April 25, 2024

Greenburgh-North Castle United Teachers help students grow real world skills

Author: Emily Allen
Source:  NYSUT Communications
Greenburgh-North Castle United Teachers help students grow real world skills
Caption: Students aged 12-21 at Kenneth Clark Academy cultivate new experiences through project-based learning.

At Kenneth Clark Academy in Dobbs Ferry, educators are providing exciting opportunities for hands-on, project-based learning – and they’re not afraid to get those hands dirty.

Recently, Maksim Vasilevsky, a science teacher at KCA and member of Greenburgh-North Castle United Teachers, helped secure a grant from Home Depot to rejuvenate KCA’s gardens and natural wildlife habitat on campus and allow students to cultivate new experiences through project-based learning.

“We're really trying to look at our kids as individual people and what their strengths are,” Vasilevsky said. “Project-based learning gives them that opportunity to find a love of something. It's about giving them real world experience so they can take that outside of here and be active members of society. That's what we're really trying to achieve here.”

On a cloudy April day, KCA students shined as they worked with one another to breathe new life into their shared garden space. Armed with rakes, wheelbarrows, and other gardening gadgets, the kids were joined by school staff and employees from the Home Depot’s associate volunteer force, known as “Team Depot,” as they weeded and mulched, sowed and planted in the all organic, pesticide-free oasis.

KCA serves students aged 12-21 with intensive behavioral and learning needs. Special education teacher Loretta Acosta-Russell says many have difficulty with traditional classroom settings, paying attention to lectures and sitting for long periods of time.

“Out here they have an opportunity to shine in ways they don’t always do in the classroom, to be able to work as a team, to have a sense of community and to be able to learn a hands on job that can actually sustain them” she explained. “They are learning about how pollination works, how our food grows, nutrition and respect for the environment. We plant, we harvest, we cook, and they get to nurture. And because they're so involved, they take pride in what they're doing.”

Added a senior student, “Me personally, I have ADHD. I've always had a really hard time learning. I was always really distracted. And I think an environment like this is so much better for kids who are so easily susceptible to fall in between the cracks. Learning from textbooks isn't for everyone. It’s all about trying to find out what fits best for what student and building off that to help us discover who we are and become better people.”

And George, a ninth-grader at KCA, said any opportunity to get outside of the classroom is amazing. “It’s way better than looking at an iPad! More fun and engaging.”