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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Drink a rainbow

An effective phrase for teaching nutrition to children is “eat a rainbow!”  The simple idea is that eating fruits and veggies of all different colors builds a healthy diet.  We made this a theme on Food Day 2015, and I want to keep building upon it.

Sage Garden has provided us with their notebook of recipes which includes a different color smoothie for each grade.  I pulled all of the different colors and am doing “Drink a rainbow!” workshops for my after school students.

I began by setting up the Sage Garden cooking cart with all of the equipment and ingredients laid out and the recipe written on the whiteboard.

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Then I gave each pair of students a stack of laminated fruit and vegetable cards produced by the California Department of Education.  The students sorted the fruits and veggies into two piles:  orange/yellow and other.  We talked about all the orange and yellow examples we found.

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Students came up one by one for the various jobs:  juicing the oranges, peeling the bananas, pressing the limes, adding the strawberries, measuring out the yogurt.

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The next week we did purple smoothies, and this week we will blend up red ones.  As you can imagine, it’s a very popular class!

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In which service volunteers are celebrities…

It was a good morning in November when I answered the Pathways phone and an AmeriCorps team member was on the line, asking if we would like a group of volunteers for a day of service at school.

Um, YES!

On December 18th, we welcomed eight young people from all around the county on a 10-month term of community service across the western states.  They had been in Julian for six weeks, staying at Camp Stevens and working on building and clearing trails, planting natives on Volcan and helping out around town, such as assisting locals in hanging all of the holiday decorations on our historic Main Street.  On our day, they worked with Pathways, helping to wrap presents for our toy drive, moving a sandbox for the special ed. department, planting bulbs, painting our table, and installing a hoop system over our raised beds.

I also asked them if they would be willing to do a 15-minute presentation to the 4th and 5th grade classes.  They were happy to do this and visited each class to discuss the concept of AmeriCorps, what projects they had already contributed to, where they were headed next, and what they had learned about committing a year of their young lives to service in various communities.  I also asked the team to share some of their reflections on living in Julian with our students, as it’s always great to get an outsider’s perspective on what is just “daily life” for you.  They talked about the natural beauty of Julian, the close-knit community who had welcomed them wholeheartedly and of course, the apple pie.

After taking a few last questions, I hustled them out the door so the students could get ready for lunch.  As I did, some fifth graders followed us with pen and paper and started asking the AmeriCorps members to sign their names.  Suddenly I realized the kids were asking for their autographs!  The AmeriCorps members realized this too as they signed paper after paper, laughing that this was definitely a “first” for them.

Oh to live in a world where the people who volunteer and serve in communities are the celebrities!  And thank you to the amazing Mrs. McFedries who has taught her class to respect and be grateful for people who serve others.  Bless you AmeriCorps team as you continue to make the world a better place!

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Last garden tour of 2015

Before we head into the new year, here’s a glimpse of the fun we had and the work we did in the school garden in November and December—aka my periodic “Garden Tour.”

Leaf rubbings in garden class made sweet placemats for “Take your parent to lunch” in the garden.

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Following up on the “How is it grown?” video the students watched on Food Day, we made a simple cranberry relish with orange juice and local honey.

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While the cranberries cooked, we worked on updating our garden journals—-decorating the covers with images from garden catalogues and inserting recipes and other lesson materials from the last couple months.

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Miss Sally Snipes gave us a bushel of daffodils to add to the garden.  To make this a fun activity, I called the class “Bulbs and Bubbles.”  After planting a few bulbs, students got to blow bubbles…then back to the bulbs….and then bubbles…

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I took the portable speaker out to the garden to play Christmas music as students went wild decorating the garden.  Where could they hang ornaments?  Anywhere they could reach.

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For out last garden class in December, the younger grades made tangerine pomanders—a highly sensory, fine motor activity.

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Older students do an activity that is now a bit of tradition around the holidays: wreath making with freshly cut cedar and rosemary sprigs.

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Freezing weather sent us inside for a few garden classes.  Here students measured out their own healthy trail mix and munched on it while we played garden bingo.

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Anticipating a lot of cold, wet weather to come, I am now thinking through new inside garden projects and activities for the rest of the winter.

More to come in the new year:  our visit from Americorps and garden fashion!  Thanks for following along in 2015!  And thanks for sharing my love and enthusiasm for “all the good things that happen in school gardens.”  Happy New Year!

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.

 

 

 

 

“Soda is the monster we need to mash!”

As part of our Food Day program, Sun Dog Art Studios led an anti-soda art project at the junior high.  Each student made a “monster” out of a soda can in thirty minutes using construction paper, puffy paint, scissors, straws and pipe cleaners.  Teal and Tomy, the founders and art teachers of Sun Dog, were a delight to work with, and I highly recommend them to any school or organization in San Diego County.

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Sun Dog made these samples with information on soda consumption which they left with us to incorporate into our displays.

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Librarian Colleen allowed us to hang half of the collection behind the checkout counter at the Julian Library the next day.  The collection will stay up through the end of November.

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I hung the other half at the Wolf Den, the junior high multipurpose room.

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Stay tuned for more wonderful reports from Food Day 2015…..