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.

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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.

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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!

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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Garden journals

Every year I volunteer to be a parent reading helper in my kids’ classes.  This year I asked the teacher if I could be the garden teacher instead!  She said “yes,” and so every week I have the class for a 1/2 hour of garden class.  During our first class, each table of children received a pile of patterned and handmade papers, old seed packets and pages from gardening catalogues as well as a 50 cent composition notebook.  They then proceeded to decorate the books they will use all year long to record garden vocabulary, keep their drawings and make journal entries.  Last week we listed the words “snapdragon” and “transplant” and then made a chart of warm season and cool season vegetables.  We went to the garden to plant a cool season veggie (broccoli) and tasted a warm season veggie (tomato.)  I like that they will have these keepsake journals to take home at the end of the year, full of all of their new gardening knowledge.

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Kindergarteners + math + garden

One of my favorite things about the school garden is discovering ways it is being used by teachers, staff and families.  A few weeks back, a mom was out at the table, orchestrating a birthday celebration for her son.  Earlier in the day, the kindergarten class was looking for patterns.  What a great lesson, Mrs. White!  She wrote to me later:

So…we had an amazing day in the garden! It really helped our math work to “come alive!” 
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Photo courtesy of Mrs. White

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Photo courtesy of Mrs. White

What’s worthy of a 100th post? Compost!

The glories of compost….much ink has been spilled on this everyday miracle.  Scraps of food that transform into “black gold” with leaves, water, air, time, and microbial mechanics. It’s poetry pay dirt, and it happens under our noses.

Our compost system at school is a passive system.  In other words, we don’t get around to turning it very often and only harvest it about twice a year.  Nonetheless, the magic still happens.

Garden Ambassador turning the bin with a pitchfork at recess:

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Fourth grade students sifted the bottom layer of the bin into the wheelbarrow using stacked plant trays.

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Ladies and gentleman, I present to you: the fruit and vegetable leftovers from Julian Elementary, ready for our next planting!

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Seed packet literacy

To continue with my pea-brained ideas….

For Wednesday’s garden class, I had the class plant a bed of peas.  Before we went out to the garden, we talked about “how to read a seed packet.” I copied the front and back of a packet and added questions around the perimeter.  This was our opening activity.

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Notice how the students have to look closely for the information in order to answer the question.  To answer the question on trellises, they have to notice the adjective “self-supporting.”  To know what days we should expect a pea, they have to find the “days to maturity.”

Then I gave each child a different seed packet.  (I have lots, obviously.)  I then asked them to form a line across the room, based on the name of their flower/vegetable, in alphabetical order. They had to talk to each other and shuffle themselves, A to Z.  When they were in place, I asked them to read off their seed name, to see if we got it right!  Then we did it again, according to “days to maturity” with one end of the spectrum being the shortest, the other the longest.  It was fun to compare radishes at one end with onions at the other.

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At that point, we had to get planting, but you could keep going with this game, having the kids line up according to planting depth, Latin names, months to plant, etc.  Each one will demonstrate the different needs of plants as well as help kids look closely at all that information on a seed packet.

Indoor gardening activity: rosemary wreaths

I experimented with making rosemary wreaths for our sale on Saturday, and we sold every one of them.  Today was threatening rain, wind and temperatures in the 50’s (note: this is cold in California), so I put together an indoor lesson about rosemary for University of Wednesday.

First I harvested about 400-500 sprigs of rosemary from my yard.  (Like the laundry basket?)  I also cut 10 inch lengths of floral wire, and 24 pieces of 20 inch thicker gauge wire. I also gathered spools of ribbons.)

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Beforehand I popped a whole lot of popcorn with olive oil and fresh rosemary.

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After talking a little bit about the history and uses of rosemary, we tied the mound of  sprigs at each table into threes with floral wire, and then wound the clusters to the wire circles they shaped with the thicker wire.  Students finished the wreaths with ribbons/raffia, and we dined on popcorn.  IMG_5405 IMG_5407

For the last five minutes we took a quick garden walk and identified the rosemary bushes in three different locations. After working with them, touching them, smelling them, tasting them—they were easy to identify.  Students happily went home with their wreaths—this one as a hair piece!

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