October 18, 2018 -- The Project School is honored to have received the Old National Bank "Tools for Schools" grant for the fourth year in a row. This unrestricted grant was awarded to TPS after a regional voting competition. The school with the greatest number of votes in each of Old National Bank's 14 regions received $1000.

The Project School is in its 10th year of operation as a nonprofit, chartered public school. It was founded by local public school educators who care deeply about education, and who share a vision for what innovative, whole-child education should look like for all children. TPS currently serve 279 diverse children from kindergarten through grade 8, including 25% students with special learning needs, and 35% children experiencing poverty. All students in this inclusive school are treated as individuals with unique learning needs and goals. Enrollment is determined by a lottery system that is open to all families who reside in Indiana.

Annually, approximately 300 children remain on the school's waiting list, due to limited physical space, many with special learning needs and socio-economic challenges. The leadership of TPS is saddened that they are unable to serve a greater number of deserving families who desire its heart-mind-voice educational vision. Since first opening its doors, the goal of TPS has been to educate and impact the lives of as many marginalized children in the community as possible. As TPS crosses the threshold of a decade of successful service, they are strategically prepared to now expand their programs in order to benefit many more children and families, and to continue to strengthen Bloomington’s innovative educational offerings.

TPS has been setting aside non-designated fundraising income to put toward its future implementation of an expansion of the school. The four Old National Bank Tools For Schools grants are also helping to serve this purpose.

July 2, 2018 -- Tarrey Banks, PhD -- one of the co-founders of TPS, and one of the co-lead teachers of the 7/8 class -- recently published an article in Green Schools Catalyst Quarterly on the P3 (problem, pleace and project based) work done on Urban Homesteading during the 2017-2018 academic year. This journal is the first peer-reviewed digital magazine dedicated to green, healthy, sustainable K-12 schools.

Click here for the complete article.

Brittani Howell, Herald Times
Chickens in The City: Students Learn About Urban Homesteading

June 11, 2018 -- It was a little red hen who first figured out how to use the ladder in her new coop in Tonda Radewan’s backyard on Wednesday.

Six Bloomington Project School students cheered as the hen wobbled up the ramp to the covered loft in the coop, a few feet above the grass. Four other chickens watched from the ground, taking steps as they explored the coop.

Having been raised from a day old in the students’ classroom, the five birds had never seen grass before.

Other groups in the same seventh- and eighth-grade class built raised garden beds, learned about food preservation and canning, or studied water collection through gutter systems and rain barrels. One group explored composting with the help of worms; another assembled a beehive and taught others how to introduce bees to the hive.

The projects put a cap on the students’ yearlong study on food and urban homesteading.

Teachers Scott Wallace and Tarrey Banks came up with the project during a weeklong retreat before the beginning of the 2017-18 academic year. They wanted a comprehensive project that was focused on a place — in this case, Bloomington — and “real issues that folks are dealing with,” Banks said. They settled on the process of how food gets to people’s tables, and some of the complications that come with America’s large-scale food production system.

For the first half of the year, students read a young readers’ version of Michael Pollan’s 2006 book “The Omnivore’s Dilemma” to learn about food and agriculture in America. They talked about animal welfare, government subsidies for farms, farm labor rights and the industrial food system. Banks and Wallace then posed the question: Could raising at least some of your own food make a difference?

To find out, the kids split into groups of six to work on different kinds of “urban homesteading,” including three groups that raised chickens and built chicken coops.

The project brought in elements of science and social studies.

Math and engineering came into play as the students built their coops and garden boxes. Students even got to practice entrepreneurship: The teachers put out a call on the school’s Facebook page for anyone interested in trying urban homesteading themselves, and chose 10 “clients” from among 60 applicants. Students in the gardening and poultry groups worked with the clients to get specifications for their raised beds and chicken coops.

They designed the products and received a budget for the construction at Wallace’s home, where he has several acres where students could work. The coop delivered on Tuesday took more than four school days to complete, and has 60 square feet of space with a loft shelter and nesting box.

“At some point, they started to feel adult-like tension: some stress about budget, some stress about time,” said Banks.

But the client thought the end result was worth it — and not just for the chicken coop.

