Humanities in the garden and kitchen (ESY Part 4)

Something garden educators believe:  all subjects can be taught in the garden.  Something I believe:  this is true, but some subjects are easier to teach in the garden than others.  Science and math come easily, and language arts is not hard to incorporate either.  I think the most challenging curricular integration is social science.  It takes a lot of planning to align lessons, plant the historical crops and create the wrap-around materials to deliver the material.  Edible Schoolyard excels at this.  Here is one of their staff laying out how all of their garden and kitchen lessons match up with 6th, 7th and 8th grade social science.

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Then they walked us through one of their lessons.  As you can see below, there are numerous concepts involved in teaching the history of rice in China.  (This is hand-drawn and colored—again, back to beauty!)

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Then they laid out all of the vegetables we’d be cooking with (beauty, again)….

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And we got cooking in our teams….

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..to create the most beautiful and delicious platter of fried rice, with veggies from the garden.IMG_6497

Here’s another lesson they teach:

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We rotated through various stations to learn this content, one of which was a snack-making station, which involved amaranth from the garden.

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It goes on….here we ate a meal in the dining commons that represents the Columbian Exchange.  Like I said, amazing.

Activities in the garden also teach history.  Here is a lesson on various techniques ancient cultures used to move things.  After this mini-lesson, students were challenged…IMG_6412

 

…to move various heavy items using this pile of stuff.  History, engineering, experiential learning…oh my.

 

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Other activities work as scavenger hunts in the garden:

IMG_6414Can an average school garden replicate this?  It would be very challenging without significant resources, but nonetheless I remain inspired to think through connections between the garden and the social sciences in the coming year.  It’s always helpful and inspiring to look at the “best of the best”—thank you Edible Schoolyard for pioneering this work!

“Everything in its place” (ESY Part 3)

This principle is at work everywhere at the Edible Schoolyard, and I’m certain it contributes to a well-organized, efficient, safe environment in the garden and the kitchen.

First the garden—color-labeled tools on a mobile cart.

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I need to create something like this!

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Reusable signs for the various crops they grow:

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And the kitchen:

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ESY staff repeatedly say that the kitchen is a “stone age” kitchen.  There are very few electric appliances and lots of hand-powered presses, grinders, etc.

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Cubbies for backpacks and jackets in the kitchen keep everything tidy near the workspaces.

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Each table had a “toolbox” of all of the kitchen items students need to cook.  Favorite new tool?  The wavy knife!

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I left inspired to think through the “systems” in our own garden and brainstorm how to better organize them!

 

 

 

“Beauty is a language of care” (ESY Part 2)

My 6-day experience at the Edible Schoolyard Academy (ESY) is simply too big of a story to tell into one post so I’m breaking it all into my “take-aways.”  The first is a principle of Alice Water’s that touches every part of the ESY program:  we show students we love them by creating beautiful spaces for them to eat, learn, and live in. (Perhaps this applies to many/all areas of life?) Let me show you how this plays out…

We were welcomed by this booth at the opening reception…

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…and fed things like this…

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Freshly gathered and arranged from the garden show up everywhere.

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Notice the handmade “papel picado” strung across the classrooms (also in the kitchen classroom.)

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I could go on posting my flower photos, but you get the idea.

This commitment to beauty is also seen on the handwritten, illustrated recipes used in the cooking class.  (We even had a session with Chef Ester on how to whimsically illustrate a recipe.)

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…and also in the signage for just about everything:

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Even the placemats, which connected our meals to the 6-8th grade humanities lessons they teach—lessons also taught at their school.

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At the end of each cooking lesson, students clear the workspace, set the table with a tablecloth, and then go to the side table (below) to pick out elements for a centerpiece.

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Check out the sign!  Enough said.IMG_6484This emphasis was encouraging to me because in the Julian Elementary Garden, one of our 8 components of our mission statement is: We grow beauty.  As such, we have had lessons during which we transplanted donated irises to the front of the school with Miss Sally to beautify the parking lot, learned about flower shows and then picked daffodils for our local show in Julian Town Hall, and made wreaths and flower arrangements to place around campus.  All of this takes time away from “edibles,” but I am reminded it’s incredibly important and we are right on track!

 

 

Edible Schoolyard Academy (ES Part I)

Before I plunge into all that I learned, let me explain the basics of the Edible Schoolyard (ES.)  It is a project started 20 years ago by Chef Alice Waters at Martin Luther King Middle School in Berkeley, California.

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It has a one-acre garden…

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with a beautiful central teaching space: straw bales in a ring under a ramada with kiwi vines…

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…a small but efficiently run greenhouse with timed irrigation….

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….a compost row, when these very hot piles are turned every two weeks, resulting in finished compost in 8…

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…a well-organized tool shed (more on that later)…

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…outdoor oven…

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…and much more (veggies, flowers, fruit and nut trees, olive grove, rainwater harvesting, etc.)

They also have a beautiful kitchen and cooking education building…

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…a peek inside (more on this later too)

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..all of which is based on Alice’s principles of an “edible education,” spelled out on the side of the building.

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Take a look at the jaw-dropping dining commons…

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…where we ate delicious things such as…

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This program is run by a team of garden managers and interns, head chef and cooking instructors, program administrators and office staff, Americorps volunteers, summer interns, and consultants, all of whom we met the first day of the Academy.  They run the Academy once a year, for about a 100 attendees, to share all of their secrets.

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St. Alice also spoke, emphasizing her big, audacious idea: a free, delicious, sustainable school lunch for every child in America.

