Garden ambassadors, tour guides, rock stars

Another responsibility of our fifth and sixth grade Garden Ambassadors is to give tours.  I work with them on the how’s (shaking hands, making eye contact, friendly smiles) and the what’s (correct and succinct information, good stories, personal anecdotes) of being a good tour guide.  Throughout the year, when we have a guest on campus interested in seeing the garden, one of the ambassadors will be tapped to give the tour.  Last week an ambassador gave a tour to a pediatrician on campus for the day; another one recently spent her recess giving a tour to a group of parents visiting from a San Diego school.

Today all ten of them were “on.”  Our school celebrated Global Youth Service Day by holding a short open house to showcase to the wider community our service learning projects.  Garden Ambassadors also gave garden tours.  The last two weeks we have had three “working lunches” to prepare. The students spread out at “stations,” introducing themselves and talking about their section of the garden to each visitor that approached.

They were smart, poised and welcoming, and I was incredibly impressed, once again, by the level of leadership to which kids can rise when given the chance. (The seriousness with which they take their job is charming too!)  I was very proud of them, and I was also reminded of how much joy I derive from working with kids in gardens.

Tour guides in action, sporting offical yellow (5th) and green (6th) ambassador shirts

Ambassador talking to the local press

ESK manages the "honor herb" garden---take a handful of herbs for a quarter

"Early Start Kindergarten" (ESK) does worm composting in their classroom

First grade manages the "Boxtops" program which raises money for the garden

The K/1 classroom looks after the butterfly garden

Third graders are in charge of lunchtime composting

To-do lists and garden bon bons

If I unscrolled my garden “to-do list,” I am certain it would roll out my front door and down my street.  In any garden—especially a school garden as ambitious as ours—there is simply a massive amount of things to do.

Last week, I received two little gifts (I call them “bon bons”) in the midst of all the garden work.  One is that I took my son’s kindergarten on a sensory tour of the garden.  No fancy lesson plan or exciting activity—I simply asked the kids to quietly walk through the garden. Then I asked them to name something they “saw, smelled or heard” that was 1)new, 2)beautiful or 3) interesting.  The kids were coming out of their skin in excitement as we took time out for sheer discovery.  I came back to class, after three rounds of little people, just a little bit exhilirated.

Another story:  On this blog I can check my “site stats.”  Every day I can see how many views I’ve had, what posts folks are reading and even what specific “search engine terms” people typed in that led them to my blog.  Readers, apparently, have found me by googling “mosaic art” and “photography and placemaking” and of course “school gardens.”

Last week I saw that someone arrived at my blog because he/she typed in the phrase:

“positive things that happen to people going to school.”

Bon bon.

I am reminded that the cure for feeling overwhelmed by– many things really— is often immersing yourself in the reasons you are doing all the little tasks in the first place. Remembering the vision at the core of your work, you then let that joy propel you into the next day and the next task.

First grade's sunflowers from last season, growing in a space that was formerly overlooked and neglected (photo courtesy of Marisa McFedries)