“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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September/October garden tour (aka photo dump)

Every month or so I like to walk around the garden and catch y’all up on new things, beginning this month with our “farm to school” banners which Mr. Wells just hung outside the after school club.  This set features produce grown in San Diego County in the fall.  They add a lively, colorful element to this outside eating/studying area.

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My Garden Ambassadors are a hardworking group.  These two take charge of lunchtime composting.

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They love leaving me notes—a habit I encourage by leaving them notes back.

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Mr. Copeland stops by as the K/1st graders were showing off our new set of gloves in after school garden class.

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Lots of cool season planting due to having lots of space due to our spectacularly lousy summer crop:

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In after school class, sometimes we just play games in the garden.  With everyone occupied with fun stuff at the table, I can pull one or two students out for small jobs or teachable moments.

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We have been making cinnamon maple applesauce in our longer format classes during the school day.

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I’ve been printing the recipe in Thursday’s bulletin.  If students make it at home, they send me a photo, and I invite them to enjoy lunch in the school garden with friends.

Grace and applesauce

At school:

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At home:

Ryder:applesauce

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Finally, I’ve slowly been collecting “seasonal touches” to decorate the garden.  I saw this years ago at a school garden in San Fransisco when our garden was just getting started, and it was too much to consider at the time.  But now, I’m ready. Garage sales are a great place to find decor out of season.  This came from the Methodist Church’s rummage sale, and I think it adds a lovely autumn touch.  (Also, I bought the over-the-door wreath hanger which keeps the arrangement in place.)

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Garden Ambassadors wanted to put up Halloween decorations so they hung webs and spiders—appropriate for the garden!

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Up next:  Why is Mrs. Tree crying?  (Possibly my favorite post ever, next time.)

From the mouths of ambassadors

I have a small, but lovely, crop of new fifth grade Garden Ambassadors for the year.  Last week most of them “tested” to get their official t-shirts.  After reading garden notes and practicing with me, they each gave the full garden tour, proving they are ready to host campus visitors by themselves.  It’s a big moment when they receive their official gear.  Here are some of their funny and profound thoughts on being ambassadors, from their applications.  Enjoy!

What do you think are good qualities for a Garden Ambassador to have?

“I think a Garden Ambassador should be sweet, charming and funny. I think they should occasionally make a joke, but not joke too much.  A good Garden Ambassador should speak to their guest with respect.  I also think that they should speak with a lot of personality, and not just speak in monotone.”

“…Garden Ambassadors, every single one of them, should have your full attention.  They should be able to control themselves and be a good example for everyone.  THEY ARE IN FIFTH GRADE!”

Why would you like to serve as a Garden Ambassador?

“I enjoy meeting new people!  I also want to put to the test how charming and funny I can be without blowing it. I find that meeting lots of new, eccentric people with expose me to different personalities.”

“My Mom has a big garden.  I would love to learn a little more.”

“We are so lucky to have our own garden at our school.  I want to say to my kids when I am older that I was a loyal, helpful Garden Ambassador…I would also like to come home and tell my Mom about how Garden Ambassadors went everyday!”

What do you think you could learn from serving as a Garden Ambassador?

“I will learn how to talk to people that I’ve just met as if I’ve known them forever!  I will also learn lots and lots of plant names!”

“I think I or anyone could learn how to care for other things that are not yours.  I think we will learn how long and hard people work on our garden just for us to have a garden at our school. We could learn all of the plants and know that you are spending time on something that is worth it!  I am so happy that I might be a Garden Ambassador!”

Me too.  🙂

 

 

Garden Tour: September 2013

Never have I gone so long without a post—never have I had a busier first six weeks of school.  (A friend gently pointed out I always say that.)  Anyway, welcome back, dear readers.  Let’s stroll around and catch up.

Starting at the junior high garden, the umbrellas were installed at the mosaic tables, providing much needed shade in these warm school months.  We got good ones–sturdy and rated for wind.

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I met with two “Garden Beneficials” on a Saturday to dig up comfrey and broccoli at Mary’s house to transplant to school.  (Gardens grow community!)

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How how I love these ladies! (Laural and Mary)

Grant money paid for this all-weather chalkboard.  Domingo hung it for us behind the outdoor kitchen prep island so that we can write recipes, illustrate lesson plans, and more!

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Once again applications went out to the fifth grade students, and I picked a new crop of 10 ambassadors.

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Four varieties of fresh figs were donated by the Farm Stand in Escondido for a taste test at recess.

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For our harvest of the month (September—tomatoes), we harvested, made salsa, learned tomato trivia, looked at pictures of heirlooms, and read children’s books.  My “garden beneficials” group continue to bless us all with their time and commitment to teaching with me in the garden.

