Presenting the native plant demonstration garden

Under Garden Teacher Kat’s expert leadership (and unfailing love for native plants), we now have a native plant demonstration garden along a newly cut trail on the back slope of the garden.

The idea goes back years to the James Hubbell Gate.

When James created the gate, his vision was to better connect the gardens at the elementary and junior high.  At that time,the garden was separated by a high chain link fence and a long asphalt road.  With the installation of the gate, we took down the fence, put up an attractive, waist-high fence and cut an opening to the slope on the back side of the garden.  Then five years elapsed until Kat took up the cause.  To begin she recruited Garrett to install steps on the steepest part of the slope down from the gate.

This allowed us to cut a straight path across the hillside.  Mr. Boling, parent volunteer, came out to help with shoring it up.

It’s hard to see in this photo but the path continues through the trees.

Kat then purchased native plants and worked with kids to plant them all along the trail.  Not only will children learn about the plants by using the trail, but community members can also educate themselves about California natives simply by visiting our campus.  Another project completed at the Julian Elementary garden!  Thanks everyone!  Well done!

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.

Thank you San Diego Master Gardeners!

Last semester Julian Elementary was thrilled to receive a $500 grant to build a pioneer history raised bed in conjunction with the 5th grade teacher, Mrs. McFedries, as part of her social studies curriculum.  We used the money to buy heirloom seeds, wood, soil and paints.  Our garden teachers Kat and Emily did an awesome job overseeing all of the steps with Mrs. McFedries.

We chose to take out a raised bed that we inherited ten years ago and was falling apart.

Students cut and painted the new boards.  We decided to make this bed not only wider, but also twice as deep.

Tom, the head of our school maintenance staff, generously helped the students build the bed.

Meanwhile, students propagated their seeds from “Seed Savers Exchange” on every available flat space in the classroom and later in the garden.  Emily had researched and purchased historic varieties of beans, corn, squash, okra, cucumber and herbs.

It took a lot of soil to fill this beauty!  Small transplants were then placed in the new bed and covered in agrobon to protect the baby plants.

Finished product!  (We only need to add some length to the current irrigation.) The fifth graders “paid it forward” by planting herbs and vegetables for next year’s class, but since the junior high is adjacent to the elementary, they can also come back early next school year to enjoy the harvest too!  The smaller letters on the bed read “Thank you SD Master Gardeners!”

 

“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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Getting smarter every year: the daffodil show

We have hundreds of daffodils planted all around our garden, and we keep adding more every year. Every March our town of Julian hosts a daffodil show which is truly wonderful! (You can read my rapturous past reports here and here.)

Though students have planted most of the daffodils, I usually picked our prizewinning blooms the first couple years the school garden was represented in the youth division of the show.  Then I got a little smarter and had the kids go out and pick the flowers.  This year I was even smarter and put the whole process in the students’ hands: I not only had the students choose the flowers, after a short tutorial on how to do so properly, but I also had them key out the flowers using a laminated guide with flower part diagrams and division breakdowns.  They also arranged the blooms in show vases and filled out the submission cards.  Our wonderful Garden Beneficial for the day,  Jenny graciously offered to drop them off at Town Hall, ready to enter. And like every year, we brought home a handful of ribbons—but this year, the ownership of the flowers and the garden and our participation in the show was better than ever—no surprise.  School garden cardinal rule:  get kids’ hands on everything!

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January/February garden tour

As is our tradition, let’s take a look around at the last couple months of garden/education at Julian Elementary (aka “Garden Tour”).  We’ll start inside, because due to wet, windy and freezing weather, that’s where we’ve been doing a lot of our lessons.

Potentially messy inside, but do-able if you lay all of the supplies out just right: pinecone bird feeders.

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We hung all 80 of them from the plum tree the next day:

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Younger students are now studying the edible “flower” part of the plant so roasted cauliflower in my portable oven was our taste test–another big hit.  Favorite interaction:  Students were exclaiming how it was their new favorite food.  “It’s good…plus 100!”  “It’s good, plus 200!” And then a little boy with a cute grin declared: “It’s the best thing I’ve ever eaten, the last number in the world TIMES the last number in the world!”

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Another fun indoor lesson covered an introduction to soil.  We talked about the differences between sand, silt and clay and then looked at samples under the microscopes.

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Using a great lesson from Sage Garden, we then mixed up edible “soil” with different size cereals and yogurt.

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Teak Nichols from the Julian Apple Growers Association was our guest speaker for three classes, teaching a lesson on pruning fruit trees.  Local fruit association working with a public school: a real apples to apples connection!

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A “search and find” activity gave students clues to things in the garden.  Once they found the items, they found “words” which they plugged into a puzzle on their sheet.

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The completed puzzle read:

“Your mind is a garden, Your thoughts are the seeds, You can grow flowers, Or you can grow weeds.”  We had a short chat about what that could mean, dovetailing with our school-wide focus on character education.

Students started making educational signage for our upcoming California Thursdays event–more on that to come.

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We finished our “Drink a Rainbow” smoothie series:

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Fifth grade needed a place to test their flood barriers–our swale covered in clover was a good spot to flood!

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They also picked some early daffodils for a still life drawing lesson in Mrs. McFedries’ (unendingly creative) class.

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Corn tortillas, and the concept of global staple foods, made for a tasty mini-lesson.

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Thanks for taking a stroll with me!  Next up: California Thursdays!

In which service volunteers are celebrities…

It was a good morning in November when I answered the Pathways phone and an AmeriCorps team member was on the line, asking if we would like a group of volunteers for a day of service at school.

Um, YES!

On December 18th, we welcomed eight young people from all around the county on a 10-month term of community service across the western states.  They had been in Julian for six weeks, staying at Camp Stevens and working on building and clearing trails, planting natives on Volcan and helping out around town, such as assisting locals in hanging all of the holiday decorations on our historic Main Street.  On our day, they worked with Pathways, helping to wrap presents for our toy drive, moving a sandbox for the special ed. department, planting bulbs, painting our table, and installing a hoop system over our raised beds.

I also asked them if they would be willing to do a 15-minute presentation to the 4th and 5th grade classes.  They were happy to do this and visited each class to discuss the concept of AmeriCorps, what projects they had already contributed to, where they were headed next, and what they had learned about committing a year of their young lives to service in various communities.  I also asked the team to share some of their reflections on living in Julian with our students, as it’s always great to get an outsider’s perspective on what is just “daily life” for you.  They talked about the natural beauty of Julian, the close-knit community who had welcomed them wholeheartedly and of course, the apple pie.

After taking a few last questions, I hustled them out the door so the students could get ready for lunch.  As I did, some fifth graders followed us with pen and paper and started asking the AmeriCorps members to sign their names.  Suddenly I realized the kids were asking for their autographs!  The AmeriCorps members realized this too as they signed paper after paper, laughing that this was definitely a “first” for them.

Oh to live in a world where the people who volunteer and serve in communities are the celebrities!  And thank you to the amazing Mrs. McFedries who has taught her class to respect and be grateful for people who serve others.  Bless you AmeriCorps team as you continue to make the world a better place!

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