About kidsingardens

Interested in everything that can happen in children's garden

Back to school, back to the garden

It’s still August, and we’ve been in school for 2.5 weeks.  (I know, I know.)  Nonetheless, it has been wonderful to be back out in the garden with the lovable children of Julian Elementary.

During our first afterschool garden class with the little ones, we read stories about grapes and then gobbled some up.  (It was my first time reading  Lousy, Rotten, Stinkin’ Grapes by Margie Palatini, and I recommend this retelling of an Aesop’s Fable—great vocabulary and beautiful illustrations.)  Though we had a lovely crop of grapes at the beginning of the school year, the kids have been loving them too as they walk by the fence line and so we supplemented with a donation of organic grapes from Miss Anne!  (A note on the whiteboard in the staff room turned up an offer of backyard produce in no time.)

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The older children in my second garden class painted letters for our Early Start Kindergarten alphabet garden and spruced up the compost bucket.  This was a good, quiet activity in the shade on a very hot day.  And helpful too—every year these letters have to be repainted.

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“S” for sage….sweltering…in the sun….

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In garden class during the school day, I worked with first grade students on understanding the recipe for compost using the visual aid I made below.  The laminated pictures stick to the black bin (foam board) with velcro:

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Then we headed out to the garden to practice sorting and adding ingredients at the bin and peeking in the bottom of the unit to see what became of last year’s school lunch.

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I heart generating excitement and mystery in the garden.  During our introduction to the lesson in the classroom, I told the kids to always be on the lookout for something new in the garden and wondered aloud if anyone would notice the brand new “Mr. Tree.”  Invariably someone would spot it on our way to the compost bins.

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(Sidenote:  Marisa gave me the pieces for this “tree face,” Chris hung it, and I love it so much.  It is my new goal to put a face on every juniper behind the fence line and create our own army of ents.)

While I had half of the class at the bins, the classroom teacher had the other half under the plum tree reading Compost Stew by Mary McKenna Siddals.

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With the two kindergarten classes, we talked about grapevines and our first garden rule for the year:  Be Safe.  We decided we would practice “being safe” by walking in the garden instead of running.

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While the classroom teacher read The Fox and the Grapes by Mark White, I toured the children around four major features in the garden, and we learned these vocabulary words:  Kandu Gate, rainwater, grapevine and gazebo.  At each location I gave a child a photo of the feature to hold (printed from a picture and laminated—I plan to make a set of these for everything in the garden for games and vocabulary review.)

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Then when we returned to the classroom for wrap-up, we sang:

“Have you ever seen a garden, a garden, a garden?  Have you every seen a garden? A garden like mine?  With a gate, and rainwater, and grapevines and a gazebo?  Have you ever seen a garden, a garden like mine? “

This is a song I will sing all year long with the younger grades, inserting new, seasonal vocabulary.

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It’s going to be a great year!  (Signing off with a picture of the invaluable cart I wheel around with everything I need in the classroom and out in the garden.)  BTW, as of today, I am about 200 clicks short of 30,000 views on this blog.  Thanks ever so much for following our story as it unfolds in our little school garden…..

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Last bits of awesomeness (ESY Part 5)

And finally, here I will dump all of the great ideas that I want to share (and not forget) that didn’t fit in the preceding posts about the Edible Schoolyard.

After our garden sessions, we were asked to write down questions that still lingered in our minds. During break, the presenters had a chance to review the questions and then address them if they weren’t already going to be covered.  Good technique.

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At the end of each day, we filled out three cards: head, heart, feet.  On each we wrote, what we learned? (head) what we felt? (heart) and what we’ll do next? (feet)  They were strung up in the dining commons each day for everyone to see.

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Right by the exit in the kitchen classroom was this set of folders stocked with recipes that the class just cooked.  Students are encouraged to pick one up on their way out, if they’d like.

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Once a week, students and their parents are invited to “Family Nights Out” where families cook the same recipes students learned in class.  Students become teachers as they recreate the menu, and everyone goes home with more skills. So incredibly cool.

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I’m always looking for good, simple rules to guide cooking/garden.  I may just rip these off for the coming year.

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Students know where to find these take-out boxes so they can leave with any unfinished food.

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LIttle vocabulary thrown in—the word geek in me loves this.

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The room is full of interesting decorations:  botanical prints, kites, hats from various world cultures, clocks that tell the time in different world cities, a piano, quotes….

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ESY loves hand-drawn visual aids.  This is on the wall to help students learn their greens.

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The Charlie Cart was on display—expensive but amazing.  Wheel this thing in to a classroom and you have a mobile kitchen with a sink, running water, stovetop, microwave and cabinets filled with every pot, pan or utensil you might need to run a demo.

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All in all, the ESY was a wonderfully rich experience.  A million thanks to the Sage Garden Project who made it possible for me to attend!

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 flowers 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