Early morning wonders

Beginning to tidy up the garden for this weekend’s tour, I opened the small cedar hutch and found myself looking directly at this:

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I immediately closed the door and ran to get my favorite fifth grade entomologist out of class.

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The swallowtail must have been drying its wings because it was perfectly still, allowing us to move the box to which it was attached and put it under a tree.

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Avery and I spent a good ten minutes taking pictures and video, making observations just inches away, and marveling together.  It was wonder-full.

Here’s another wonderful thing: I knew her teacher would allow me to take her out for ten minutes, missing a bit of class time, for this teachable moment.  Thanks Mrs. Croman.

From Julian to the MOPA

True:  Four Julian students currently have photographs hanging in the Museum of Photographic Arts in Balboa Park.  This is a great story and my dear friend Ann recently wrote it up for the Julian Journal, and her account from the November edition is reprinted (with gratitude) below.

Julian Youth Exhibit Photographs at MOPA

Trustees and members of the Museum of Photographic Arts (MOPA) filled its atrium last month as guests of honor, four students from Julian Junior High, arrived for an artist’s reception to open “Photo/Synthesis,” the 7th Annual Youth Photography Exhibition.

Seventh-graders Taylor Cole, Trevor Denny, Ethan Elisara and Kaleigh Kaltenthaler enjoyed appetizers and music, and mingled with the public, sharing a love of photography nurtured by their involvement in “Kids with Cameras,” an afterschool enrichment program.  Some of the students had never been to MOPA before.  For others, opening was a new experience.  For all of them, it is the first time their artwork was on display in a venue that is nationally recognized for its contribution to the world of photography.

The theme of this year’s youth exhibition, environment and sustainability, is a subject right up the alley of these students who spent most of their time taking photos in the school garden and on Volcan Mountain.  The show was open to students from throughout San Diego County.  Applicants submitted original photos and an artist statement.  A panel of five experts in the field of photography reviewed about 300 entries to select 100 images for the show.  Jurors considered the quality of the image, how it fit into the theme and how well the student’s written words supported his or her photograph.

Deborah Klochko, executive director of MOPA, spoke at the reception saying, “We live in a visual world; how we see that is important.”

She encouraged guests to take a moment to talk with the artists, saying that their voice plays an important role.  Klochko considers photography to be the most important media of the 21st century.

While she says, “Creativity is important,” she also emphasized the importance of visual literacy.

She spoke of the volume of images in the world today, saying that until one understands the structure of an image—how it is made and how it can be manipulated—one can be controlled by the image instead of being in control.  This is why the museum embraces the philosophy of lifespan learning, with programs for children and adults.

“The museum is proud to showcase the work of the youth, which is exciting for the audience as well,” she says.

In the gallery, the photos are arranged by sub-topics within the theme.

Hung with a group of floral photos is Trevor Denny’s close-up of a bee on a flower petal.  Denny, who thinks “It’s pretty cool” to have his photo in a museum exhibition, never thought about how complex bees are until he examined one through the lense of this camera, focusing on details like the patterns in their wings and the hairs on their bodies.

For Ethan Elisara, who “feels really good” about having his artwork in the show, it was capturing the moment when a cattail stalk released its seeds into the air that caught the attention of the jurors.  Elisara’s photo, which hangs with a group of “not your typical nature images,” has a mysterious quality that engages viewers.

Just a few of the photos on display used portraiture as a way to approach the subject, and that’s where Taylor Cole’s dramatic image of a child’s shadow on the bark of a tree burned in the Cedar Fire is found.  Cole, who “felt like a V.I.P.” at the reception, juxtaposes in her photo the contrast of the tragedy of a natural disaster with the playfulness of a child.

In a group of photos that show mankind’s effect on the earth, Kaleigh Kaltenthaler’s artwork is the lone example of a positive way in which human beings have impacted the environment.  Kaltenthaler said she was “fired up” to be surrounded by all of the photos as she talked with people about her image of a grinding stone and mortar.

Klochko publically credited Jeff Holt with doing a great job with a talented group of students.

The show, beautifully organized by Lori Sokolowski, continues through January 27, 2013.

All students pose with instructor Jeff Holt

Destination farm stand

Last week Kids with Cameras took a field trip to a farm stand run by a Julian family dedicated to sourcing food as locally as possible.  First our guest instructor, Bill Bevill, worked with the students on sharp focus and filling the frame, and then we drove five minutes down the road to Wynola Flats Produce.  Stacey Peyakov was a wonderful host, allowing kids to roam through the store as well as the orchard, snapping away. The indoor/outdoor space allowed for experimenting with lighting, and the produce gave us a chance to capture colors, textures, and patterns.  One of the goals of both the KWC program and the garden is to develop in kids a “sense of place”—what makes living in Julian unique and wonderful?  To do that you have to get out and look around, and what better way to do that than with a camera in hand?

Photo courtesy of Jeff Holt

University of Wednesday

University of Wednesday is a new program at out school.  After lunch on Wednesday all of the classes go to an enrichment class: art, garden, natural history, etc.  Every week they rotate.  This is a great development for the garden as it allows me to be a true “garden educator,” creating a lesson plan tailored to each grade.

Photo courtesy of Marisa McFedries

Last week I divided the group in half.  One half played Garden Bingo with me.  I don’t simply call out the words—I give examples of them in our garden and the kids have to come up with the words.  It was windy so I had to tape down the boards.  And the plastic bingo chips were too lightweight so I finally hit upon this idea.  (Easy clean up–just flick these chips off the table.)

