August/September Garden Tour

As we occasionally do here at “What’s not to like?” take a stroll with me through our garden program in August and September.

For the first time in our HOTM efforts, we chose the avocado for August.  Our taste test was avocado toast, and naturally it had a near 100% approval rating at recess.  This sign met students off the bus in the morning.

I caught this snapshot of Ms. T opening up her day the first week of school at the garden table.  What a peaceful, beautiful place to connect with students and set the tone for the week.

Introducing 8 out of 10 of our new 5th grade Garden Ambassadors.  This is a long-running program that is original to our school, and we’re very proud of it.  To learn more, see this or this or this or this.

On September 11th, we held a Day of Service and Remembrance in the school garden.  Emily, our beloved Food Corps volunteer from last year, brought over a crew of friends from Camp Stevens.  We got a lot done with their help and positive energy!

We have an amazing parent (Garrett Huffman) who is working with Mr. C to build a shed we have on order.  Garrett built this platform this week.  I cannot wait to better organize our garden materials in a big shed.

Mr. Cam is starting a new program called Tastebud Tickets. At snack recess, he walks around giving tickets for kids “caught” eating something healthy.

Then on Monday morning, he put all of those tickets in his garden hat and had a garden ambassador pull one name.  That student got to choose a friend with whom to share lunch in the garden that afternoon.

Now in September, we are focusing on apples for our Harvest of the Month.  Our Garden Ambassadors offered bread with locally made apple butter at recess.

Good food, happy kids!  Til next time…..

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.”

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.

A little idea: “garden treasure hunts”

Last week I made this poster on 11×14 paper, with color clipart, and laminated it.

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Then looking at a jigsaw puzzle template online, I scored it into pieces with a ballpoint pen.

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I cut the puzzle into pieces, re-laminated each piece so all of the edges were sealed, and hid them in the garden.  When I took the K students out for afternoon garden class, they hunted for the pieces, returning to the table to fit it together.  I had little rolls of masking tape on the table to help the pieces stay together.

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After we assembled the message, I passed out magnifying glasses and we went looking for signs of fall.

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In the process, we discovered a stick bug.  We made a circle and gently passed it around.

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And then we posed for this picture!  I love how this activity turned out and plan to make a set for each season.  Fun way to end: I gave each student a piece and they re-hid them for my next class—almost as much fun as finding them!

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My farm to school vacation…er, conference

Susi and I just returned from the first California Farm to School conference hosted by the California Farm to School Network.  Hands down, it was the best “school” conference I’ve ever attended.  Let’s start with the location: Asilomar, a historic, sprawling complex with grand lodges and cabin/motel-ish accommodations sitting right on the dunes sweeping down to the Pacific Ocean.

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And then there was the food.  I was sad when I turned in my last meal ticket.  Locally sourced, beautifully prepared, incredibly fresh—for a conference, simply delectable.

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And then yes, there was the conference itself.  Three days of workshops and plenaries on Big Ideas (the vision of feeding all kids good food) and smaller strategies (local procurement, school gardens, curriculum ideas, farm visits.)  The room was full of passionate, interesting, committed folks, and we learned just as much from our mealtime conversations about common obstacles, stunning successes, and good ideas. One highlight was hearing Farmer Bob’s story from Redlands, California (where incidentally, I grew up.)  A 4th generation farmer, his citrus groves are still producing fruit from 100+ year old trees.  As he explained, the fruit gets sweeter…and smaller…with age.  So since the market cares mainly for “size, price and appearance” and not much for “taste,” he was lacking a market…until he began selling to school districts who were happy to put those small, tasty oranges into little hands for school lunch.  Win-win.  Kids get good food; small farms get saved.

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One night we were bused to Monterey High School where we sampled menu items from at least ten different districts who practice “California Thursday”—a school lunch sourced completely from our state. Many of the most forward thinking districts are now looking at “the center of the plate” or sourcing local, responsible proteins like Mary’s Chicken, which we sampled. Monterey High School serves fish tacos filled with fish from their own bay.  The “cafeteria” was beautiful, and they threw in a high school jazz band.  Again, bliss.

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Pictured below: companies that sell/distribute California-made pasta and grains.

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I return to my own school and community, re-invigorated to keep at the work of “all the good things that happen in school gardens.”  Thanks for following our story.

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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National Breakfast Week

On Tuesday we celebrated National Breakfast Week.  Julian Pathways secured a grant for the school district from Action for Healthy Kids in order to promote the eating of breakfast, and we used it to provide a free breakfast to every child at the elementary and junior high. To make it a festive event, we all ate in the garden!

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The chains were made from seed catalogues by the children

Centerpieces were paper roses, made from seed catalogues, by 3rd and 4th grade students last week in garden class.

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Younger student colored these messages:

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Breakfast is brain food!

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Eat your breakfast!

Student musicians played on the gazebo “stage”….

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…and under the plum tree!

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Last week during garden class, I worked with the fifth graders to write “breakfast haiku.” Students read their poems in-between the musical presentations.

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Twelve lucky kids had heart stickers on their breakfast bags….

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…which meant they got to return to the garden at lunch to ride the “blender bike” and enjoy their own pedal-powered smoothies!

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Thanks to Pathways and Action for Healthy Kids for making this wonderful morning possible!

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