February Garden Tour

Citrus is booming in San Diego County (though not here at 4,200 feet in Julian) so it makes for a perfect February/March harvest of the month.

To kick off this lesson, I bought five containers of orange juice and things that “look like orange juice.”  We did a little consumer education as the kids passed the bottles around looking for the percentage juice, other ingredients, and marketing techniques (pictures and phrases.)  We then analyzed them together based on their observations.

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After deciding that 100% juice was the best, we squeezed our own 100% orange juice and everyone received a small cup to drink.  (We did some classes inside, others outside, depending on the weather.)  I found that using an electric juicer made the process quick enough for each child to try his/her hand at it.

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Upper grade students started their lesson with a slideshow I made about citrus varieties, citrus pests, biological control and California history.  Then they spread out and played a “grapefruit fact” matching game I created a few years ago.

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A few other garden activities lately include:

A “love note” to the garden displayed on our bulletin board for Valentines Day :

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In after school class, Miss Kat continues to wow kids with her exciting lessons and field trips.

Planting peas:

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Creating mountain puma art, after lessons on local wildlife:

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Although everyone worked off the same picture, the results were wonderfully varied!

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Kaitlyn Kuiper, 1st grade

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Aryana Bennington, 1st grade

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Gavin Leck, 1st grade

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Carlo Martinez, 4th grade

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Kasen Mushet, K

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Jackson Angel, K

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Liaden Mitchell, K

And finally taking trips with Club Wild (a joint program with the Volcan Mountain Foundation) to Mount Volcan to learn about watersheds and water!  (Lucky kids!)

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Snowy landscapes and comforting spaces

Hello friends!

Even though it has been snowy and freezing cold in our garden with not much happening…..img_3739 img_3740

….I’d like to share these warming thoughts from our school garden partners/sponsors. The Sage Garden Project works with gardens all across the county and state. The stated purpose of my blog is to make a case for school gardens from every conceivable angle and here’s yet another:

Your School’s Garden As A Healing Place
Thoughts, Experiences, and Ideas from the Sage Garden Project Staff

It would be disingenuous to publish a newsletter full of recipes and growing tips without speaking to the anguish and upset that many of our students are experiencing currently. The schools we support range from those filled with families serving in the military to those filled with immigrants from Mexico and others with large populations specifically from the Middle East. More than ever, we hope that the Sage Garden Project provides a common ground – where students do not compete, but rather work together, learn together, and ultimately, break bread together. More than ever, it is our hope that school gardens can be a respite, a place of solace, of peace, rest, and beauty. We have often found our sensitive students wishing to sit in a quiet spot in the garden in order to escape the chaos of the recess playground. Perhaps now would be the perfect time to create a calm corner of your garden that is a special spot, welcome to all quiet comers. Some schools have special “I could use a friend” benches, some have “time-out” spots. Whatever you choose to anoint your spot, consider stocking it with books, art supplies, and suggestions of garden projects that interested students could take up, and get their minds off their problems in the process. Let’s work toward making our gardens places to nurture our children’s whole selves, in addition to feeding their bellies.

Food Day, I

Thank you’s have been sent, accounting is done, now all that is left to do for Food Day 2016 is the storytelling.  As always, it’s a big story so I am breaking it into parts.

If you’ve followed along, you know that for the last three years we have celebrated National Food Day with a full day of experiential workshops on cooking, nutrition and agriculture at Julian Elementary and Julian Junior High.  (See posts from past years here, here, here, and here.)

One partnership I’d like to highlight is our partnership with Sun Dog Art Studios of Ramona.  Tomi and Teal, the talented, warm, vision-filled artists behind this non-profit, partnered with us last year (“Soda is the monster we need to mash”) and joined us again this year to create “bee spas” with the children (small basins from which bees can safely drink.)  They put a lot of time and research into creating the project from scratch, we collected tons of materials, and student were able to learn about the importance of pollinators and then take home a beautiful product.

The beautiful visual aids Sun Dog created to go with the lesson:

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Days ahead of Food Day, Sun Dog glued 110 glass basins to the glass jelly, olive, and mason jars to make a basin with a pedestal.

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Students then painted the “baths” as well as a big stone to sit in the middle of gravel and glass gems. (An “island” or a landing spot for the bee.)

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Once dry, the baths were sent home with students (carefully! in boxes with bubble wrap) and a selection went to the Julian library for a display.

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Thank you Sun Dog once again for your delightful partnership!  We love that a beautiful art project is a key part of our Food Day celebrations!

September Garden Tour

Welcome back to the garden!  As we do every once in a while, allow me to take you on a seasonal tour of garden education at Julian Elementary.

We started the year by “decorating” the garden with flowers.  We let many unirrigated flower boxes and pots go over the summer, so we freshened them up with some color.

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Third-fifth graders created/updated their garden journals for the year with seed catalogue collages.  This lesson was forced inside because of the wind.

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We have the best apple harvest to date.  We’ve been picking them like crazy.

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Last week I did lessons on how to use a dehydrator.  I did a small demo in the class, then we went out to the garden for the students to get a chance to use the peeler/corer/slicer and layer up the trays.

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We also talked about pears and made a “pear salsa” served on graham crackers.  Students then took home small pear recipe booklets with an “at home cooking challenge.”

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I also chose a new crop of garden ambassadors, and they jumped right into their new jobs: helping with lunchtime composting and giving the Monday Morning Garden Report.

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Garden education is expanding at our school.  We split my job from last year and now I am the in-school garden educator two days a week, and the unbelievably awesome Miss Kat is the after school garden educator three days a week.