The other half did this scavenger hunt.  It’s an exercise in observation, with a few  academic standards thrown in.  I usually have adult volunteers with me, so they walk around the garden, helping kids who are stumped or seizing teachable moments.  This “scavenger hunt” format works really well, as kids are self-directed, working in pairs with the questions below on a clipboard. And it’s easy to adapt to the grade and the season.

Sample:

1)  How many varieties (different types) of tomatoes are currently growing in our garden?

2)   We are currently growing yellow snapdragon flowers.  Examine the flowers.  Why do you think they have this name?

3)   Draw the most beautiful thing in the garden:

4)   Cite one example of insect damage or plant disease in the garden.  (Look closely at leaves.)

5)   Write three words that come to mind when you see the Hubbell Gate.  (The new colorful one at the end of the garden).  Now use the thesaurus on the main table and fine a synonym for each of these words.

Your word                                                Word from thesaurus

__________________________                        _________________________________

__________________________                        _________________________________

__________________________                        _________________________________

6)   Smell at least three herbs in the herb garden.  Draw the leaf of the one you like most.  Do you know its name?

7)   We are a “certified wildlife habitat.”  What are the four things needed for a habitat?  (This is printed somewhere in the garden.)  Pick two elements and give an example of both.

8) Watch the 4 minute video on tendrils.  What did scientists recently learn?  Where are there tendrils in our garden?  Do you notice the phenomenon pointed out in the video?

(We couldn’t get this excellent Science Friday clip to play out in the garden, so I explained it and the kids watched it later in class.)

Then the kids switch so they both have a chance at each activity.  We end by gathering together at the table to share our answers and questions, and I try to always have something from the garden prepped to eat as we talk together.  The containers get passed around until all the food is gone!

Take it outside!

“Taking learning outside”—a phrase I’ve heard from those in the environmental education/school garden world.  The idea is this: if you can teach it in the classroom, you can teach it outside.  (Agree? Disagree? Discuss.)

Here are some ways non-garden activities have moved into the garden in the last year:

On Science Day, students met in the garden with the amazing naturalist/teacher Kat to pound and braid yucca fibers into rope:

Girl Scouts held their “bridging ceremony” during which they pass to the next level of scouting:

An Easter Egg hunt last April:

Yoga class:

A kindergarten teacher uses the garden with a yearly unit on the gingerbread man!

And finally, “reading buddies” (third graders paired with first graders) and SSR (“silent sustained reading”). Do they still use that term?  I remember reading at my desk, but I would have loved to have read in a silent, sustained way in a gazebo!

“Bug Club”—aspiring entomologists emerge!

Leadership and innovation is encouraged at our school. Witness the parent-led garden crusade.  I believe the spirit of entrepeneurship often trickles down to kids.  When faced with a school or community problem, it’s not uncommon for my son to suggest we just “write a grant” for that.

Fifth grade Avery recently told her Mom (Marisa, garden conspirator) that she’d really like to start an “entomology club.” She told her teacher too, and of course, I also heard about.  Everyone encouraged her to run with her idea, so she gave a short speech to the class and invited friends to join her in a quest to understand the insect life in our garden.

I had some grant money left over for garden curriculum so I immediately ordered her some fieldguides, viewing chambers, and even some goggles that make you see the world through the compound eyes of a fly.

Meanwhile my six-year old son took a one-hour drawing class with Marisa during our enrichment afternoons at school called University of Wednesday.  In one short lesson on “foreshortening” he came home and drew a castle.  Next thing you know….Marisa and I have arranged to get together once a week.  She and Elliot are going to sit down and do pencil drawings; Avery and I are going to talk entomology. It’s a creative trade of time and talent, and I like the idea of two moms bartering for their kids’ enrichment.

This week some kids saw a “big, green worm” at recess and apparently wanted to squish it.  Avery and bug friends intervened and put it in a viewing chamber. I met with the kids to ID the little guy in our big reference book and, like detectives, they took me to where they found it, confirming that it was a swallowtail caterpillar based not only on markings but also by its cherry tree host. All this learning in the garden before the bell even rung!  That night it transformed into a chrysalis, and Avery is now fiercely guarding it in the fifth grade classroom and teaching her peers about respecting wildlife in the garden.  Bonus: turns out swallowtails are her favorite!

Here are some of the members of the bug club.  No, they don’t always look like this—today was picture day!

In front, from left to right: a “ladybug” house for overwintering, insect spectacles, a viewing chamber and carnivorous plant kit

Whole Foods Market said “yes”

Senior garden ambassadors met me before school to play with these two gadgets:

Hand-cranked apple peeler, corer and slicer

Dehydrator

We cut apples, dehydrated them all day, and served them at the Taste Test cart at lunch.

Ambassadors get off the bus and work with me until the bell rings

And soon, this whole process is going to be much, much better. You can see that we are prepping the food at the lunch tables.  Do-able but pretty inconvenient.  No table or electric outlet or sink to rinse fruit and veggies.

A while back Susi and I sent a grant proposal to Whole Foods Market, asking for an outdoor “kitchen island” to prep garden produce.  After obsessively checking their website for months we found out this past summer that we won the money!  It’s going to be built soon, so once again, I will show you the “before” shot so you can appreciate it when it goes in.  This is probably the last unimproved piece of real estate in the garden!