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Then we broke into three cohorts, by region, and spent one full day on each rotation: garden, kitchen, and administration.  We also had panels on fundraising, the farm to school movement and school lunch reform and one night went out for an a-w-e-s-o-m-e dinner in Oakland at Pizzaola.  Our days were full–example of garden day below:

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My next four posts will talk about the Academy thematically, starting with one of Alice’s main principles: “Beauty is the language of care.”  Stay tuned….meanwhile, happy, fuzzy picture of me by the lovely, handmade ES banner.

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Announcing our newest grant….

The Julian Elementary Garden is pleased excited thrilled beyond ecstatic to announce that we were recently awarded a Sage Garden Project Grant.  It’s a bit dreamy.  Listen to what we receive from this lovely foundation:

-Funding for my garden educator position for next year

-A fully equipped cooking cart that can be wheeled into the classroom for demonstrations

-Access to all of their garden and cooking lessons

-Tuition and expenses at the Edible Schoolyard Academy—an comprehensive, 5-day academy built around the program at King Middle School.  King has an extraordinary garden, kitchen and cooking program fully integrated into their 6th, 7th and 8th grade humanities classes.  It was founded by Alice Waters, the owner of a French restaurant in Berkeley (Chez Panisse) and an internationally known speaker, writer on food and justice and all-around rockstar.

The academy took place last week in Berkeley, and it worked perfectly for me to attend.  Summers ago, my family had made a stop at this famous school garden and kitchen to look around.  The kitchen was locked but I snapped photos which are catalogued on this blog under the “children’s garden ideas” tab.  This time I spent five days learning, often experientially, about their garden, kitchen, cooking classes, dining commons, and school lunch.  It was completely amazing.  So amazing that I’ll be posting about it in a series of posts throughout the summer. For now, back to Sage.  None of this would have been possible without them, and our district is profoundly grateful for their support.  Another thing we “won” with this grant: inclusion in this cool cohort of grant recipients. I look forward to learning from them in the year to come. IMG_6565Sage Garden Project Grant Cohort at the Edible Schoolyard

From my little bag of tricks

Perhaps it’s a sign you’ve been doing something a while when you’ve collected your own little bag of tricks for doing things.  Here’s a peek at a few garden educator tips.

When you don’t have a lot of time to plant, and you want things to be relatively well spaced, I’ve discovered the beauty of plastic cutlery.  These little knives (very unsharp) were put in the bed before kids arrived.  Then kids were told to take a knife, swirl it around to make the correct planting depth, drop in the seed, and cover it back up with soil.  Then they discarded the knife in a pot.  Then we remember that a particular spot was already planted.

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A bag of old shoelaces on hand!   Used for tying watering cans to the fence, and everything else.

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One day I got really tired of saying “Take this shovel to the raised bed that used to have the snapdragons and is now sown with peas.”  It was then I hit upon (!) nailing a garden variety (!) house number to each raised bed.  Instructions are now much easier.  “You, take this to bed 3.  You, wait for me over at 6.”

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The secret to my success, both professionally and personally?  The clipboard.  I know, I know. I get asked all the time if I’m taking the census or training to be a camp counselor. But I love clipping lots of notes together, the moveable writing surface, etc.  In the garden, they are indispensable.  I clip together notes for volunteers, pass them out with guided activities for kids, you name it.

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Wreaths!  I have wire and forms in a box, ready to go at all times.  Making wreaths is such a great way to have student work with (touch, smell, see) seasonal foliage.  We make wreaths to go home, but I also have a few larger grapevine forms stored that we switch out every couple weeks and hang them on doors around campus.  Here students made wreaths to pass out at a school board meeting to thank them for all they do!

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Not every project has to go home with the students!  I tied all of these bird feeders up in the plum tree, and it made a beautiful display.

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Finally, get students to touch as many things in the garden as possible.  Impossible to take a whole class out to harvest kale for cooking later in the day?  Ask a teacher to “borrow”two students at a good point during the day to do the harvest.  Result?  Skyrocketing ownership.

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Permaculture, one swale at a time

Let’s start with a definition of permaculture, from http://www.permaculture.net, for all the newbies out there, including me.

Permaculture is a holistic approach to landscape design and human culture. It is an attempt to integrate several disciplines, including biology, ecology, geography, agriculture, architecture, appropriate technology, gardening and community building.

Guy Baldwin, Cortez Is, BC

It’s a Big Idea, an approach to gardening and life.  I have learned bits and pieces about the philosophy here and there, and even incorporated some principles.  Fellow MG Mary Prentice has taught me about fruit tree guilds–the concept of planting communities of plants around trees that fulfill different functions in the overall health of the “orchard.”  For example, we have comfrey planted around trees.  It is fast-growing plant that produces broad leaves that can be continually cut back, thus creating one’s own mulch “on site.”

This year a local permaculture-minded orchardist named Bob Riedy contacted me about volunteering in the garden.  Hooray!  I love these e-mails/phone calls.  Where do we start with additional permaculture principles, I said?  He suggested we look at where the water goes when it rains and think about how to capture it better.  We decided to build a “swale” or a trench at the base of the slope where our fruit trees sit.  With no gutters on this side of the building, the water pours down on the sidewalk, which already has little notches in it, draining water down the slope where the fruit trees are growing.

Because they study water issues in their grade, fifth graders took it on, digging the swale, measuring it, and seeding the mound with clover.

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May has been incredibly rainy, and so we’ve had many opportunities to see it in action.  You will see here that is has filled with water.  The idea is that the water will then seep in slowly to the area where the roots are, instead of draining away and out of the garden. Students were very excited to see all of the rain they “caught!”  Thanks Bob for your generous donation of time and expertise to work with our older elementary kids to teach effective and critical water conservation.

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