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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January/February garden tour

As is our tradition, let’s take a look around at the last couple months of garden/education at Julian Elementary (aka “Garden Tour”).  We’ll start inside, because due to wet, windy and freezing weather, that’s where we’ve been doing a lot of our lessons.

Potentially messy inside, but do-able if you lay all of the supplies out just right: pinecone bird feeders.

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We hung all 80 of them from the plum tree the next day:

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Younger students are now studying the edible “flower” part of the plant so roasted cauliflower in my portable oven was our taste test–another big hit.  Favorite interaction:  Students were exclaiming how it was their new favorite food.  “It’s good…plus 100!”  “It’s good, plus 200!” And then a little boy with a cute grin declared: “It’s the best thing I’ve ever eaten, the last number in the world TIMES the last number in the world!”

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Another fun indoor lesson covered an introduction to soil.  We talked about the differences between sand, silt and clay and then looked at samples under the microscopes.

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Using a great lesson from Sage Garden, we then mixed up edible “soil” with different size cereals and yogurt.

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Teak Nichols from the Julian Apple Growers Association was our guest speaker for three classes, teaching a lesson on pruning fruit trees.  Local fruit association working with a public school: a real apples to apples connection!

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A “search and find” activity gave students clues to things in the garden.  Once they found the items, they found “words” which they plugged into a puzzle on their sheet.

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The completed puzzle read:

“Your mind is a garden, Your thoughts are the seeds, You can grow flowers, Or you can grow weeds.”  We had a short chat about what that could mean, dovetailing with our school-wide focus on character education.

Students started making educational signage for our upcoming California Thursdays event–more on that to come.

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We finished our “Drink a Rainbow” smoothie series:

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Fifth grade needed a place to test their flood barriers–our swale covered in clover was a good spot to flood!

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They also picked some early daffodils for a still life drawing lesson in Mrs. McFedries’ (unendingly creative) class.

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Corn tortillas, and the concept of global staple foods, made for a tasty mini-lesson.

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Thanks for taking a stroll with me!  Next up: California Thursdays!

“No thank you” bite

One of my favorite nutrition education tools is the “no thank you” bite.*

The idea is this:  you have to take one bite in order to earn your “no thank you.”  After one little nibble, you may politely raise your hand and ask for permission to throw away your sample.  Emphasis on politely–no “yuks” or “gross!”

It totally works.

I can’t tell you how many times a student has confidently told me that he or she does NOT like what I’m about to serve.  I remind them of the “no thank you bite” rule, they try it, and then they ask for seconds.

In my classes with K-2 students, we are focusing on the six edible parts of the plant.  Last week we were on “flowers” so we sang the Banana Slug String Band song, did stretching exercises to review the six parts, talked about cauliflower farming and roasted cauliflower with olive oil and salt in the portable oven.  Again, I made converts with this simple technique.  Even better, I’ve had many parents tell me that their students have brought this idea home, insisting that siblings take their “no thank you bite” at the dinner table!

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*Thank you to Olivewood Gardens for this great tip!