“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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A little idea: “garden treasure hunts”

Last week I made this poster on 11×14 paper, with color clipart, and laminated it.

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Then looking at a jigsaw puzzle template online, I scored it into pieces with a ballpoint pen.

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I cut the puzzle into pieces, re-laminated each piece so all of the edges were sealed, and hid them in the garden.  When I took the K students out for afternoon garden class, they hunted for the pieces, returning to the table to fit it together.  I had little rolls of masking tape on the table to help the pieces stay together.

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After we assembled the message, I passed out magnifying glasses and we went looking for signs of fall.

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In the process, we discovered a stick bug.  We made a circle and gently passed it around.

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And then we posed for this picture!  I love how this activity turned out and plan to make a set for each season.  Fun way to end: I gave each student a piece and they re-hid them for my next class—almost as much fun as finding them!

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Winter Garden Tour

And by winter, I mean the months of November and December and not the weather, as it has been distressingly warm here in Southern California.  Shed your jacket and join me as we take a look around the garden in the past few months.

I’ve seen school gardens that add holiday decorations throughout the year, so I’ve been keeping my eyes out for ornaments and wreaths at garage sales.  At the end of my church’s rummage sale, everything was on sale for $1 a box. I walked away with big plastic ornaments and wreaths.  Students help me put it all up at the end of a garden class (building ownership!), and we added bunches of freshly cut incense cedar.

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A modest radish and broccoli harvest was enough for a treat on a whole grain cracker in Mrs. Younce’s class.

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Parent, friend and native plant guru Art Cole planned and purchased natives for the area to the side of the Kandu Gate.  Plants include creeping snowberry, “Joyce Coulter” Manzanita, monkey flower, sedge, yarrow and currants. Garden Ambassadors helped me dig holes and excavate rocks.

Later I added red mulch and plant markers to help keep students from walking over them.

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Our November Backcountry Collaborative marked the end of our 1 year USDA Farm to School grant.  Pictured below are a few of the seasonal crop banners we had made to decorate our lunch area.  Also pictured are two eight grade students (confession: the boy is mine) who are introducing the food film they made for their elective class, Food Justice.  The title of their film:  Pie-oneering, The story of the first commercial pie restaurant in Julian.

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“Garden Beneficial” Harvey and Mr. Copeland worked with students to build 3×3 beds to increase our edible space, a goal of our Farm to School planning grant.

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Our harvest of the month for November and December: beautiful broccoli!  Notice the hoops and the agrobon, which we’ve used a bit with a few cold/snowy nights.

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Mrs. Dawson’s class harvested the rest of the broccoli for their holiday party, and the irrigation box has been stored inside in anticipation of freezing nights.  (Cross your fingers!)

Wreath making with herbs (primarily rosemary) and cedar was a successful holiday activity.  And the classrooms have never smelled better!

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Happy New Year everyone!  Here’s to more stories flowing from the school garden….

Food, ready for its closeup

Under Mr. Pierce’s instruction, today’s afterschool photography program Kids with Cameras class tackled still life, starring fruits and vegetables, to go with our “food focus” for this semester.  Stacey Peyakov from our local produce stand Wynola Flats donated produce for us to work with (thank you, Stacey!)

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I threw in my own week’s groceries as well as every basket, platter, small bowl and linen in my house.  Other instructors added vases, spools of yarn, a jug of paintbrushes, bowls, shells, lanterns…..  We ended up with a great selection of props.

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Mr. Pierce gave an excellent short presentation on the concept of “still life,” and then outlined a few things the kids should be thinking about: light, texture, color, shadow, etc.

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Then the kids went for it.  And I loved it.  100% of the kids, 100% engaged, for 100% of the class.  I was in pedagogical heaven.

Selecting materials:

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Our ratio of instructors/adults to students was almost 1:1.  The kids consulted with the teachers, and the teachers helped to set up their shots.

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One of the students suggested we tip over the tables to make areas to create the arrangements This worked great as a way to hang linens or butcher paper for backdrops.

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Watching the students exercise their creativity was a joy.  They’d work with one set of items they collected, arranging and re-arranging, and after getting their photographs, they’d head back and try something totally different.  I’d say they were definitely “in the zone.”

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These faces say it all!  A great day!

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Farmers are outstanding in their field, being photographed

Kids with Cameras, our afterschool photography class, is off and running again (I’ve written about it hereherehere and here if you’d like to know more.)  This semester we’re focusing on food, so we took kids to “Down the Road” Farm–one of the places sourcing Jeremy’s on the Campus with fruit and vegetables.  Farmer Josh, Farmer Bob and even Chef Jeremy were on hand to be photographed.  The idea is that we will enlarge some of the day’s best shots and use them in the cafeteria to help students make a connection between their food and the people/farms that grow it.

The farm is set at the base of Volcan Mountain–a stunning site.

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A student chats with Chef Jeremy.

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The greenhouse provided nice, diffuse light on an otherwise very bright afternoon.

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We found that the kids were a bit shy about approaching the farmer/chefs so one of the instructors set them up in stations, so kids went down the line, interacting with them while shooting–a bit more directed approach.  Here Eva talks with Chef Jeremy by the amaranth.

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Chef Jeremy by the amaranth.

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Farmer Josh had a surprise: extra 2 inch models.

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Photo courtesy of Anne Garcia

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A van full of happy children loaded down with flowering root vegetables!

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Coming soon: what the children photographed that day.  I’ll leave you with something that caught my eye!  Ah autumn!

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Garden journals

Every year I volunteer to be a parent reading helper in my kids’ classes.  This year I asked the teacher if I could be the garden teacher instead!  She said “yes,” and so every week I have the class for a 1/2 hour of garden class.  During our first class, each table of children received a pile of patterned and handmade papers, old seed packets and pages from gardening catalogues as well as a 50 cent composition notebook.  They then proceeded to decorate the books they will use all year long to record garden vocabulary, keep their drawings and make journal entries.  Last week we listed the words “snapdragon” and “transplant” and then made a chart of warm season and cool season vegetables.  We went to the garden to plant a cool season veggie (broccoli) and tasted a warm season veggie (tomato.)  I like that they will have these keepsake journals to take home at the end of the year, full of all of their new gardening knowledge.

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2 garden ideas: one harvested, one homegrown

HARVESTED from That Bloomin’ Garden.  Visit her wonderful blog for all of the actual how-to instructions!  My Garden Ambassador loved painting this gameboard on a tree stump during lunch time.  We are looking around for playing pieces—until then, pebbles vs. leaves!

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Outdoors checkers or chess, anyone?

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HOMEGROWN, at our school in the Friendship Garden cared for by the special education students.  I am in love with the idea of repurposing school infrastrucutre in the garden.  I have a picture of an old-fashioned jungle-gym-climbing-tower being used as a trellis here, and a photo of a filmstrip cart from the 70’s now serving as a taste test cart here.

This year we received brand new salad bars from the Let’s Move Campaign.  One day on my way to the garden I spied the old salad bar, awaiting its doom by the maintenance shed.  So I asked the custodian to move it to the Friendship Garden, and the teachers/kids planted it out.  (Note: sneezeguard removed.)

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One of the teachers told me that the kids love it, especially because they can get up really close to the plants to observe, water and harvest. (That strawberry looks ready!)

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