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: https://www.julianpathways.org/home/gardennutrition Look for the Paypal button to the left bottom of the green box and use pull down menu to find garden program.

Thank you!

Wear some hometown pride!

Sometimes I have an idea that springs up, goes underground and then pops back up later when the time is right. (Almost like a dormant seed, since this is a gardening blog.)

When I first moved to Julian, the local grocery store was selling t-shirts that read 92036–our zip code. I bought one and have been wearing it ever since, even with the small piece of gum stuck in the sleeve I cannot. get. out.

Every time I wear it people ask about it but it hasn’t been sold for over 20 years.

In an unrelated development, my son started a small business sewing felt letters on to sweatshirts, specializing in spelling out friends’ favorite surf breaks. He set up an Etsy shop and sewed these during late night duty as an RA for his dorm. He has recently stopped making them so…

I fused the two ideas into our latest fundraiser. Check out these Pathways (role) models! We are selling them for $50 to the general public and $38 to locals. We launched the idea yesterday and have already received a dozen orders. Proceeds go the funding our garden educator position for the 2022-2023 school year.

September/October Garden Tour

Re-introducing the garden tour!

Every month or two, I take you on a stroll around the garden. All of the photos in today’s virtual walk are taken by Mati Moon and used with her permission. We are so lucky to have a garden educator that not only does magical things in the garden, but also captures them so beautifully!

Baby Dinosaur kale! Whimsical signs always add so much to school gardens.
We had a late start but still managed to get a lot in the ground!
One of Mati’s first ideas was to add a bookcase of garden books for children to use in the gazebo.
We grow beauty!
3rd grade students organized, planted, mulched and watered newly planted beds.
Mati worked with the students to plant French Breakfast and Giant German radishes. Radishes are great in school gardens because they take about one month to grow.
If you see this on Instagram, it’s a video shot from the ground looking up at all the bee activity.
Look at all that green and all those attentive students!

If you’d like to follow along with us on Instagram too, please find these and more amazing pictures at #julianelementarygarden Thanks for joining us on the tour! More to come….

Meet Mati!

We were thrilled that FoodCorps generously extended a fifth year of partnership to us. Part of this last year of funding and support is designed to write a sustainability plan to propel us into the next ten years of garden and nutrition education at Julian Elementary. So we needed a new service member with amazing skills in the garden to restart it after Covid. We also needed a creative teacher with a deep love for children. And I also needed a partner to dream big with as we figured out this funding/sustainability question.

I found all three in Mati Moon!

A local, Mati comes to us with extensive gardening experience, incredible artistic/creative skills, a sincere love for helping children to learn and thrive, and a commitment to this school and Julian. So we are off and running! Stay tuned for photos (her own, amazing) of some of the things she has been doing in the garden. If you are like me, you. will. melt.

We’re back!

Welcome back!

Although this blog has continued to receive a lot of traffic, I have not posted anything new in a loooooong time.  Part of this was due to the fact that we had already documented/recorded/archived nearly all of “the good things that happen in school gardens” and we were happily just continuing the ongoing work.  The second reason: Covid.  As with everything, activity in the garden slowed to a trickle.

But now we’re back, dreaming big dreams about the next 10 years.  Mati and I (you’ll meet Mati soon) are reflecting on the last 12 years of garden and nutrition education at Julian Elementary and writing a 10 year sustainability plan that will carry us into the future.  A small part of that plan is to report on what we’re doing now, and you’ll hear all about that in future posts.  

But first I must back up and introduce Sammi, our amazing FoodCorps service member who finished two (2!) years of service at the end of the last school year. If you look back on older posts, you’ll learn more about our AMAZING partnership with FoodCorps.  We were blessed to have Sammi in this position.  I wrote this about her once:

Sammi has a warm, engaging, upbeat, kind personality that makes her a great colleague and a well-liked garden teacher.  In fact, she is a born teacher!  She is a problem-solver, quick to jump in to help and brainstorm when an issue arises.  She also has a huge heart for children and families which she puts into her work.  In simple terms, she cares for people well.   She has a positive and important presence on our campus, leading good activities and promoting good choices in the cafeteria. 

Thank you Sammi for two years of service to our district and the children of Julian!!

August/September garden tour

As we occasionally do here at “What’s not to like?” take a stroll with me through our garden program in August and September.

