About kidsingardens

Interested in everything that can happen in children's garden

Thank you Sage Garden Project!

If you’ve been following along, you’ll know that this year we are working in partnership with  the Sage Garden Project who has generously gifted us with funds for a garden educator position, access to their curriculum and a scholarship to the Edible Schoolyard Academy this past summer. (Scroll down to read five posts about that magical experience.)  We were thrilled to welcome them to campus two weeks ago for the first time.  Garden Ambassadors made this poster for them.


Garden Ambassadors greeted Program Director Dawn Mayeda and Garden Instructor Karen Saake at the front of the school with an apple pie—our local dessert!  Then we spent the morning giving them a tour, introducing them around school and receiving items included in the Sage Garden award….


A huge treat that comes with the grant package is a fully equipped cart which can be wheeled around campus for cooking demos.  Unpacking all of the items that go in it was like Christmas morning.  Here I’ve displayed it all in one place.  Notice the mirror flips around to be a white board.  Feel free to drool.

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Also included in our box of garden treats were beautiful posters and banners which we promptly hung in the garden room and the garden.

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Julian Elementary is very proud to be an recipient of a Sage Garden Project grant.  Thank you to everyone involved for helping to grow our garden program!

A little idea: “garden treasure hunts”

Last week I made this poster on 11×14 paper, with color clipart, and laminated it.


Then looking at a jigsaw puzzle template online, I scored it into pieces with a ballpoint pen.

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I cut the puzzle into pieces, re-laminated each piece so all of the edges were sealed, and hid them in the garden.  When I took the K students out for afternoon garden class, they hunted for the pieces, returning to the table to fit it together.  I had little rolls of masking tape on the table to help the pieces stay together.

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After we assembled the message, I passed out magnifying glasses and we went looking for signs of fall.


In the process, we discovered a stick bug.  We made a circle and gently passed it around.


And then we posed for this picture!  I love how this activity turned out and plan to make a set for each season.  Fun way to end: I gave each student a piece and they re-hid them for my next class—almost as much fun as finding them!




A little idea: “freshly picked”

I started a new tradition this year.  When I visit my K-2 classrooms, I bring something “freshly picked.”  This week it was rosemary.


Now that my garden ambassadors are chosen, they make the bouquets for me at recess and return the vases to the garden room for me to pick up on the way to class.


IMG_7284The idea is that the vase stays in the class until the arrangement withers, and then the ambassadors collect them after a week.  It’s a small touch that “brings the outside in,” fills the room with a nice fragrance and gives students a chance to make observations and learn plant names.  Beauty is a language of care!

Garden Ambassadors = Girl Power

Every year I have a different number and mix of 5th grade Garden Ambassadors.  This year, I’m thrilled to have 10 amazing girls.


A new feature in the program this year is the “Headquarters” board in the garden room. The girls love checking the board….


A few snippets from one of the outstanding Garden Ambassador applications:  (You know who you are!)

I would like to serve as a Garden Ambassador because when I was little I looked up to the garden ambassadors.  I would like that to happen to me.

I think a garden ambassador should have the ability to be a school representative.  A garden ambassador should be a good public speaker. They should also be willing to give up their extra time for the garden.  I think they should be focused, determined, mature, hardworking, trustworthy.  They should be respectful, responsible and compassionate.

I would also like to be a garden ambassador because it will give me an opportunity to interact with people.  I can also help the garden.  Being a garden ambassador is something to be proud of.

I know being a garden ambassador will help me be a better public speaker.  I will also gain more self-confidence. I will gain more knowledge of the scientific world and the garden.  It could make a remarkable impact upon my life.

To learn more about our Garden Ambassador program, look here or here or here.

It works, it works, it works!

Nutrition/cooking education.  Make no mistake: it works.

It’s said all the time but I’m here with hard evidence to prove it: When you grow and cook food with kids at school, in a fun, interactive way, they are more likely to try new foods and want to cook at home.

As mentioned in the last post, we made ratatouille in our garden/kitchen class.  I also sent home a letter with the recipe to each family and encouraged the kids to teach their parents the recipe.  I said, “If you do make ratatouille at home, please send me a picture.” The very next day I started receiving these:

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Once I received the picture, I visited the student’s class with congratulations,  a few questions about his/her cooking experience at home, and an invitation  to have lunch in the garden that day with a friend.  I’m thrilled that at our school “lunch in the garden” is a motivating reward, as it is sometimes hard to think of incentives that aren’t sweets/snacks or little throwaway objects.

None of this is lost on you, dear readers, but allow me to list the levels of goodness here:

-Students have a positive experience with a certain food at school and bring that excitement home.

-Students show off newly acquired skills to parents, and we all know that re-teaching is good learning.

-Families learn new recipes—in this case, one that is vegetarian, seasonal, adaptable and affordable.

-Students are congratulated and rewarded in front of their peers for extending their learning after school.

Many thanks to Wynola Flats for sourcing these delicious vegetables and ordering what I needed.  I can’t tell you how exciting it was to stop in yesterday for more ingredients and have Stacy say, “People have been coming in, buying ingredients for ratatouille….”


……But I love ratatouille!

Today we started our series of one-hour garden/cooking lessons with our upper grades, adapted from the curriculum from the Sage Garden Project.

Huge. Success.

It went like this:

10 minutes in the classroom to discuss the theme of “seasonality” and how vegetables can be classified as warm season or cool season.  We also ran through glove protocol, hand washing reminders and stern words about consequences for misusing a tool.  (I like to set a firm precedent.)

Then to the garden for two 20 minute stations.  I took one group to the outdoor kitchen to cook a warm season dish (ratatouille), and the classroom teacher and parent volunteers led their half of the class in preparing raised beds for our late September planting of cool season vegetables.

Then we tasted the ratatouille on baguette slices from a local bakery, the Candied Apple.   I also sent home a letter to each family with the recipe and gardening tips for winter gardens.  Enough words—look at what fun we had!

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Best comment of the day:

“Mrs. Elisara—I hate tomatoes, zucchini, eggplant and peppers but I LOVE ratatouille!”

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.



“S” for sage….sweltering…in the sun….


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:



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.


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.


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.)


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.


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…..