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.


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!


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.


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!


“Beauty is a language of care” (ESY Part 2)

My 6-day experience at the Edible Schoolyard Academy (ESY) is simply too big of a story to tell into one post so I’m breaking it all into my “take-aways.”  The first is a principle of Alice Water’s that touches every part of the ESY program:  we show students we love them by creating beautiful spaces for them to eat, learn, and live in. (Perhaps this applies to many/all areas of life?) Let me show you how this plays out…

We were welcomed by this booth at the opening reception…


…and fed things like this…


Freshly gathered and arranged flowers from the garden show up everywhere.


Notice the handmade “papel picado” strung across the classrooms (also in the kitchen classroom.)


I could go on posting my flower photos, but you get the idea.

This commitment to beauty is also seen on the handwritten, illustrated recipes used in the cooking class.  (We even had a session with Chef Ester on how to whimsically illustrate a recipe.)



…and also in the signage for just about everything:


Even the placemats, which connected our meals to the 6-8th grade humanities lessons they teach—lessons also taught at their school.


At the end of each cooking lesson, students clear the workspace, set the table with a tablecloth, and then go to the side table (below) to pick out elements for a centerpiece.


Check out the sign!  Enough said.IMG_6484This emphasis was encouraging to me because in the Julian Elementary Garden, one of our 8 components of our mission statement is: We grow beauty.  As such, we have had lessons during which we transplanted donated irises to the front of the school with Miss Sally to beautify the parking lot, learned about flower shows and then picked daffodils for our local show in Julian Town Hall, and made wreaths and flower arrangements to place around campus.  All of this takes time away from “edibles,” but I am reminded it’s incredibly important and we are right on track!

From Julian to the MOPA

True:  Four Julian students currently have photographs hanging in the Museum of Photographic Arts in Balboa Park.  This is a great story and my dear friend Ann recently wrote it up for the Julian Journal, and her account from the November edition is reprinted (with gratitude) below.

Julian Youth Exhibit Photographs at MOPA

Trustees and members of the Museum of Photographic Arts (MOPA) filled its atrium last month as guests of honor, four students from Julian Junior High, arrived for an artist’s reception to open “Photo/Synthesis,” the 7th Annual Youth Photography Exhibition.

Seventh-graders Taylor Cole, Trevor Denny, Ethan Elisara and Kaleigh Kaltenthaler enjoyed appetizers and music, and mingled with the public, sharing a love of photography nurtured by their involvement in “Kids with Cameras,” an afterschool enrichment program.  Some of the students had never been to MOPA before.  For others, opening was a new experience.  For all of them, it is the first time their artwork was on display in a venue that is nationally recognized for its contribution to the world of photography.

The theme of this year’s youth exhibition, environment and sustainability, is a subject right up the alley of these students who spent most of their time taking photos in the school garden and on Volcan Mountain.  The show was open to students from throughout San Diego County.  Applicants submitted original photos and an artist statement.  A panel of five experts in the field of photography reviewed about 300 entries to select 100 images for the show.  Jurors considered the quality of the image, how it fit into the theme and how well the student’s written words supported his or her photograph.

Deborah Klochko, executive director of MOPA, spoke at the reception saying, “We live in a visual world; how we see that is important.”

She encouraged guests to take a moment to talk with the artists, saying that their voice plays an important role.  Klochko considers photography to be the most important media of the 21st century.

While she says, “Creativity is important,” she also emphasized the importance of visual literacy.

She spoke of the volume of images in the world today, saying that until one understands the structure of an image—how it is made and how it can be manipulated—one can be controlled by the image instead of being in control.  This is why the museum embraces the philosophy of lifespan learning, with programs for children and adults.

“The museum is proud to showcase the work of the youth, which is exciting for the audience as well,” she says.

In the gallery, the photos are arranged by sub-topics within the theme.

Hung with a group of floral photos is Trevor Denny’s close-up of a bee on a flower petal.  Denny, who thinks “It’s pretty cool” to have his photo in a museum exhibition, never thought about how complex bees are until he examined one through the lense of this camera, focusing on details like the patterns in their wings and the hairs on their bodies.

For Ethan Elisara, who “feels really good” about having his artwork in the show, it was capturing the moment when a cattail stalk released its seeds into the air that caught the attention of the jurors.  Elisara’s photo, which hangs with a group of “not your typical nature images,” has a mysterious quality that engages viewers.

