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!

A Fresh Grant from the CA Department of Education

At the end of the school year in May, we learned that we had received a California-grown Fresh School Meals grant from the California Department of Education. (Susi and I had worked on this many months before.)  This grant allows us to start or grow many healthy eating initiatives on campus.  Here are a few that we’ve created in the first few weeks of school.

Every month we host a Walk to School event.  This year we are combining it with taste tests to promote breakfast and Harvest of the Month.  Here we are at the starting point in town to hand out whole wheat muffins made with apples picked from our school garden.  (A mom reached out to me the next day and asked for the recipe because her kids had raved about the sample!  Success!)

Mr. Copelands serves up muffins with flair!

Carmen, our bilingual resource coordinator, is working with her parenting group to teach classes incorporating Harvest of the Month as well as replicating cafeteria recipes provided by Jeremy’s on the Campus to help promote school lunch.  These parents have a blast cooking and learning together, and they are producing spectacular dishes!  See the apple recipes below!

Finally, at Back to School night Chef Donald provided taste tests of our school lunches as to help educate parents about the fresh and healthy food we offer in our cafeteria!  We will have many more projects and equipment acquisitions in the coming months with this grant—stay tuned for more delicious stories.

 

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.”

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.

Back to school, back to the garden

It’s still August, and we’ve been in school for 2.5 weeks.  (I know, I know.)  Nonetheless, it has been wonderful to be back out in the garden with the lovable children of Julian Elementary.

During our first afterschool garden class with the little ones, we read stories about grapes and then gobbled some up.  (It was my first time reading  Lousy, Rotten, Stinkin’ Grapes by Margie Palatini, and I recommend this retelling of an Aesop’s Fable—great vocabulary and beautiful illustrations.)  Though we had a lovely crop of grapes at the beginning of the school year, the kids have been loving them too as they walk by the fence line and so we supplemented with a donation of organic grapes from Miss Anne!  (A note on the whiteboard in the staff room turned up an offer of backyard produce in no time.)

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The older children in my second garden class painted letters for our Early Start Kindergarten alphabet garden and spruced up the compost bucket.  This was a good, quiet activity in the shade on a very hot day.  And helpful too—every year these letters have to be repainted.

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“S” for sage….sweltering…in the sun….

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In garden class during the school day, I worked with first grade students on understanding the recipe for compost using the visual aid I made below.  The laminated pictures stick to the black bin (foam board) with velcro:

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Then we headed out to the garden to practice sorting and adding ingredients at the bin and peeking in the bottom of the unit to see what became of last year’s school lunch.

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I heart generating excitement and mystery in the garden.  During our introduction to the lesson in the classroom, I told the kids to always be on the lookout for something new in the garden and wondered aloud if anyone would notice the brand new “Mr. Tree.”  Invariably someone would spot it on our way to the compost bins.

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(Sidenote:  Marisa gave me the pieces for this “tree face,” Chris hung it, and I love it so much.  It is my new goal to put a face on every juniper behind the fence line and create our own army of ents.)

While I had half of the class at the bins, the classroom teacher had the other half under the plum tree reading Compost Stew by Mary McKenna Siddals.

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With the two kindergarten classes, we talked about grapevines and our first garden rule for the year:  Be Safe.  We decided we would practice “being safe” by walking in the garden instead of running.

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While the classroom teacher read The Fox and the Grapes by Mark White, I toured the children around four major features in the garden, and we learned these vocabulary words:  Kandu Gate, rainwater, grapevine and gazebo.  At each location I gave a child a photo of the feature to hold (printed from a picture and laminated—I plan to make a set of these for everything in the garden for games and vocabulary review.)

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Then when we returned to the classroom for wrap-up, we sang:

“Have you ever seen a garden, a garden, a garden?  Have you every seen a garden? A garden like mine?  With a gate, and rainwater, and grapevines and a gazebo?  Have you ever seen a garden, a garden like mine? “

This is a song I will sing all year long with the younger grades, inserting new, seasonal vocabulary.

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It’s going to be a great year!  (Signing off with a picture of the invaluable cart I wheel around with everything I need in the classroom and out in the garden.)  BTW, as of today, I am about 200 clicks short of 30,000 views on this blog.  Thanks ever so much for following our story as it unfolds in our little school garden…..

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Humanities in the garden and kitchen (ESY Part 4)

Something garden educators believe:  all subjects can be taught in the garden.  Something I believe:  this is true, but some subjects are easier to teach in the garden than others.  Science and math come easily, and language arts is not hard to incorporate either.  I think the most challenging curricular integration is social science.  It takes a lot of planning to align lessons, plant the historical crops and create the wrap-around materials to deliver the material.  Edible Schoolyard excels at this.  Here is one of their staff laying out how all of their garden and kitchen lessons match up with 6th, 7th and 8th grade social science.

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Then they walked us through one of their lessons.  As you can see below, there are numerous concepts involved in teaching the history of rice in China.  (This is hand-drawn and colored—again, back to beauty!)

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Then they laid out all of the vegetables we’d be cooking with (beauty, again)….

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And we got cooking in our teams….

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..to create the most beautiful and delicious platter of fried rice, with veggies from the garden.IMG_6497

Here’s another lesson they teach:

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We rotated through various stations to learn this content, one of which was a snack-making station, which involved amaranth from the garden.

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It goes on….here we ate a meal in the dining commons that represents the Columbian Exchange.  Like I said, amazing.

Activities in the garden also teach history.  Here is a lesson on various techniques ancient cultures used to move things.  After this mini-lesson, students were challenged…IMG_6412

 

…to move various heavy items using this pile of stuff.  History, engineering, experiential learning…oh my.

 

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Other activities work as scavenger hunts in the garden:

IMG_6414Can an average school garden replicate this?  It would be very challenging without significant resources, but nonetheless I remain inspired to think through connections between the garden and the social sciences in the coming year.  It’s always helpful and inspiring to look at the “best of the best”—thank you Edible Schoolyard for pioneering this work!

Food, ready for its closeup

Under Mr. Pierce’s instruction, today’s afterschool photography program Kids with Cameras class tackled still life, starring fruits and vegetables, to go with our “food focus” for this semester.  Stacey Peyakov from our local produce stand Wynola Flats donated produce for us to work with (thank you, Stacey!)

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I threw in my own week’s groceries as well as every basket, platter, small bowl and linen in my house.  Other instructors added vases, spools of yarn, a jug of paintbrushes, bowls, shells, lanterns…..  We ended up with a great selection of props.

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Mr. Pierce gave an excellent short presentation on the concept of “still life,” and then outlined a few things the kids should be thinking about: light, texture, color, shadow, etc.

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Then the kids went for it.  And I loved it.  100% of the kids, 100% engaged, for 100% of the class.  I was in pedagogical heaven.

Selecting materials:

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Our ratio of instructors/adults to students was almost 1:1.  The kids consulted with the teachers, and the teachers helped to set up their shots.

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One of the students suggested we tip over the tables to make areas to create the arrangements This worked great as a way to hang linens or butcher paper for backdrops.

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Watching the students exercise their creativity was a joy.  They’d work with one set of items they collected, arranging and re-arranging, and after getting their photographs, they’d head back and try something totally different.  I’d say they were definitely “in the zone.”

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These faces say it all!  A great day!

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