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,

CJP

 

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.”

Presenting the native plant demonstration garden

Under Garden Teacher Kat’s expert leadership (and unfailing love for native plants), we now have a native plant demonstration garden along a newly cut trail on the back slope of the garden.

The idea goes back years to the James Hubbell Gate.

When James created the gate, his vision was to better connect the gardens at the elementary and junior high.  At that time,the garden was separated by a high chain link fence and a long asphalt road.  With the installation of the gate, we took down the fence, put up an attractive, waist-high fence and cut an opening to the slope on the back side of the garden.  Then five years elapsed until Kat took up the cause.  To begin she recruited Garrett to install steps on the steepest part of the slope down from the gate.

This allowed us to cut a straight path across the hillside.  Mr. Boling, parent volunteer, came out to help with shoring it up.

It’s hard to see in this photo but the path continues through the trees.

Kat then purchased native plants and worked with kids to plant them all along the trail.  Not only will children learn about the plants by using the trail, but community members can also educate themselves about California natives simply by visiting our campus.  Another project completed at the Julian Elementary garden!  Thanks everyone!  Well done!

Thank you San Diego Master Gardeners!

Last semester Julian Elementary was thrilled to receive a $500 grant to build a pioneer history raised bed in conjunction with the 5th grade teacher, Mrs. McFedries, as part of her social studies curriculum.  We used the money to buy heirloom seeds, wood, soil and paints.  Our garden teachers Kat and Emily did an awesome job overseeing all of the steps with Mrs. McFedries.

We chose to take out a raised bed that we inherited ten years ago and was falling apart.

Students cut and painted the new boards.  We decided to make this bed not only wider, but also twice as deep.

Tom, the head of our school maintenance staff, generously helped the students build the bed.

Meanwhile, students propagated their seeds from “Seed Savers Exchange” on every available flat space in the classroom and later in the garden.  Emily had researched and purchased historic varieties of beans, corn, squash, okra, cucumber and herbs.

It took a lot of soil to fill this beauty!  Small transplants were then placed in the new bed and covered in agrobon to protect the baby plants.

Finished product!  (We only need to add some length to the current irrigation.) The fifth graders “paid it forward” by planting herbs and vegetables for next year’s class, but since the junior high is adjacent to the elementary, they can also come back early next school year to enjoy the harvest too!  The smaller letters on the bed read “Thank you SD Master Gardeners!”

 

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.

“California Thursdays” lunch launch

On March 17th, our district participated in a statewide launch of California Thursdays, a program promoted by the Center for Ecoliteracy.  The idea is simple: districts sign on to serve a lunch every Thursday sourced only with California food.

To get ready for the big celebration, I worked with after school students for two months to create educational signage and decorations.

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Strawberries were planned for the menu, so I made them the “harvest of the month” and created strawberry lessons.  We examined strawberry plants, talked about “runners” or stolons, searched for plants in the garden with “strawberry facts,” whipped up strawberry smoothies and made little posters that later decorated the lunch area wall.

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One day before the event, I taught two flower arranging classes after school to make the lunch table centerpieces.  I found the plastic pots at a dollar store, and we made the entire arrangements with only plants and flowers found in the school garden.  They turned out beautifully!

Picking flowers…..

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…and arranging them!

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On the morning of our launch, the Garden Ambassadors came to school early to help me hang signs and posters.

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At 11:00 our special guests arrived—the farmers and ranchers who provided the food for lunch, representatives from our caterer Jeremy’s on the Campus, Jan Stone from the Center for Ecoliteracy and partners from North County San Diego Health and Human Services.  Our Garden Ambassadors greeted each guest, sat with him/her during the assembly and lunch, and provided garden tours.

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Our lunch consisted of sliders made with bison meat from a local ranch, salad from Farmer Phil at Sage Mountain Farm, and bread from California Mountain Bakery.  At the assembly right before lunch, junior high students showed a slideshow they created about California agriculture.  Ken Childs from Star B Ranch, the local bison ranch, spoke to the kids about raising bison and set up a table of bison-related items to see and touch.  Chef Jeremy, Farmer Phil, Jan Stone and Health and Human Services Deputy Director Jennifer Bransford-Koons also spoke about good, local food and healthy lunch!

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Then we all ate lunch!  A wonderful day, and an awesome concept—our district is proud to be a part of the state’s California Thursday effort!  (And thank you to Susi Jones for making this whole event happen—her vision always inspires!)

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Getting smarter every year: the daffodil show

We have hundreds of daffodils planted all around our garden, and we keep adding more every year. Every March our town of Julian hosts a daffodil show which is truly wonderful! (You can read my rapturous past reports here and here.)

Though students have planted most of the daffodils, I usually picked our prizewinning blooms the first couple years the school garden was represented in the youth division of the show.  Then I got a little smarter and had the kids go out and pick the flowers.  This year I was even smarter and put the whole process in the students’ hands: I not only had the students choose the flowers, after a short tutorial on how to do so properly, but I also had them key out the flowers using a laminated guide with flower part diagrams and division breakdowns.  They also arranged the blooms in show vases and filled out the submission cards.  Our wonderful Garden Beneficial for the day,  Jenny graciously offered to drop them off at Town Hall, ready to enter. And like every year, we brought home a handful of ribbons—but this year, the ownership of the flowers and the garden and our participation in the show was better than ever—no surprise.  School garden cardinal rule:  get kids’ hands on everything!

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