For the first time in our HOTM efforts, we chose the avocado for August.  Our taste test was avocado toast, and naturally it had a near 100% approval rating at recess.  This sign met students off the bus in the morning.

I caught this snapshot of Ms. T opening up her day the first week of school at the garden table.  What a peaceful, beautiful place to connect with students and set the tone for the week.

Introducing 8 out of 10 of our new 5th grade Garden Ambassadors.  This is a long-running program that is original to our school, and we’re very proud of it.  To learn more, see this or this or this or this.

On September 11th, we held a Day of Service and Remembrance in the school garden.  Emily, our beloved Food Corps volunteer from last year, brought over a crew of friends from Camp Stevens.  We got a lot done with their help and positive energy!

We have an amazing parent (Garrett Huffman) who is working with Mr. C to build a shed we have on order.  Garrett built this platform this week.  I cannot wait to better organize our garden materials in a big shed.

Mr. Cam is starting a new program called Tastebud Tickets. At snack recess, he walks around giving tickets for kids “caught” eating something healthy.

Then on Monday morning, he put all of those tickets in his garden hat and had a garden ambassador pull one name.  That student got to choose a friend with whom to share lunch in the garden that afternoon.

Now in September, we are focusing on apples for our Harvest of the Month.  Our Garden Ambassadors offered bread with locally made apple butter at recess.

Good food, happy kids!  Til next time…..

Introducing…. our new FoodCorps service member!

Today we are welcoming our new Food Corps service member for the next 11.5 months.  You may remember that our district began working with (the most amazing) FoodCorps program last year, and Emily pioneered the position here on campus.  Cam was here in early August for on-site training, then left for national and regional training in Portland and Oakland, and now he’s back to dig in. I’ll let him introduce himself below.  Welcome Cam!

Howdy everyone!

My name’s Cameron James Petersen, though most call me Cam, and I’ll be replacing Emily Horowitz (or Ms. Emily to our younger readers) as the new FoodCorps AmeriCorps Service Member at Julian Union Elementary School District / Julian Pathways.

So a little about me:

I hail from down the hill, and grew up in El Cajon, although I’ve lived up and down the West Coast. I graduated from San Diego State University with a degree in History and English, knowing I’d end up back inside a classroom sooner or later as a teacher. An interest in public service and an insatiable appetite for travel lured me into serving 27 months in the U.S. Peace Corps in Ghana, West Africa as an agriculture volunteer. There I discovered my deep-seated passion for community development and the degree to which food ties us all together. Fast forward a couple years and here I am, serving for the next year in your community.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with the FoodCorps’ mission, we are an organization that aims to connect kids to healthy food in school, so they can lead healthier lives and reach their full potential. We achieve this mission through three types of activities: hands-on lessons in the classroom concerning gardening and nutrition, working with school foodservice providers to provide our students with healthy school meals and create a cafeteria that steers students towards the healthiest options, and by creating a school wide culture of health including everybody from teachers to the community members that live in the area.

You’ll more than likely see me around town and on the school campuses — please stop and say “hi” if I don’t get to you first. I’m looking forward to meeting you all and getting some good work done!

Best regards,



First week of school (already?)

Welcome back!  School is officially back in session here at Julian Elementary, and we are looking forward to our best year yet in the school garden.  (Thanks once again to the Sage Garden Project for funding!  You folks are the very best!)

A few cool developments over the summer:

Our pioneer bed is exploding with veggies!

Emily finished up the signage for the native plant trail!

Emily also found an amazing volunteer to build a heavy-duty trellis for our grapes, creating a shady, whimsical tunnel for kids to walk through between the lunch tables and the playground.

In closing, I’d like to revisit the original objective was for this blog: to make a case for school gardens from every possible angle.  Here’s yet another compelling reason for a school garden:

On the first day of school we have an orientation for parents new to the school.  All of our administrators and program directors warmly welcome new families as we explain all of the resources we offer.  I had a few minutes to talk about our garden, and at the end of the meeting, I invited parents to go out for a short tour.

As I was walking around with one of the new families, the mom told me that they had seen the garden on their first visit to the school months ago.  They were won over by many things at our wonderful district but “it was seeing the school garden that finally convinced us that this was the place we wanted our kids to go to school.”