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.

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!

In which service volunteers are celebrities…

It was a good morning in November when I answered the Pathways phone and an AmeriCorps team member was on the line, asking if we would like a group of volunteers for a day of service at school.

Um, YES!

On December 18th, we welcomed eight young people from all around the county on a 10-month term of community service across the western states.  They had been in Julian for six weeks, staying at Camp Stevens and working on building and clearing trails, planting natives on Volcan and helping out around town, such as assisting locals in hanging all of the holiday decorations on our historic Main Street.  On our day, they worked with Pathways, helping to wrap presents for our toy drive, moving a sandbox for the special ed. department, planting bulbs, painting our table, and installing a hoop system over our raised beds.

I also asked them if they would be willing to do a 15-minute presentation to the 4th and 5th grade classes.  They were happy to do this and visited each class to discuss the concept of AmeriCorps, what projects they had already contributed to, where they were headed next, and what they had learned about committing a year of their young lives to service in various communities.  I also asked the team to share some of their reflections on living in Julian with our students, as it’s always great to get an outsider’s perspective on what is just “daily life” for you.  They talked about the natural beauty of Julian, the close-knit community who had welcomed them wholeheartedly and of course, the apple pie.

After taking a few last questions, I hustled them out the door so the students could get ready for lunch.  As I did, some fifth graders followed us with pen and paper and started asking the AmeriCorps members to sign their names.  Suddenly I realized the kids were asking for their autographs!  The AmeriCorps members realized this too as they signed paper after paper, laughing that this was definitely a “first” for them.

Oh to live in a world where the people who volunteer and serve in communities are the celebrities!  And thank you to the amazing Mrs. McFedries who has taught her class to respect and be grateful for people who serve others.  Bless you AmeriCorps team as you continue to make the world a better place!

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Why is Mrs. Tree crying?

During garden lessons, I try to stay open to unscripted moments.  If an unusual insect shows up, if pods have just erupted in seeds, if a child sees something beautiful that has escaped my notice, I want to be ready to stop everything for the teachable moment. It happens a lot in the garden.

At the beginning of the year, I hung a tree face on one of the junipers and led the students by it on the way out of the garden, waiting for squeals and pointed fingers.  After seeing Mr. Tree, they speculated that Mrs. Tree might be the next one to show up.  Show up she did.

When we discovered her a couple weeks later, one of the girls told me she needed a “neckwus.” I agreed and sure enough, during our next class, we noticed that Mrs. Tree was all blinged out.

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We got closer.  And as we looked at her, I noticed there was a single, silvery drip of tree sap right under her eye.  Look!

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Suddenly we had the most perfect creative writing/thinking prompt as I asked students, “Why do you think Mrs. Tree is crying?”

And I couldn’t have made up the next three comments:

Student #1:  She’s crying because she’s so happy to live in the school garden.

(gulp)

Student #2: She’s crying because Mr. Tree gave her a necklace!

(so sweet!)

And then Student #3:

She’s crying because her necklace is too tight!

(hahahahaha!)

Re-teaching is good learning

My son is taking a drawing class with two other students at the newly opened Studio Samadhi in Wynola—a wonderful new “center for the arts” in our community.  IMG_2833 One day last month the kids drew little cartoon birds, and it was a hit.  One of the students, who happens to be a Garden Ambassador, said, “We should do this again in the garden!”  I am always looking for realistic student-generated garden ideas for them to run with, so I asked each student to invite a friend to lunch so that they could re-teach the lesson.  It was a cold and windy day, so we ate and drew in Pathways.  The kids were excellent teachers. IMG_2654 IMG_2653 IMG_2647 All of the drawings were then pinned on our garden bulletin board for all to enjoy! IMG_2830 IMG_2831

Smoothie bike!

One of our Farm to School purchases was a bike blender attachment.  A regular bike gets hooked up to a stand and a platform with a Vitamix blender.  Thirty seconds of pedal power, and you have a full pitcher of smoothie.

We ordered the smoothie apparatus in order to promote healthy snacks at school events.  The mountain bike club borrowed the equipment last weekend for the elementary cross-country meet. We used a simple recipe of apple juice, frozen berries, fresh bananas, and ice. Not only did we raise money for our team, but we also had the pleasure of passing out healthy, delicious drinks to kids running their hearts out on a beautiful day in Julian.

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Thanks to my Dad who first saw this type of bike at a golf tournament and led me to research it.  Find out more at http://www.rockthebike.com