Follow us on our beautiful Instagram page!

Although the blog can be quiet for stretches of time, the Instagram page is always full to bursting with beautiful reports from the garden. Mati, our garden teacher, also happens to be a gifted photographer. Every post she puts up brings a huge smile to my face. Consider following along with us at julianelementarygarden. You will love it!

Daffodils R Us!

They are. Daffodils are Julian. And all because of a local hero, Sally Snipes. Mati wrote this wonderful introduction on the Julian Elementary Garden Instagram page:

As part of her school garden lessons honoring Sally, Mati drew this up for demonstration and coloring:

I know, I know. Amazing. (Mural on campus, perhaps?) Mati created many lessons around our treasured daffodil season. The first activity was for students to spread out in the garden and sketch and color the flowers for a pennant.

Look at these flags and these sweet faces!

Then she got students working on real sewing machines…in the garden.

And finally, the flags were assembled to hang at Town Hall for last weekend’s daffodil show! (More on that in the next post…stay tuned.)

It’s (a)corny but this is one of the best lessons ever!

Some of you know that I can be very enthusiastic about things I love. So I am not exaggerating here: Mati’s garden lessons this past semester are some of the best I’ve ever seen. And the one described below is just amazing.

Mati hosted a natural dying class taught by a local expert and friend, who encouraged her to use what she learned in garden class. So the next week Mati took kids out on campus to look for acorns.

Then kids wrapped their fabrics with rubber bands to dye.

After the acorns simmered, Mati taught them to mix iron post mordant and experiment with dipping and adding contrast.

Look how gorgeous these turned out!

That would have been lesson enough! Except that Mati extended it even further by harvesting locally grown lavender and teaching the kids to sew their fabrics into scented, weighted eye pillows for sore muscles and relaxation before sleeping. Many thanks to Krystin for boots on the ground (boots in the garden?) for pulling this off.

Actually there are many shout-outs in order!

Thanks to Anita at Mom’s Pies for allowing us to harvest the lavender! (Instagram @momspies)

Thanks for Anini designs for bringing this beautiful skill to our children, through Mati! (Instagram @aninidesigns)

And thanks to Miss Krystin for help in all stages of this project, from helping supply us, to wrangling kids, to sewing to being our beloved Pathways sister! (Instagram @manzanitasupply)

(All photos courtesy of Mati Moon.)

Seedball Skee-ball

Say that three times fast!

This post is all about the idea that there are a million ways to teach something. Mati could have had her students go out to the garden and broadcast wildflower seed. That would have been cool.

But no, first she had them create seedballs—mud mixed with wildflower seed. Getting hands dirty–fun element #1

Then she created a “skee ball” court out on an unused piece of ground in front of the school. Remember skee ball? You throw balls at targets to get points, at the fair or arcade. (Fun element #2!)

Then she took the kids out to play the game against the teachers! (Games! Fun element #3!)

And then to top it off, Mati invited staff to compete against the students. Here are our beloved bus drivers, throwing over their shoulders. Playing against aduts? Fun element #4

Math and garden lessons!

And finally, sending the kids home with a (hand lettered!) certificate! Fun element #5! In addition to all this fun, kids learned a lot about seeds!

(All photography courtesy of the Extraordinary Miss Mati.)

We grow relaxation

Our homegrown mission statement declares that we aim to grow eight things in our garden. One is beauty.

We grow beauty. We enjoy our peaceful, beautiful garden as it relaxes our bodies, inspires our minds, and ignites our creativity and imagination.

This one is hard to measure, hard to quantify, but you absolutely know it when you see it.

Tiny fingers, big skills

The garden is a great place to teach fine motor skills and concentration because it’s a relaxing setting that inspires creativity. I read more and more how young kids today are lacking in fine motor skills due to too much screen time and not enough handwork.

Enter Mati with these beautiful embroidery lessons!

Another day: hand-sewn sails for boats made out of bark.

And one more—students sewed together layers of felt to illustrate the parts of the apple. Again, a completely original lesson thought up by our garden teacher extraordinaire.

As always, thanks to Mati Moon for all photography. Stunning!

Hand lettering and illustration

When I attended the (amazing!) Edible Schoolyard Academy at Martin Luther King Middle School in Berkeley, I learned that their program highly valued hand illustration.  For example, their staff embellishes all of their recipes with simple drawings.  We even had a lesson on how to do this ourselves!  Their garden is full of hand lettering and whimsical drawings.  This year we are so lucky that our FoodCorps service member comes to us with these skills in spades.

