Category Archives: Instructional Activities

Grow LA Victory Garden Classes at Saturn Elementary School

The University of California Cooperative Extension is organizing workshops in various communities throughout Los Angeles County to teach residents how to grow their own vegetables. I am excited to be teaching one at Saturn Elementary School. You’re all invited.

4 Sunday classes (12 noon – 3 PM) beginning 4/11/10

Where:
Saturn Elementary School
5360 Saturn St.
Los Angeles, CA 90019

List of topics includes:
Week 1 (Sunday April 11): planning, tools, seed starting, building raised beds, choosing containers, plant selection (what to grow and when to grow it)

Week 2 (Sunday, April 18): transplanting, soil preparation, irrigation, mulching

Week 3 (Sunday April 25): pest management (weeds, diseases, insects), beneficial insects, organic pesticides and fertilizers.

Week 4 (Sunday May 2): composting, harvesting, seed saving, review, recipes, graduation and certificates

The cost of these workshops is $10 for each class or $35.00 for all four.

Payment can be made online here, or by bringing cash or check to the first meeting. Please make checks payable to: The Rings of Saturn.

All monies will benefit the Saturn Elementary School Student Garden.

Please RSVP, space is limited.

Contact Information:
George Pessin
Email – gp305@yahoo.com
Tel – 310-652-4642

* Kids under 12 are free with a paid adult.

Seed-Saving and Seed Study for Educators

Occidental Arts and Ecology Center (OAEC) School Garden Program announces the release of “A Handful of Seeds” – a new publication on seed saving and seed study for educators.

This guide is available now as a free PDF download on their website. CLICK HERE to download the 91 page (1.6MB) full color illustrated guide.  Inside you will find lessons linked to California Educational Standards, practical information on seed saving in the school garden and seed history and lore.

School hooks worms into sustainable class services

Starside Elementary School in De Soto, Kansas is tending to a collection of worms that are helping to break down cafeteria waste. The school has twelve bins or factories of the Pennsylvania red wigglers to help create the compost.

See article here and make sure to check out the accompanying video.

10 Ways to Integrate School Gardens into Arts, Science, and Math

1) Make a scarecrow. See Atlanta Botanical Gardens 2009 Scarecrow Winners for inspiration.

2) Paint a sign. Nothing says Our Garden like a freshly painted sign. See 25 photos of garden signs from Life Lab.

3) Build a trellis. Trellises are needed throughout the year to support such vegetables as peas, pole beans, tomatoes, melons, cucumbers, and gourds. See trellis as art from Maine artist, Paul Jurutka.

4) Make a germinator to showcase germination process (see video.)

5) Read Seedfolks by Paul Fleischman. Some have turned the book into a school play. Others were inspired to make a movie.

6) Keep a journal. For scientific purposes we want to track the following: what we’re growing, when did we sow seeds, how long did the seeds take to germinate, how often do we water, how long does a plant take to mature (from seed to harvest), how big does a plant get (height and width), and how much does it yield.

Many other scientific experiments may be initiated with results tracked in a journal.  See Conducting an Experiment from cornell.edu.

7) Plant seeds of lettuce or cilantro and observe the different plant stages. Reserve one plant to be saved for seed. These plants (all annuals) will flower and seed within the school year. Students can observe the entire lifecycle of a plant (seed-to-seed), as well as learn to collect seeds for the following seasons.

8) Collect bugs and insects into a terrarium and observe their habitat and behavior.

9) For math students, examples of gardening equations:
a) If a row is 8 ft long and we space our carrots 3 inches apart how many carrots can we grow in one row?
b) Our pole beans grow 8 inches a week. How many feet will they be after 12 weeks?
c) My raised bed is 4ft x 8 ft x 1ft. How many bags of dirt (2 cubic feet each) does it take to fill the raised bed?

10) For more inspiration see School Garden Potpourri of Ideas

Choosing Tomato Seeds

Always a difficult decision. Tomatoes (and corn) is everyone’s favorite homegrown vegetable. We’ll be starting them indoors in late February and early March. If you haven’t gotten your seeds yet, get them NOW.

This year I’ve decided on Aunt Ruby’s German Green, Pineapple Tomato, Cherokee Purple and Sungold Tomato.

Sungolds are bright orange, cherry tomatoes, hybrids, very sweet, and very high yields. The others are heirlooms, open-pollinated, 1-2 pounders: green, yellow blush, and deep red.

The intent is both visual and culinary. The different colors will delight any child and the depth of flavors from the four varieties in a freshly made salsa, bruschetta, or checca will excite the palate of any adult.

Favorite Seed Companies:
Baker Creek
Botanical Interests
Gourmet Seed
PineTree Seeds

Winter Sunflower

We have a volunteer sunflower growing in our garden. Volunteers are plants that come up on their own without being intentionally planted. In the  case of our sunflower we had planted some nearby last spring. In another garden we had lots of volunteers that sprang up after deadheading the season before. Its a good idea to know what seedlings look like so if any pop up in your garden you can let them continue growing instead of weeding them out.

winter-sunflower2

Winter sunflowers don’t grow as large as normal sunflowers and sometimes they have funny faces (like the one above), but here in Southern California where the winters are extremely mild, they do grow and flower.

At West Hollywood Elementary School we are playing a game with our rogue sunflower. Whoever guesses the correct height of the sunflower once it flowers gets to keep the flower (assuming the squirrels don’t get to it first).

rogue-sunflower

Kids off the Couch

Two resourceful moms have built a website dedicated to getting your kids off the couch. It is called appropriately, KidsOffTheCouch.com. Each week they feature a memorable movie for the family to watch together and couple it with an off-couch activity.

Some of their garden related activities include:

1) The Secret Garden + Edible Gardens

2) My Fair Lady + A Flower Market Visit

3) FernGully: The Last Rainforest + Botanical Gardens

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Lastly, as a bonus, the illustrations by Laura Cornell are brilliant.