In praise of volunteers

This morning I scrolled back through the blog in search of pictures for a project.  Remembering all of the things we have accomplished over the last ten years is overwhelming and encouraging. NONE of it would have happened without the generous help of volunteers.

This year I am working on building up our group of core volunteers, and we have had some amazing people step up.  Danielle is a mother of four children in our district and a recent addition to our school board.  She checked in with me at one of our new “Watering, Weeding, and Working Wednesdays.”  I was showing her some of the deferred maintenance projects, and she lit up at the mention of our cedar legacy table.  If you don’t know the background of our AMAZING table, please click here.  It’s one of our best stories.

The Legacy Table:  A Little Tale of Reinvesting, Rebuilding and Reinvesting

The table was in need of a little TLC.  It has been a long time since we have cleaned it and treated it with rosewood oil.  Danielle, along with all of her kids, brought out a sander and tools, and they restored it beautifully!  She said teachers were coming out to thank her for her work on it, and when I profusely thanked her, she said she was happy to do it because her family loves our school so much.  And we love them.  ALL THE GOOD THINGS THAT HAPPEN IN SCHOOL GARDENS!

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!

Not your parents’ school lunch

By FoodCorps Service Member Emily Horowitz for the Julian News

Everything you think you know about school lunch is wrong. There is no grumpy old lunch lady plopping slop onto styrofoam trays of hungry students, no half-frozen cardboard pizzas or lumpy mystery meat specials. School lunch has had a bad rap for over 50 years — rightfully so in some cases — but with new USDA nutrition standards and policy shifts, school lunch has been changing for the better.

At Julian Elementary School and Julian Junior High School, we are incredibly lucky to have school lunch made by chefs Donald and Shirley Hooper at the local restaurant Jeremy’s on the Hill. As parents to a first grader and a pre-schooler, creating delicious, locally sourced kid-friendly meals is a personal matter for the Hoopers. Donald has transformed Jeremy’s On the Campus lunch program by sourcing the most local ingredients he can find with the help of the generous suppliers at Sysco and local growers like Sage Mountain Farms. From San Diego free-range chicken to tomatoes delivered within four hours of harvesting, the ingredients in our school lunch are far from the frozen mysteries we used to serve.

If San Diego isn’t local enough for you, Donald is also partnering with Brigida and Josh Rasmussen of Down the Road Farm, and Stacy Peyakov of Wynola Flats Produce. Down the Road Farm is a 22.5 acre farm and orchard that uses organic practices and, although it is still relatively small, provides salad greens and herbs for both Jeremy’s on the Hill restaurant and the school lunch program. The Hoopers supplement dishes with these local greens and create sauces from “ugly” produce donated by Wynola Flats to form the delicious and healthy meals served at school everyday.

The National School Lunch Program has strict standards dictating the amount of sodium, saturated fat, sugar, number of calories, and servings of fruit and vegetables contained in each student’s meal. These requirements mean that children who buy school lunch may be more likely to meet their daily nutrition requirements than those who bring lunch from home. It can be difficult to make sure kids are eating nutritious and balanced meals, so why not ditch the lunchable or leftover pizza for some affordable restaurant-quality lunch that you know is healthy?

National school lunch programs allow children whose families may not have access to healthy food to receive the majority of their daily nutrition needs at a reduced price or even for free. In rural Julian, the need for affordable fresh food is especially high. Our school lunch program, Jeremy’s on the Campus, is famous throughout San Diego county as one of the most unique and progressive systems of its kind. The Farm to School movement, which strives to connect kids to healthy food in schools, is transforming lunch programs all over the nation, and we are proud to be a part of it. So next time you stress about what to pack in your child’s lunchbox, put down the hot cheetos, and let your child enjoy a beautiful salad bar and freshly cooked meal!

A first grade student enjoys a chicken sandwich made with meat from Mary’s Chicken in San Diego.

 Donald and Shirley Hooper receive the Julian Backcountry Collaborative April Partner of the Month Award.

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!”

 

February Garden Tour

Citrus is booming in San Diego County (though not here at 4,200 feet in Julian) so it makes for a perfect February/March harvest of the month.

To kick off this lesson, I bought five containers of orange juice and things that “look like orange juice.”  We did a little consumer education as the kids passed the bottles around looking for the percentage juice, other ingredients, and marketing techniques (pictures and phrases.)  We then analyzed them together based on their observations.

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After deciding that 100% juice was the best, we squeezed our own 100% orange juice and everyone received a small cup to drink.  (We did some classes inside, others outside, depending on the weather.)  I found that using an electric juicer made the process quick enough for each child to try his/her hand at it.

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Upper grade students started their lesson with a slideshow I made about citrus varieties, citrus pests, biological control and California history.  Then they spread out and played a “grapefruit fact” matching game I created a few years ago.

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A few other garden activities lately include:

A “love note” to the garden displayed on our bulletin board for Valentines Day :

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In after school class, Miss Kat continues to wow kids with her exciting lessons and field trips.

Planting peas:

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Creating mountain puma art, after lessons on local wildlife:

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Although everyone worked off the same picture, the results were wonderfully varied!

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Kaitlyn Kuiper, 1st grade

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Aryana Bennington, 1st grade

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Gavin Leck, 1st grade

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Carlo Martinez, 4th grade

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Kasen Mushet, K

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Jackson Angel, K

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Liaden Mitchell, K

And finally taking trips with Club Wild (a joint program with the Volcan Mountain Foundation) to Mount Volcan to learn about watersheds and water!  (Lucky kids!)

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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.