When a garden photo says a lot

Last week I posted the picture below on our afterschool program’s Facebook page with the caption “Students explore the garden, using microscopes.”

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Our principal “liked” it, writing “This photo says a lot.”  When I asked him to “Say more!” he responded with this comment which I thought deserved its own post.  Thanks Mr. Copeland for being a principal who “gets it” on so many levels!

…..I see a school and a beautiful garden in a mountain community. And very young ladies (even a princess) being given tools that they will use later in life. Tool use that begins at a young age accelerates the development of familiarity and confidence. These tools are now theirs, not something they might see being used by special (often male) scientists in movies. They’re learning manual dexterity of the rotary adjustments – differential focal adjustment. They’re discovering eye dominance and monocular use of the eye, and thus, the brain. I see outdoor education too, and the interaction with weather and the environment. And that’s just what comes to mind readily…

 

 

Mary Poppins and gardening

In ev’ry job that must be done
There is an element of fun
You find the fun and snap!
The job’s a game

From Spoonful of Sugar in Mary Poppins

Yet again, Mary is spot on, and I’ve applied her insights this week in the garden with children.

Thanks to Julian Pathway’s tireless persistence in applying for an after-school program grant, our elementary school now has a full-fledged set of programs before and after school for children.  I work with the program on Wednesday, teaching two garden electives and one other (this cycle it’s Greek and Latin roots, which being the word nerd, I love.)

When students arrive at after-school program, they have already had a day of school, so we’ve designed these garden classes to be different from the formal lessons I teach during the school day.  After-school gardening is longer (45 minutes) and with less children (10-12), so we can really get work done.  But how to do that and make it engaging?

Last week I realized we needed to clear out a lot of rotting apples around the trees.  A good cultural practice, removing rotting fruit keeps the area free from possible infestation of other critters.  As such, I had the kids gather ten apples, and then we had a carnival-style “rotten apple compost olympics” with the kids standing behind a line and trying to toss the fruit into compost bins marked with different points.  We kept scores, played a second round, and had to go to a championship tiebreaker.  (Shamelessly, I won by one point.)  Voila!—hundreds of apples composted.  (And they left with big smiles on their faces.)

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This week I wanted to re-mulch our baby apple and pear trees with some donated wood chips, which were a little distance from the trees.  First we had a short chat about social insects and how small creatures working in cooperation can do huge things, like build massive termite mounds… or mulch 8 trees in 20 minutes.  Then we then set up a “mulch brigade” and got the assembly line going.  The kids worked incredibly hard, and we were all amazed at what we accomplished in a short time.  Then we went and tossed a few more apples, and they asked if we could go both “games” again next week.

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Thanks Mary!  Practically perfect advice.