“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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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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Something’s fishy with the strawberries

On Science Day, the upper grade students did a scavenger hunt.  (The questions are copied below for those garden coordinators among you.) The prize?  Lunch in the garden, with treats.

A week later, the dozen students with the most correct answers joined me for lunch at the garden table, and I laid out organic strawberries and oranges from our Be Wise Box.

Interestingly enough, one of the students had a box of store-bought, non-local strawberries with her, and as she shared them, the kids started an impromptu comparison taste test.  And as you can guess—it was no contest. The kids said the local, organic strawberry on the left was intensely flavorful and juicy–the one on the right had virtually no taste at all.

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Photo courtesy of Marisa McFedries

So wonderful to see kids connecting the dots themselves….It’s like the girl on the right is saying “Hmmmm, something ain’t right here!”  (You never know what teachable moments will present themselves in the garden.)

Science has a lot to do with….

asking good questions

and being observant

 Read the questions below.  The answers are somewhere in the garden.  If you are observant, you will find the answers!  The kids with the most correct answers found will be have lunch in the garden after Spring Break, with garden treats!

We can measure the temperature of the air, of water and of soil.  Soil usually has to be a certain temperature in the spring before it’s wise to put plants in the ground.  Find a soil thermometer in the garden and report the current soil temperature:

There is more variety in vegetables, flowers, herbs and fruit that you’d expect.  Find the seed catalogue and write down the number of different kinds of peas you can order (add the snow peas, snap peas and shelling peas together.)

How much rainwater is currently in the tanks?  (The gauge is at the top)

Seeds usually look and feel smooth.  What are their surfaces generally like when viewed under a microscope? Why do you think this is so?

Name one poisnous plant.

Notice how some of the fruit trees are flowering.  Why is this not necessarily a good sign in Julian in late March?  What could happen to these flowers?  What would happen to the fruit?

Beds #2, #3, #4 and #6 are planted out with peas.  Which bed was probably planted first?  Which was planted last?

How much rain did we get during our last storm?

Look at bed #1.  How many DIFFERENT varieities of daffodils are in this bed? (There are 2600 different named hybrids of daffodils in the world.)

Take a look at the bucket of finished compost in the wheelbarrow.  What did this soil used to be?

Name three herbs we are growing in the garden.

What are the four things that are necessary for habitat?

Find the seed packets.  Which plant will be the last to harvest?

A trellis is a fence-like structure planted in a garden bed for plants to grow up.  How many of our garden beds have some type of trellis?

There is one small tree in the only round garden bed in the garden.  What is it called?  Is it dead?