History of the World in  your classroom!

Draw a Stickman has a new episode!

Posted by admin | Posted in Create, inspiration, Interactive book, Interactive Whiteboard, iPod, Language Arts, Middle/High School, Primary Elementary, Secondary Elementary, Websites | Posted on 16-03-2012

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What it is:  Draw a Stickman is a fun little site that I wrote about last year here.  They have a brand new episode of our little stickman friend!  For those of you who haven’t seen it (or don’t remember), Draw a Stickman is a delightful place for kids to be creative, read, imagine and draw.  Students are given sets of directions that they must complete to help out the hero of the story, a stickman figure that they created.  Everything that they draw comes to life and interacts with the rest of what is on the screen.  Brilliant!  These mini interactive stories that have students reading and following directions, solving mysteries, thinking creatively and solving problems. The new episode is just as charming as the last!

How to integrate Draw a Stickman into the classroom:Draw a Stickman is a fun interactive site that uses student creations to tell a story.  Students can complete the interactive on individual computers, iDevices (the site works great!), interactive whiteboards, or classroom computers.

Aside from just fun practice at following instructions, Draw a Stickman would be a great fictional story prompt.  Students have the bones of a story and can fill in details, vivid verbs, adjectives, etc. to tell the story.  Students can focus on fleshing out their hero, the plot of the story, the details, the setting, etc.  Students can come up with a moral of a story that they add in the customized ending.  This link can be sent as a tweet, facebook link, or in an email to accompany the story they have created.  These stories would be fun to share as a class…how many different stories did students come up with using the same base?

On an interactive whiteboard, students can go through the story together, labeling the different parts of the story (beginning, problem, climax, resolution, ending).  This interactive can help students identify parts in a story including setting, characters and plot.

Tips: After you have gone through Draw a Stickman, you can personalize the message at the end and share.  Add any two lines of text that you wish.  This could be a fun way to reveal messages to your students!
Draw a Stickman is also in the App store on iTunes!

Please leave a comment and share how you are using ClassConnect in  your classroom!

ClassConnect: all-in-one digital organization for the classroom

Posted by admin | Posted in Classroom Management, Middle/High School, Primary Elementary, Secondary Elementary, Teacher Resources, web tools | Posted on 14-03-2012

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What it is:  ClassConnect is a website I have written about in the past (here) that has made some great changes that make it worth taking another look!  ClassConnect is a fantastic one-stop-shop for collaborating, storing, and organizing your life as an educator.  The real powerhouse of ClassConnect is the ability to build, organize and share lessons and resources easy.  You won’t be pressed to remember where you stored everything (dropbox, diigo, pinterest, twitter favorites) because with ClassConnect you can store it all in one place.  Even better, you can search and use lessons and resources that other teachers have built.  The collaborative nature of ClassConnect makes it easy to work together on planning out and sharing learning.  ClassConnect even started a great movement called “United We Teach” encouraging educators to share more.  ClassConnect is super easy to use, just find lesson plans and snap them into your lessons…there is no need for downloads!

You can set up ClassConnect to automatically notify your colleagues, students and parents when you make updates.  What’s even handier is that everything is viewable on computers, iPads (woohoo) and smartphones.  This makes it easy to plan and use from everywhere!  The lessons in ClassConnect aren’t only files, they are also interactive websites, games and videos.  Everything in one place.  Gotta love that! When a lesson gets updated, everyone who is shared on the lesson gets updated.

Did I mention it is free?  It is ;)

How to integrate ClassConnect into the classroom: ClassConnect is a no-brainer for introducing to your classroom routine.  Who could argue with an all-in-one organizational tool? ClassConnect makes it SO simple to share resources with colleagues, parents and students.  Think about how this could transform differentiation in your classroom.  Instead of just using the “one-size-fits-all” differentiation that curriculum offers (I hesitate to even call that differentiation…what a joke!), you can create folders of lessons; resources; and learning that perfectly fit the needs of your students.  Because they are so easily shared, you can bring everyone who needs to be on board, on board.  Students can go right to ClassConnect to view what you have stored for them there.  Parents can go to ClassConnect for additional support and ideas for furthering learning at home.
The colleague sharing shouldn’t be overlooked.  Imagine how much richer learning could be if we were sharing our best finds with each other freely and in an easy to access location.  Changing the world here.
***By the way, ClassConnect has a truly AWESOME start up story.  This isn’t just some company. ClassConnect was/is created by a student who wanted school to look different. Be sure to read Eric’s story on the About page.
Tips: For every colleague you invite that signs up, ClassConnect will give you BOTH 500mb more of free storage (you start out with 1GB)!  That is a pretty sweet deal!

Please leave a comment and share how you are using ClassConnect in  your classroom!