Read the captions below to appreciate just a few of the creations Mati has dreamt up!

This was the first thing Mati created for the garden for our bulletain board, possible t-shirt, etc. A first of her many gifts to grace the garden.
She created these pencil drawings for a lesson. A lesson! I now want to make these into a set of postcards.
Because we are creating a line of merchandise, Mati made us a custom stamp for a tag.
Hand drawn and colored images to categorize the Go, Grow, Glow and Whoa! foods.
I’ll be featuring this lesson later, but for now, check out these darling little illustrations.
She drew these Day of the Dead mask templates–students colored them!
Stay tuned for this design on garden merch. Isn’t it wonderful?

Guest teacher keeps students all abuzz

Before the holidays, we were delighted to welcome a guest teacher to our garden class. Andrea Supergan is a master beekeeper, veteran teacher, Julian local and our volunteer of the semester. Andrea joined every class, over two weeks (!) to teach action-packed lessons on the importance of bees. Mati compiled this amazing list of of activities students enjoyed:

-Pirate’s Booty in a clear jar with wrapped candy at the bottom. Much like a bee, the student were covered in cheese powder (pollen) in a effort to locate the candy (nectar).

-Blind taste test of honey from both Julian and NYC. Students voted for the best flavor and then the origins were revealed.

-Food coloring in water in clear plastic egg trays. Students used plastic pipettes to move liquid from one cell to the next. This was used to represent the work that a bee does to harvest and move nectar.

-Students used microscopes to see slides of antenna, legs and a section of wing. 

-Beekeeper suits and bee box tools for the students to try on and pose for a photo in.

-Boards shaped like a honey comb with bees placed on top. Each bee had a paper clip attached. Students could then move a magnet on the underside of the board and make the bee dance. This represented the bees giving directions to the location of nectar sources by way of body movements.

-Plastic bee models that could be taken apart and put back together.

-Cardstock beehive boxes that were folded three dimensionally. Each box had a cute felted queen bee and three puffy worker bee stickers to place on the outside. Each student took one home and was deemed an honorary beekeeper.

Just amazing! You can find Andrea’s line of local bee products at Manzanita Supply in Santa Ysabel. You can also follow her work on Instagram #thebohemianbeellc We are so glad to partner with you Andrea!

Would you consider being yarrow? Or a live oak?

Our garden and nutrition program is nearly 12 years old.  That is ancient in school garden years.  Often what happens at schools is that a garden springs up due to the excitement and energy of a “champion” or a group of “champions.”  The garden flourishes for a couple years but then the champion moves on (usually because her/his kids graduate the school.) It happens a lot.

Not us!  In our twelve years, we have never really lost momentum.  The volunteers and staff have changed, priorities have shifted, some projects have come and gone and been replaced by new ones, but the garden has never stopped being a fruitful, exciting space with lots of children learning.

Now we are at a crossroads.

We are in our fifth and final (glorious) year of partnership with FoodCorps.  We have already been fortunate to have some of the big funding grants like Sage Garden and USDA Farm to School.  We’ve received many of the smaller grants out there, and we will continue looking for those.  A common issue with these grants is that the orgnazation like to fund stuff, and although stuff is good, what we really need is funding for a garden educator.

You can have all the seeds and tools and raised beds in the world, and all the good things that happen in school garden won’t happen without a teacher.  We have seen firstthand how importat a dedicated garden teacher is to plan lessons, teach, maintain the garden, recruit volunteers, inform the school and community, and on and on and on.  To be clear, this will not be me but someone else!  (I have my eye on someone specific, and very amazing, for sure!)

So we’re hard at work on a plan to fund this position.

In upcoming posts you will see more amazing garden merchandise we are creating to sell at Julian Pathways and in local stores. (See the last post about our Julian pride sweatshirts.)  We are planning some sort of gala event.  And we are introducing a donor program.

Would you consider becoming a donor at one of the following levels?

Yarrow: $25

Manzanita: $100

Coulter Pine: $500

Live Oak: $1000 

You can donate using the PayPal button and specifying “garden program.”  One time or recurring monthly or annual gifts are deeply appreciated! We’ve copied the link here: Look for the Paypal button to the left bottom of the green box and use pull down menu to find garden program.

Thank you!