Though I have the best support imaginable from administrators, teachers, staff, Pathways, and Pathways director and rockstar-in-residence Susi Jones, it is so awesome to have an in-the-garden, shoulder to shoulder, fellow teacher in Kat.  I have enjoyed so many things—the technical garden planning, the lesson sharing, the inspiration of a kindred vision—but I’ll focus on one thing in particular.

Every week I go to the garden and there are wonderful things happening that someone else made happen.  It is downright thrilling.  Thanks Miss Kat for bringing so much wisdom, experience, love for children, and love for the earth to our little public school….

Here’s a sample of Miss Kat’s work in the garden in our first month of school:

She collected coyote gourds and the students decorated them and chose seeds with which to fill them:

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Students collected and examined seeds:

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She also taught the students to make tiny Johnny Appleseed dolls with dried apple faces:

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Finally, she and her husband Jim created this beautiful “eat a rainbow” mural for the outdoor lunch area.  We love you Miss Kat!

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Garden Tour, April and May

School’s out for summer!  (Hooray!)

Here are some of the activities we did in the school garden in April and May…

We welcomed Spring by finding and putting together these homemade puzzle pieces:

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We also made spring collages from seed catalogues for our bulletin board.

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The upper grades harvested our compost made from school lunch scraps.

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They loved looking for and “rescuing” worms to throw back into the bins.

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To complete the cycle, we carried our compost buckets to the front of the school to fill some of our large flower pots that PTO plans to fill with flowers.

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We also used it to help pot up some indoor plants for a garden sale at Open House.

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Stacey from Wynona Flats helped me set up a local honey taste test: buckwheat, sage and avocado.  We taught students that honey looks and tastes different depending on which flowers bees were visiting.  As always, we also emphasize the importance of buying local and knowing about your food.  Shirley and Jenny,  Garden Beneficials, led this mini-lesson.

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After learning the top ten agricultural commodities in California (by sales), we headed out to the garden to find little California shaped signed with each item.  Signs had words which helped students solve the puzzle on their clipboards.

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After school students made garden aprons.

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On one very hot day, we played games with homemade play dough.  Here:  Make something in the garden.  (She made Mr. Tree.)

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We continued experimenting with Sage Garden Project lessons: blueberry cornmeal muffins.

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We planted, watered, observed, drew and gobbled up peas.

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Finally, one of my favorite teachers of all time, Mrs. Dawson, retired.  Aside from being both of my boys’ first grade teacher, she has always been a friend to the garden.  She is genuinely excited every time we have a lesson, and she supports us through managing the entire BoxTops program which funds garden maintenance.  To honor her, we placed a beautiful wind sculpture in Bed #3 (where the UCLA flag from her class has always been planted) with scrabble letters going down the pole which read, “We love Mrs. Dawson.”

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Have a lovely summer!  Thank you for reading along for the 2015-2016 school year!

“California Thursdays” lunch launch

On March 17th, our district participated in a statewide launch of California Thursdays, a program promoted by the Center for Ecoliteracy.  The idea is simple: districts sign on to serve a lunch every Thursday sourced only with California food.

To get ready for the big celebration, I worked with after school students for two months to create educational signage and decorations.

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Strawberries were planned for the menu, so I made them the “harvest of the month” and created strawberry lessons.  We examined strawberry plants, talked about “runners” or stolons, searched for plants in the garden with “strawberry facts,” whipped up strawberry smoothies and made little posters that later decorated the lunch area wall.

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One day before the event, I taught two flower arranging classes after school to make the lunch table centerpieces.  I found the plastic pots at a dollar store, and we made the entire arrangements with only plants and flowers found in the school garden.  They turned out beautifully!

Picking flowers…..

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…and arranging them!

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On the morning of our launch, the Garden Ambassadors came to school early to help me hang signs and posters.

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At 11:00 our special guests arrived—the farmers and ranchers who provided the food for lunch, representatives from our caterer Jeremy’s on the Campus, Jan Stone from the Center for Ecoliteracy and partners from North County San Diego Health and Human Services.  Our Garden Ambassadors greeted each guest, sat with him/her during the assembly and lunch, and provided garden tours.

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Our lunch consisted of sliders made with bison meat from a local ranch, salad from Farmer Phil at Sage Mountain Farm, and bread from California Mountain Bakery.  At the assembly right before lunch, junior high students showed a slideshow they created about California agriculture.  Ken Childs from Star B Ranch, the local bison ranch, spoke to the kids about raising bison and set up a table of bison-related items to see and touch.  Chef Jeremy, Farmer Phil, Jan Stone and Health and Human Services Deputy Director Jennifer Bransford-Koons also spoke about good, local food and healthy lunch!

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Then we all ate lunch!  A wonderful day, and an awesome concept—our district is proud to be a part of the state’s California Thursday effort!  (And thank you to Susi Jones for making this whole event happen—her vision always inspires!)

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Getting smarter every year: the daffodil show

We have hundreds of daffodils planted all around our garden, and we keep adding more every year. Every March our town of Julian hosts a daffodil show which is truly wonderful! (You can read my rapturous past reports here and here.)

Though students have planted most of the daffodils, I usually picked our prizewinning blooms the first couple years the school garden was represented in the youth division of the show.  Then I got a little smarter and had the kids go out and pick the flowers.  This year I was even smarter and put the whole process in the students’ hands: I not only had the students choose the flowers, after a short tutorial on how to do so properly, but I also had them key out the flowers using a laminated guide with flower part diagrams and division breakdowns.  They also arranged the blooms in show vases and filled out the submission cards.  Our wonderful Garden Beneficial for the day,  Jenny graciously offered to drop them off at Town Hall, ready to enter. And like every year, we brought home a handful of ribbons—but this year, the ownership of the flowers and the garden and our participation in the show was better than ever—no surprise.  School garden cardinal rule:  get kids’ hands on everything!

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