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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“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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Harvest of the Month: Citrus

Our December Harvest of the month (broccoli) was still going strong in January…

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…and then we switched to “citrus” for our January-Feburary Harvest of the Month.  I put out a call to friends and colleagues “down the hill” where citrus grows, and my desk was soon buried in bags of lemons, oranges, and grapefruit.  We began to use them up by:

….making orange pomanders with whole cloves….

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..making our own “non-toxic” cleaners in the afterschool garden class to clean the tables in Club Jaguar (we steeped lemon and orange rinds in vinegar for two weeks)…

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…..creating a seasonal wreath with oven-dried citrus rings to decorate the Club Jaguar door….

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…squeezing lots of homemade lemonade…

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..playing a “memory” game with grapefruit facts…

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…enjoying “taste test” stations with blood oranges and three types of grapefruit…

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….reading  An Orange in January by Dianna Hutts Aston and The Red Lemon by Bob Staake…

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….and sending kids home with lemons and recipes to make lemonade, cleaners and invisible ink!

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Strawberry lesson, sweet and juicy

Our “harvest of the month” is strawberries, and I tried out a new idea this year that worked well.  Fifth grade students were split in groups that switched halfway through the lesson.  One group worked on potting strawberry runners; the other transferred 30 strawberry facts on to paper cutouts, which I later laminated and attached to skewers. We also feasted on local strawberries, since ours aren’t quite ready.

Later the kindergarten students hid the strawberries as part of their lesson (which included finger plays, watering, observing strawberry plants and of course eating!)

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Still later, second grade students went on a strawberry scavenger hunt to fill in the missing blanks on this “quiz” pasted into their journals.

1. It takes about_____days for a flower to turn into a fruit.

2. Strawberries are delicate and must be picked__________.

3. The Spanish word for strawberries is _________.

4. Strawberries are in the__________ family.

5. There are about ______species of strawberry plants.

6. Strawberries produce “runners” or __________ that produce new “daughter” plants.

7. Strawberries like ____________days and ____________ nights.

8. Strawberries are usually the first fruit to ripen in the________.

9. On average, there are ____________ tiny seeds on every strawberry.

10. Strawberries are the only fruit that wears seeds on the ____________.

11. Strawberries have lots of vitamin _________.

 12. Strawberries are perennials. This means they live more than ________________.

Afterward, I “planted” all of the signs in one of the strawberry beds for an ongoing educational display.  I think it’s a sweet touch!

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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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Harvest of the Month: Tomatoes

It’s official–it’s on the marquee.

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Planted in June, these tomatoes will be ripening right on time.  For the month of September, we will be harvesting and eating all of our garden-grown beauties.

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Arranged by school board member Mrs. Tellam, the Farm Stand in Escondido donated a box of Carolina Golds and Caro Rich that we took out to recess…….

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…so that the Garden Ambassadors could run a taste test.  Our principal/superintendent Mr. Ogden is interacting with the kids, encouraging them to have a taste and exclaiming how delicious the tomatoes are!

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The ambassadors always take a poll:  thumbs up or thumbs down.  (Only one reported thumbs down.)  They also asked the “tomato challenge”: letting kids know tomatoes don’t come from Italy (a common guess!) but from Central and South America.

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We had some left over, so we put them in the front office so that kids, parents and staff could take one or two home.

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Our brand new lunch menu has been featuring gorgeous local heirloom tomatoes so the hope is that all of this education will ultimately make kids more receptive to/excited about them when they see them on the salad bar.  Yum!

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Harvest of the month: peas

Next year I will be leading the effort to introduce a Harvest of the Month program at our school.  To get it started, we’re doing a pilot this month.

The backbone of this program is a set of excellent resources provided by a Network for a Healthy California (http://www.harvestofthemonth.cdph.ca.gov).  For each fruit or vegetable, they provide an educator guide, a parent newsletter, a community handout and a menu template on which you can print your school lunch calendar.

I attended the all-district staff meeting at the beginning of the month to introduce the program and pass out information to the teachers.  These multi-page guides have lots of information about the selected fruit or vegetable: nutrition, history, botany, recipes, science, literature links, etc.

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During a University of Wednesday class, the children rotated to three stations related to peas. Here’s a craft template I created for an indoor station. (It was windy that day!)

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Tip: Michaels has a single pack of cardstock greens in all different shades.

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At another station, the students did a set of drawings of peas, which were planted in succession so that they could observe them at different stages of growth—also, to stretch out the harvest.

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At my station we sampled sweet pea hummus, and we talked about all of the ingredients.  We also did a fennel taste test because I had some to use from our donated produce box.

I’m going to teach more pea-themed lessons this month so I’ve been checking out every children’s book I can find with the word”pea” in the title and creating a working annotated bibliography.  I’d love to find a grant to eventually purchase every title on the list.

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We also made some decorations for the garden to announce the monthly harvest.  Here our 8th grade PLUS leadership kids are finishing up a banner started by the fourth grade.

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This is a banner I had printed locally.

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And finally, a taste test!  Snap peas were in our Be Wise Box this week, and I supplemented them with 2 lbs. from the Warner Springs Farmers Market I visited last night.  An ambassador took data (“”Do you like it?”), and once again, the peas have it!

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