Changemakers

Posted by admin | Posted in Anastasis Academy, Apply, Create, education reform, inspiration, Middle/High School, Primary Elementary, Secondary Elementary, Understand (describe, explain) | Posted on 12-03-2012

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I have to brag a bit on the students and staff at Anastasis.  Last week, we turned school into a mock sweatshop where students learned what it would be like to be child laborers.  The adults were mean.  No bathroom breaks, no drinks, no smiles.  It was a rough day for all of us.  The kids spent the half day of school learning about child labor and then breaking bricks in our sweat shop.  The transformation in their understanding of what 200 million children around the world endure daily was astonishing.  They were able to put into words how helpless they felt. How tired, hungry, sad, angry, frustrated they were.  How mad they were when the result of their hard labor wasn’t enough to feed their family.

Lessons we learned:

  • As a teacher it is HARD to be that “cruel” to your students.  It was hard not to give them a smile of reassurance, a kind word or a pat on the back.  It was hard to be that uncaring.
  • We all learned that many of the brands we purchase every day employ child labor.
  • We learned that poverty is a major contributing factor to child labor.
  • We learned that some of these kids are considered lower than the livestock…they are expendable.
  • We learned that our students are compassionate and care about one another.
  • We learned that we have to be the change we want to see in the world.

As a result of the day, @leadingwlove’s class decided to start a foundation.  They are calling it the LSGW foundation and it is worth checking out!  I am SO proud of these students for going above and beyond just learning and into action.  They aren’t using age as an excuse and they aren’t willing to wait for someone else to fix the problem.  These are 11 and 12 year old students.  Changemakers.

I wrote more about the details of the day here:  From Out of the Dust, Dreams

Grammaropolis: Personified Parts of Speech

Posted by admin | Posted in Analyze, Apply, Create, Evaluate, Interactive book, Interactive Whiteboard, iPod, Language Arts, Middle/High School, Music, Primary Elementary, Secondary Elementary, Teacher Resources, Understand (describe, explain), video, Websites | Posted on 05-03-2012

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What it is:  Grammaropolis is a site I have long been a fan of.  I’ve written about it in the past in these posts Grammaropolis recently got a significant upgrade with TONS of new, great features.  The site now includes character descriptions for nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, pronouns, conjunctions, prepositions and interjections.  In addition to the great descriptions, each character includes a song, videos, book, games and, soon, quizzes.  Not all of this content is free, but there is enough free content to be useful in every classroom no matter the budget.  All of the content associated with the Noun character is free.  Every other character includes the character description and book for free.  The music, videos, quizzes and games are “extras” that are available by subscription.  You can get your classroom a Grammaropolis passport to access all of the content including the ability to follow and track your students progress within Grammaropolis.

How to integrate Grammaropolis into the classroom:  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, the Grammaropolis approach to the parts of speech is completely brilliant!  I love the way Grammaropolis gives the different parts of speech a “face” and an attitude.  For those of us who learn through story, Grammaropolis gives us a unique connection to the parts of speech.  The books and videos are fabulous.  They are extremely well done, and take the characters a step further by dropping them into a story.
The characters interact true to their characteristics.  For example, in the “Noun Places” video, Noun sits looking through a photo album of places.  As he flips the pages, he names the places.  “Antarctica,” he says.  Adjective, who is sitting next to Noun, exclaims, “beautiful!”  Verb agrees, “very.”  The videos and books are so well thought out and really demonstrate to students how the parts of speech are used.  So smart!
Grammaropolis can be used as a whole class using an interactive whiteboard or projector-connected computer.  Learn about, and explore, the different parts of speech as a class.  Choose a new part of speech character each week and encourage students to spot the part of speech character in their own writing with a colored pencil or marker that matches the character color.  Books can be read as a class on the big screen.  Each book begins with the cast of characters with a short description of each part of speech.  As you read together, discuss the way that the part of speech characteristics are revealed by their interactions with other characters.  The same can be done with the videos!
Students can play the games on classroom computers as a center, or on individual computers in a lab or 1:1 setting.  After your students familiarize themselves with the parts of speech characters, they can write their own creative stories featuring the characters.  This is great for older students!  Students will have to remember that the characters have to act in ways that are true to their nature.
Tips:  There are a few different options for a Grammaropolis subscription, the options are very reasonably priced.  Grammaropolis also has a brand new store that has some fun grammar shwag.  If you have an iDevice, check out the Grammaropolis app!

Please leave a comment and share how you are using Grammaropolis in  your classroom!

A must read by Seth Godin: Stop Stealing Dreams #free!

Posted by admin | Posted in Anastasis Academy, education reform, Grade Level, inspiration, Middle/High School, Primary Elementary, Secondary Elementary, Teacher Resources | Posted on 01-03-2012

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What it is: Seth Godin is one of my favorite authors and bloggers to read.  He so often has insight that cuts right to the heart of a matter.  What I appreciate about Seth’s writing most, is the way he can say things in a way that people can hear and accept.  Seth has a brand new digital “book” (manifesto) called Stop Stealing Dreams.  I love the dedication that he begins with: “Dedicated to every teacher who cares enough to change the system and to every student brave enough to stand up and speak up.”  The “stand up” stands out to me because that is what we aim to do every single day at Anastasis.  In fact, we chose the name Anastasis because it translates to “stand again” or “resurrection” from Greek.  That is exactly what we aim to do every single day…help kids stand again in their learning.  Now you know where our Twitter hashtag comes from. :)

Seth poignantly points out that “Instead of amplifying dreams, school destroys them.”  That is a hard statement for those of us in education. We sign up for this crazy ride to help dreams flourish and yet because of the system of education, end up doing precisely the opposite.  It is hidden.  We don’t set out to do this…truly we don’t.  But consider the way that we push kids through education and tell them what the most important things are for them.  Students get the message loud and clear: check these boxes, take these classes, pass these tests.  Do it so you can get into high school.  Do it so that you can go to college. Do it so that you can get a job.  What message are we really sending?  “You and your dreams are not enough.”