Just a few of the photos on display used portraiture as a way to approach the subject, and that’s where Taylor Cole’s dramatic image of a child’s shadow on the bark of a tree burned in the Cedar Fire is found.  Cole, who “felt like a V.I.P.” at the reception, juxtaposes in her photo the contrast of the tragedy of a natural disaster with the playfulness of a child.

In a group of photos that show mankind’s effect on the earth, Kaleigh Kaltenthaler’s artwork is the lone example of a positive way in which human beings have impacted the environment.  Kaltenthaler said she was “fired up” to be surrounded by all of the photos as she talked with people about her image of a grinding stone and mortar.

Klochko publically credited Jeff Holt with doing a great job with a talented group of students.

The show, beautifully organized by Lori Sokolowski, continues through January 27, 2013.

All students pose with instructor Jeff Holt

Sculpture from the water’s edge

A solar fountain—on the wish list from the beginning of the project and now a charming, bubbling reality in the garden.

I’ve mentioned that I am now part of a network of Master Gardeners in San Diego County (I’ve written about it here and here.)  We have a listserv on which I posted a question about solar fountains.  The garden club decided to buy one, and I was looking for recommendations to help me sort through all of the on-line options.  Running water in the garden is one of the few things we don’t have, and I knew kids would love seeing it pumped by the sun.  I figured—not everything in the garden has to be unique—a nice, standard, store-bought fountain will be just fine.  But then….

My classmate, Deirdre Allen, wrote to me to let me know she was currently making fountains.  We had been seat mates during a MG fieldtrip, and I remembered seeing iphone photos of the beautiful pottery she does at home. A great price, a few e-mailed pictures, and next thing you know, she’s in Julian installing a gorgeous handcrafted piece.

(Meanwhile) the 2012 Master Gardener class has been self-organizing trips to see each other’s gardens.  On Monday I had the pleasure of hosting my classmates at the school garden, including Deirdre, and I cloaked the fountain so that we could officially welcome it to its new garden home.

Thank you Stan Miller for all of the photos above!

Isn’t it beautiful?  It’s nestled next to our dry riverbed, to which it lends the lovely spilling sound of water.  The river stones in the basin and the tree stump make it look as though it was always meant to be in that exact spot.  Deirdre’s business is called “Sculpture from the Water’s Edge” (she lives in a San Diego beach city), and you can call her with questions and/or orders at 713-857-5637.

Snip! goes one more ribbon

On Wednesday, October 17th we officially welcomed the James Hubbell Gate into our garden.  Back-to-back with this celebration was a garden tour given to a group of people attending the No Excuses University conference in San Diego.  Garden Ambassadors gave tours for a half an hour, and then we kicked off the ceremony.

Here’s me reviewing last minute tour details with the ambassadors:

Photo courtesy of Marisa McFedries

The gate is tied up with a ribbon.

Photo courtesy of Jeff Holt

Just a taste of Rita’s always-remarkable catering:

Photo courtesy of Jeff Holt

Show time!  Garden Ambassadors do their thing, informing the guests about the section of the garden at which they are stationed.

Photo courtesy of Marisa McFedries

Photo courtesy of Marisa McFedries

Photo courtesy of Marisa McFedries

Photo courtesy of Marisa McFedries

This ambassador is standing behind a display of student photography detailing the creation of the gate.

Photo courtesy of Marisa McFedries

The entomology club talks to guests!

Photo courtesy of Marisa McFedries

A student plays fiddle for guests who are being seated, just as he promised in his application:

Photo courtesy of Marisa McFedries

Sixth grade students read poetry written about the gate:

Photo courtesy of Marisa McFedries

I greet the crowd and give a speech, explaining “… this is a story of many things: of dreams turned into reality, the making of new friendships, the power of imagination to reshape reality, the generosity of our community to the benefit of children and the doorway to new chapters.”

Photo courtesy of Marisa McFedries

James speaks!

Photo courtesy of Marisa McFedries

L to R: Susi Jones (Executive Director of Pathways), Kevin Ogden (Julian Elementary Principal and Superintendent), Ann and James Hubbell, me, John Wheelock (artistic colleague of James who worked on gate), Mike Gallo (who established the Pamela Gallo fund at the United Methodist Church which funded the gate) and Dawn King (pastor at Julian Community United Methodist Church.)

Photo courtesy of Lay Lay

Snip! goes the ribbon.

Photo courtesy of Lay Lay

The children walk through, as they will be doing for decades to come!

Photo courtesy of Lay Lay