|Tending plants in the greenhouse||Writing at the one Apple II computer|
The images here are from 25-year-old 35 mm slides, so they’re not very clear, but the story is still relevant.
In 1982-84 I did some work with the Mary Hooker elementary school in Hartford, CT. We had developed a computer program called Quill, which allowed children to write and send email. Our test classroom at the school was taught by Jim Aldridge, who learned a week before classes started that he was to teach 6th, not 3rd, grade, was to work with the local garden club on a greenhouse project, and was to be a test site for Quill.
Jim’s class had 35 students, all from Puerto Rican, Cuban, and African-American backgrounds. There was a high level of transiency. Some students spent large portions of the winter in Puerto Rico; others simply didn’t come to school. The school was under-resourced and had policies such as requiring students to specify in advance how many sheets of toilet paper they needed for a bathroom trip, since students weren’t trusted with full paper rolls.
As a fairly new teacher, Jim was naturally a bit concerned. We worked out a way to use the Quill Planner feature for students to do lab reports on the plants in the greenhouse. This at least made the innovations more manageable. As things settled down, we found that the greenhouse became a focal point for learning. Several students who were on the verge of dropping out stayed in the class so they could work with the greenhouse and the computer. Some of this work is described in Electronic Quills: A Situated Evaluation of Using Computers for Writing in Classrooms (B. C. Bruce & A. Rubin; pub: Erlbaum, 1993).
It’s exciting to see how far we’ve come with similar projects today, such as Urban Agriculture in the Context of Social Ecology at the Pedro Albizu Campos High School in Chicago, which exemplifies the idea of the school as social center.
Seed packets and Planner notes