“You’re learning a skill, you’re working together, you’re learning how to use tools,” said Radewan, a Project School parent. She and her partner, Brad Hawley, signed up because she believed in the project but also because they’ve been practicing a bit of urban homesteading themselves. Their compost bin sat next to a vegetable garden, not far from a new bee box.

Wallace said Radewan’s chickens will likely lay one egg per day, per chicken for a total of five eggs a day, seven days a week.

“You can make a pretty big impact on your food,” he said. And when the chickens have aged out of regular laying, they can be kept as pets or, if Radewan chooses, eaten.

To complete their projects, students must apply what they have learned and write a persuasive paper on whether they think urban homesteading is an effective alternative to the industrial food system.

Jaidyn Cooper is convinced. She chose to study poultry to learn something new and to work with her hands to help build the chicken coop. At the very least, she said, raising your own chickens ensures they’re being treated humanely rather than living in overcrowded, unhealthy conditions. Plus, she said, it tastes better.

“I think it’s a lot of work,” she said. “... But I think overall, it’s really worth it. You don’t really see the difference in what you eat until you try it.” She’s started to ask her parents to only buy meat from certain brands, or the farmers’ market. When she’s old enough, she wants to join a co-op such as Bloomingfoods.

Nathan Jimenez didn’t need any convincing. His family keeps chickens, and he swears a fresh backyard egg tastes much better than one bought from the store. He joined the project to lend his expertise to his classmates, but now that it’s over, he’s become more curious about how different elements of urban homesteading can come together: water systems that hydrate gardens as well as animals, chicken waste that can be reincorporated as fertilizer and eggshells that can add to the compost.

“It’s like a chain reaction, I guess,” he said.

June 1, 2018 -- The Project School is honored to have received funding from the Indiana Department of Education to fund innovation in education for the 2018-2019 academic year. The $46,000 grant will provide ongoing professional development with a focus on Universal Design for Learning. The grant will also allow TPS to acquire up-to-date technology devices for use in classrooms. The grant will allow TPS to create web-based, on-demand resources for teachers, and will expand the role and increase the time for the onsite instructional technology specialist to develop a more user-friendly and meaningful comprehensive data system, providing targeted training and professional development. Through the IDOE grant, TPS will also be able to explore the role of design-thinking and the makerSpace movement as a means of increasing students’ engagement with literacy and math content areas as a way of expanding entry points for learning. 

May 20, 2018 -- Thanks to the generosity of visionary community donors the Stalter Family, TPS is now the owner of a double-lot green space at 510 South Washington Street, 2 blocks from the school's main building. The space will be utilized by the school as an outdoor learning and play space, and eventually will be cultivated to become a learning garden, an outdoor performance space, and a neighborhood-accessible park. TPS plans to initially fence the space to create safety for their students.

This is the first gift of property that The Project School has received. According to Catherine Diersing, TPS co-founder and school leader, "We are extremely honored and excited to have been the recipient of this tremendous gift. Not only does it provide exciting possibilities for us to expand upon our mission, vision and programs. It also provides us with a new kind of equity, which we will be able to leverage in the future in order to secure funding for our dream of school expansion. And it allows us to continue with our vision to create functional beauty for the community. We are truly grateful to the kindness of the Stalter family."

The gift of the green space was unveiled during Project Celebration, TPS' annual fundraising gala, held this year at Ivy Tech Community College. The Stalters were in attendance when the gift was announced to the community. The room of 200+ guests erupted in applause.

May 10, 2018 -- As part of the annual IU Day, students and staff at TPS were invited to participate in a special IU project called Stories from Home. Similar to Story Corp, it involves audio interviews in which individuals, duos or groups share interesting stories about their passions, their work, their service, their family, and other things that inspire them. A number of our students and staff chose to be interviewed, and IU has now begun airing the selected stories from The Project School/Stories from Home collaboration! They are starting out by airing a conversation featuring Ms. Cathy, Mr. Tarrey, and Ms. Heather. In upcoming days during the month of May, stories from other staff and from TPS students will also be highlighted. Here are mediums where you can find and listen to them!

Stories from Home online

Our thanks to IU for including TPS in this meaningful project!