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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Stuffed and Happy: Food Day 2015

Before the really big Food Day is upon us, I’d like to share some glimpses of Food Day 2015 at Julian Elementary and Julian Junior High.  It was a minimum day, and we had 15 workshops between the two campuses.  Students went to 5-6 of them for thirty minutes each.

In the weeks before the event, I began making this “eat a rainbow” collage with after school students, using photos from seed catalogues:

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It turned out really cool:

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It was too wet and windy to hang it in front of the school as planned (along with two huge banners that read “Eat a Rainbow Every Day!”) so it became a nice backdrop for a storybook and craft session on the importance of eating foods of all different colors for a healthy diet.

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The UC Farm Smart joined us for the third year running, and as usual, they delivered a visual, hands-on, super engaging lesson.  This year’s topic: carrots.

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Students used orange dots to conduct a poll after a taste test: fresh carrots, canned carrots or no carrots at all.

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Another wildly popular instructor, Chef Greg from Healthy Adventures Foundation taught kids how to make vegetarian sushi.

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A superteam of teachers, present and former (Lark, Nancy, Kathy, Shirley) presented lessons on “eating a rainbow.”  A mini-lesson on the health benefits of each color was followed by fruit and veggie bingo and fruit kabobs—kids that ate all the colors left with a little rainbow sticker on their shirts.

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Food Day would not be Food Day without Teak and Harvey representing for the Julian Apple Growers with apple pressing for juice and apple slice taste tests.

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The amazing folks from Camp Stevens led a composting workshop, demonstrating their teaching flexibility by switching from the garden to the cafeteria when it started to pour, hauling in mounds of unsifted compost and wheelbarrows.

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Mrs. Croman, our music teacher, leading “food songs.”

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Not pictured: Ann from the Resource Conservation District teaching a lesson about monarch butterflies and the importance of protecting pollinators.

Meanwhile down at the junior high:

From the mind of our ag specialist, Mr. Martineau:  Students walk through eight stations, tracing all of the parts of a pizza to their origins and making little pizzas as they go.  Each station had information, questions and a short video about the bread, sausage, tomato sauce, etc.

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Presenting the Duffy Cooking Show!  How cool is it that kids were making homemade granola bars with their principal and superintendent?

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Mrs. Hill and Mrs. Tellez pulled off an amazing workshop on cheese: a history of cheese, cheesemaking, cheese tasting/rating and looking at yogurt under the microscope.

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Every student did an art project with Sun Dog Studios.  See last post.

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Students had a chance to talk to Joel and Chef Jeremy, who plan and cook their school lunch.  Joel and Jeremy talked to the kids about the mechanics and nutrition involved in planning a NSLP-approved lunch, and students provided them with feedback about the menu.

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Not pictured:  Students watched 5 short videos from the very cool video series How does it grow?

All that, and we fit in an apple crunch on both campuses!  Later that day, afterschool students toured Mom’s Pies and each made an apple dumpling….

Thanks to all who contributed to this truly awesome day of learning!  See you next year.

Now for a nap.

 

 

 

 

The Great Julian Apple Crunch

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Today Julian Elementary and Junior High celebrated National Food Day with 15 workshops on nutrition, cooking, backyard gardening and agriculture.  It was amazing—look for upcoming posts with photos and stories.

For now, let me share a video with you.  Every year people across the country celebrate good, fresh food with an Apple Crunch event.  We did one this year, thanks to Ken and Linda Limon who visited a neighboring orchard whose owners allowed them to harvest for free, picked 400 apples, hand sorted them, packed them in flats of 50 and delivered them to cold storage in the school kitchen.  We washed and bagged them by class size.  Students wore their red No Excuses shirts to school, Garden Ambassadors held up big leaves, and our principal got on the roof to film the event.  The weather was sketchy today but it held just long enough…..five minutes later, downpour!  Simply amazing.

Thank you Linda and Ken—you made this happen!

 

 

Food Day: An educational feast!

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The following article will appear in next week’s Julian News.  Great photos follow after the story!

Joining with individuals, schools and cities across America, Julian Elementary School celebrated its first National Food Day on October 24th.  From 9:00 to 2:00, K-5 students were treated to eight different workshops spread across campus focusing on food, agriculture, cooking and nutrition.  Simply put, students and staff ate it up.

All sessions were experiential, interactive and expertly taught by a team of volunteers.  Representing the Julian Apple Growers Association, Mary Prentice and Teak Nichols related the history of the apple while having the students press their own cider.  Josh Rasmussen, from Down the Road Farm, led students in a planting activity as well as brought farm animals for the kids to enjoy.  Farm Smart, a program of the UC Desert Research and Extension Center, lent us Stephanie Collins for a wonderful program that included churning butter, comparing animal feed, and milking Bessie, a wooden cow equipped with an inner stainless steel container filled with real milk.  Camp Stevens staff Ryan Wannamaker and Correen Walsh captivated kids in the garden with pollinator games, honey tastings and dressing up as beekeepers.  Led by Tricia Elisara and Gina VanderKam, students played vocabulary-rich “Garden Bingo” and interacted with the outstanding documentary film “Nourish” about global food issues.