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One week I gave two tours: one to the United Methodist Women, another to the Ramona Garden Club.  Both were big garden lovefests.

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I lalso led a weekend fieldtrip to Camp Stevens as part of our Farm to School program.  Camp Stevens has an amazing organic farm, garden and outdoor education program—an incredible resource in Julian.  We played “Jays vs. Chickadees” under the oak trees and then went out to the field to make our own salsa on the spot.  You took a chip, went and grabbed a cherry tomato off the vine, then brought it back and piled on onions, peppers, cucumbers that Rita was furiously chopping up.  Repeat.

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After helping to harvest the spaghetti squash, we headed back to the main camp for their “seasonal supper” to which they invite the larger community.

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All the bins back at school got turned and compost sifted to make room for this year’s lunchtime scraps. Ambassadors are posted at the trashcans at lunch to help kids put their leftovers in the right bucket, and then third grade helpers come out to dump the scraps, add straw, add rainwater, and then return the buckets to the lunch area.

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And finally, I’ve enjoyed working with my son’s 2/3 class every Friday for a half hour of “garden time”—a new thing I’m trying with his teacher.  We are learning songs, memorizing plant names, eating what’s ready, going on sensory walks and drawing in our journals.  My son’s class is a very sweet group of kids who absolutely love the garden, and I look forward to our time together each week.

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What’s worthy of a 100th post? Compost!

The glories of compost….much ink has been spilled on this everyday miracle.  Scraps of food that transform into “black gold” with leaves, water, air, time, and microbial mechanics. It’s poetry pay dirt, and it happens under our noses.

Our compost system at school is a passive system.  In other words, we don’t get around to turning it very often and only harvest it about twice a year.  Nonetheless, the magic still happens.

Garden Ambassador turning the bin with a pitchfork at recess:

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Fourth grade students sifted the bottom layer of the bin into the wheelbarrow using stacked plant trays.

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Ladies and gentleman, I present to you: the fruit and vegetable leftovers from Julian Elementary, ready for our next planting!

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The most beautiful broccoli…

….is (of course) the broccoli you grow yourself!

One of my Garden Ambassadors harvested the broccoli yesterday.

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And after thorough washing, it went back to the classroom.  From stem to mouth in the same afternoon!

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P.S.  Today I saw some of the fifth graders, and I asked them how they liked the broccoli, compared to other broccoli they had eaten.  One said, “More moist.”  Another said, “Fresher, sweeter.” A third summed it up: “It tasted more green.”

They also said the teacher offered seconds, and the kids rushed the bowl.  (Who says kids won’t eat vegetables?)

“Be Wise” partners with our Farm to School efforts

“Be Wise Ranch”* is an organic farm in San Diego that runs a CSA program (community supported agriculture.)  In a CSA, members buy boxes of produce, often organic, directly from a farm on a regular basis.**  For a couple years I have been a member of “Be Wise”, and our little Julian group takes turns in picking up all the boxes once every two weeks and then delivering them to the other members.

Today I called and asked if, in conjunction with our regular pick-up, the ranch would be willing to donate an extra box of produce to our emerging Farm to School program.

Within minutes, they wrote back and said “absolutely.”

Let me list the ways in which this is a very cool development for our F2S efforts.

  • I can use produce in my Farm to School lessons, as in the citrus class I recently held.  Financing these lessons is a challenge, but now we will have a regular donation of organic food to use.  It’s a great start.
  • Garden Ambassadors love doing taste tests!  I can imagine receiving our box, and then working with them during lunch and recess to either cook with it or prep it raw.  Every month we will have a wide variety of fruits and vegetables to introduce to the children in small bites.  For example, this week’s box includes bok choy, cauliflower, carrots, collard greens, grapefruit, kale, romanesco, lemons, lettuce, blood oranges, tangelos, radishes and strawberries.
  • All of the food is already sourced locally and certified organic.
  • Working with Be Wise helps us get the produce efficiently.  Our rural isolation is proving to be one of the biggest challenges in implementing F2S programs, and so it’s a relief to use an “existing channel of distribution” (i.e. our group already picks up regularly “down the hill.”)
  • Even though we will continue to use our garden produce for classes and taste tests, there are many things we will never be able to grow at our altitude that we can still introduce to the kids through the Be Wise produce.
  • We have a short growing season, and donated produce means we can keep the flow of fruits and vegetables coming even when our own growing space looks like this:
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Taken today!

*For more information on Be Wise Ranch, please visit http://www.bewiseranch.com

**For more information on CSA’s, see http://www.bewiseranch.com/csa.htm