I don’t want to give too much of the manifesto away because I think that it is worth reading for every teacher, administrator and parent.  Seth offers this download for free.  The guy knows how to spread ideas!   The point of the manifesto is not to leave you feeling hopeless over the current situation of education, but asking questions and encouraging us to say “why not?”  Print the book out, read it on a digital device, and share it…share it widely!  The first step to a revolution is spreading the idea and opening door to the possibility.

How to integrate Stop Stealing Dreams into the classroom:  Read Stop Stealing Dreams.  Highlight it, earmark pages, write in the margins, challenge yourself.  Then share it with everyone you know.  I find that it is easy to find teachers who are ready to hear this message and act on it.  It’s been my experience that parents are a little harder to convince.  We are all “experts” on education because we have all been through it.  We have all of these assumptions that we know exactly what it should look like and even assume that the classroom model has been perfected.  This manifesto helps challenge those assumptions and come up with new ideas apart from the assumptions.
@matthewquigely had our Jr. High students download Stop Stealing Dreams today.  Students have assumptions about education too.  I’m excited to hear the kids reflections on the manifesto.  They will have a completely different view, different questions, and come up with their own fantastic ideas about how education can stop stealing dreams.   I would be interested in having the kids come up with a manifesto of their own!
Tips:  When you are finished reading Stop Stealing Dreams, I highly recommend the next books on your reading list be those mentioned in the manifesto.  If you haven’t read them, they are a must!

Please leave a comment and share how you are using Stop Stealing Dreams in  your classroom!

Edible Schoolyard Project and Truck Farms

Posted by admin | Posted in Analyze, Anastasis Academy, Apply, Character Education, Create, Evaluate, inspiration, Math, Middle/High School, Primary Elementary, Science, Secondary Elementary, Teacher Resources, Websites | Posted on 28-02-2012

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What it is:  There are some things that I think should be essential to every school experience.  Some place where kids can sink their hands down into the earth and have a part in growing something is one of those essentials.  Edible Schoolyard is an incredible site with a goal to bring children into a positive relationship with food by connecting it with nature and culture.  The great part: good health is the outcome.  The Edible Schoolyard Project shares a food curriculum for schools around the world to put into practice.  I share their dream of making an “edible education” as part of the core of every school in the country.  I love that Edible Schoolyard wants to provide every student with a free nutritious lunch and interactive experiences in the classroom, kitchen and garden…transforming the health and values of every child.

So…what exactly does the Edible Schoolyard project do?

  • Maps the grassroots efforts of edible education programs around the United States.
  • Gathers and shares lessons and best practices of school gardens, kitchens, and lunch programs.
  • Documents 15 years of Edible Schoolyards.
  • Trains educators at the Edible Schoolyard Academy.
How to integrate Edible Schoolyard Project into the classroom:  The Edible Schoolyard Project has some excellent lessons, tips, guidance, and encouragement for starting an Edible Schoolyard Project at your own school.  The great thing about the resource collection on Edible Schoolyard Project is that it has been created by educators.  The lesson plans aren’t just focused on food, they are all tied in to a variety of disciplines…you know, like it happens in real life.
There is something so human and important about growing food.  It is something that we have separated ourselves from and as a result, we are happy to stuff ourselves with a combination of chemicals and additives.  I have taught students who truly didn’t know that potatoes grew.  Seriously.
At Anastasis, we are working to start our own Edible Schoolyard Project.  Our challenge: we lease space from a church. There is no little piece of land that we can call our own.  We don’t let anything stop us at Anastasis, we just have to be more creative.  In the past few weeks our students have been composting in 56 2-liter bottles.  It can be stinky…but the kids are learning so much about decomposition!  My next plan for our own little edible school yard project:
Truck Farm.  I learned about Truck Farms from a way cool little restaurant here in Colorado called Beatrice and Woodsley.  They take advantage of Truck Farms for some of their produce.  Brilliant idea.  A truck farm is an old pick up truck whose bed has been retrofitted as a container garden.  The result: fresh produce that is mobile.  SO great for a school that puts everything on wheels!  While it isn’t exactly like getting your hands into a plot of land, students will be able to have their own little kitchen garden that they can grow.
****As a side note, if anyone has an old pickup they would like to donate to Anastasis or help funding this project, please let me know!
Tips:  Explore the Movement is a section on the Edible Schoolyard Project where those in the US can find others in their state to network with.

Please leave a comment and share how you are using Edible Schoolyard Project in  your classroom!

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