Cooking was another key ingredient of the day.  Chef Greg from Healthy Adventures Foundation enlisted students to help make lettuce wraps and flavorful tostadas.  Across campus, Chef Jeremy Manley and Carie Quick talked with students about the new school lunch program (catered by Jeremy’s on the Campus) and had the students brainstorm new menu items.  To tie it all together, Carmen Macias led a game in classifying edible plant parts, decorating a “My Plate” diagram with healthy choices and ending with a fitness activity.  Many parents, Garden Beneficials and other dedicated community members generously gave their day to assisting at each workshop.

To add to this educational banquet, the campus was decorated with posters made by students in the weeks prior, promoting good food and healthy habits.  At 11:00, students gathered on the playground for a scheduled exercise break led by Coach Dobby from the Julian Fitness Center.  Just before starting, however, music came on the load speaker and Principal/Superintendent Kevin Ogden moved to the center of the campus, dancing.  Teachers joined him from all directions, and the first ever flash mob at Julian Elementary was performed, appropriately enough to the song “We can change the world” on a day dedicated to making a healthier world for all of us!

Celebrating Food Day was an idea generated by the school’s Farm to School Team as part of the year-long USDA planting grant awarded to the district and spearheaded by Pathways Executive Director Susi Jones.  To learn more about National Food Day, or to begin planning activities for next year, please visit www.foodday.org and/or contact the Farm to School Coordinator Tricia Elisara for more information.

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Students made these posters in University of Wednesday

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Cranking the cider press (Photo courtesy of Karen Alexander)

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Wait a minute….is that Gina VanderKam playing Garden Bingo? (On a visit from Washington, she was my right hand woman all day!) She is still trying to get the crayon off her fingers….

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How adorable is this?

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An activity to classify the edible parts of the plant

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Working on a “My Plate” activity

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After this class, the girl pictured told me “Best day ever!”

The low-hanging fruit?

If you’ve been to Julian, you’ll know we are associated with one thing above all else:  apples.  Orchards, apple pie, the annual Apple Days celebrations, apple-themed gifts in the shops, etc.

Say Julian–think apples.

And every day in our cafeteria we serve apples from Oregon and Washington State, even when Julian apples are in season.

This is one of a million ways in which our food systems are disconnected. It happens all around the world, to the detriment of our planet (all that transportation!) and our palate (stored and shipped food is often inferior, for obvious reasons.)

Naturally, in my role as Farm to School planning grant director, this is one of the first things I’m tackling.  And as simple as it sounds—swap out one apple vendor for another—it’s really very complicated, in ways that you can only appreciate when you dive into the specifics of the ways things are, as I’ve been doing.

Big thought for the day: systemic change is hard.

But not hopeless.  We are working away diligently on the ways things could be by investigating how to get local apples and pears onto our school lunch menu.

Until then, we’re going to do one better:  plant apple trees on our campus.

Yesterday the organizer of the newly-formed Julian Apple Growers Association, Teak Nichols, came by school to spend the afternoon putting bare root trees in the ground with our Garden Ambassadors.  Raised here in Julian, Teak has a passion for preserving the collective knowledge base, economic importance and cultural resource of apples.  So we worked with a handful of kids to enlarge our small orchard.  He’ll be back to teach pruning, and I imagine many other things as we connect his group with our efforts at school.

Teak had just asked a question like, “Who wants to plant the Fuji?”  Um, is the enthusiasm of these kids coming across?

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Photo courtesy of Marisa McFedries

Under Teak’s instruction, the kids dug the holes, properly sited the trees, filled them in, watered, staked, labeled and wrapped sunburn protection around the trunks.  (Notice their official gear.  The shirts were meant for formal occasions, but these kids love any excuse to put on their ambassador shirts.)

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Photo courtesy of Marisa McFedries

Beautiful weather, outdoor education, the promise of fruit, excited kids….I’m not great at containing my excitement.

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Photo courtesy of Marisa McFedries

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Photo courtesy of Marisa McFedries

Let them eat apples!

Our beloved math teacher at the junior high made a new rule for his class this year:  no eating in class, except apples.  My son came home insistent he take an apple to class the next day…you know, because Mr. Copeland said he could!

This is great timing, because the elementary garden is producing a lovely crop right now.  The trees predate the character garden, but they’ve suffered neglect as long as I can remember because they were on the opposite side of the fence—no easy way to water or prune or harvest.

But with the arrival of the Hubbell gate, we peeled the fence back to make way for the eventual footpath down the hill.  And in so doing, we brought four trees into the garden’s footprint.

So this week we harvested a big bowl of these organic apples and took them to math class. I checked in after first period to see this:

Gone! All apples had vanished by second period, demonstrating two principles: One, you can sneak organic nutrition in the back door when it’s made available by a cool teacher and Two, middle schoolers will eat anything in sight, even something good for them!