School Garden News – Canada

Local Schools Get Planting
By EXPOSITOR STAFF, Brantfordexpositor.ca

Students at five local schools will develop green thumbs this spring as part of a garden project.

St. George-German, Mount Pleasant, Sacred Heart in Paris and Braemar House and Tollgate Technological Skills Centre, both in Brantford, will take part in the new School Food Garden Start-Up Program, a pilot project of the Brant Healthy Living Coalition.

Teachers will use the gardens as outdoor classrooms to deliver curriculum and hands-on learning experience to students of all grades, including lessons on plant growth, sustainability, science, nutrition and health.

PLANTING SEEDS

Some schools may also use vegetables they harvest in their existing breakfast and lunch programs.

Plans range from building outdoor garden beds and greenhouses to indoor containers.

“Given our harsh winter climate, schools in Ontario have a relatively short growth and harvesting period,” said Jillian Welk, health promoter for the health unit and co-coordinator of the coalition.

“However, there are a number of garden activities that schools can do during the winter months, including growing seedlings in windowsills, garden artwork, and planning crops and harvest activities for the following year,” she said.

To be eligible for the program, schools were required to develop a school garden committee that could include teachers, staff, students, parents and other community volunteers.

Each school received $1,000 for tools and supplies, a food garden guide and two on-site consultations with a food gardening expert.

School Garden News – Florida

Cultivating Young Gardeners
By Ron Matus, Times Staff Writer, Tampabay.com

Behind Lakewood Elementary in south St. Petersburg, the college student poked the dirt with her fingers, leaving a trail of tiny craters. When she gave the word, fifth-graders, snug in winter coats, plucked seeds from their palms and plopped them in.

The students from Eckerd College and Lakewood were cultivating their new school garden, a project that supporters hope will yield more than a bumper crop of watermelon and broccoli.

“My goal is to get them to appreciate life,” said Larré Davis, a special education teacher at Lakewood whose students work in the garden twice a week. “They think a hamburger’s just a hamburger. This will give them a new appreciation for lettuce and tomato.”

In Tampa Bay and around the country, more patches of schoolyard are being tilled and tended, a trend that’s sprouting from a rich compost of other factors: the obesity epidemic and a surge in environmental awareness. A push for more outdoors teaching and more hands-on learning in science. Maybe even a desire for schools to offer more practical lessons in a bad economy.

“People may be coming at it from all kinds of specific interests, but they are converging on the same thing,” said Laurel Graham, a University of South Florida sociology professor who helped start the Tampa Bay School Gardening Network in 2007.

Nobody tracks the number of school gardens nationally, but the anecdotal evidence suggests a budding movement.

California handed out $10.8 million in 2007 to seed nearly 4,000 new and existing school gardens. In Rhode Island, a coalition of growers and educators is aiming for a garden at every school by 2010.

Even stronger evidence backs a more general trend. In 2005, 30,000 people subscribed to a kids gardening newsletter put out by the National Gardening Association. Now, 170,000 are signed up.

Around Tampa Bay, full-fledged school gardens are still rare. But there are signs of life.

About 50 Hillsborough teachers attended workshops that Graham and other USF researchers held last year. In December, the garden at Learning Gate Community School, a charter school in Lutz, was cited in an Education Week story about outdoor learning, which supporters say is a better fit with kids’ brains and learning styles.

At Dowdell Middle near Tampa, students are growing floating lettuce heads in hydroponic gardens.

“A lot of our kids are eating french fries and pizza,” said Dowdell science teacher Allan Dyer. “The idea was, if we got them to grow something healthy, maybe they’d eat it and choose those things in the future.”

Lakewood’s garden is a series of 14 raised beds, bordered by yellow marigolds to ward off rabbits and other critters. Carrots, corn, squash, sunflowers and a dozen other crops are either in the ground or ready to be transplanted from a closet-sized greenhouse.

Eckerd students laid out the garden in December. But the idea was dreamed up by Kip Curtis, an environmental studies professor at Eckerd whose two children attend Lakewood.

“I kind of happened to be at the right place at the right time,” he said.

Curtis’ parents were back-to-the-land believers. He grew up on a farm. At Lakewood, he saw an opportunity to root an educational program in agriculture.

Lakewood principal Kathleen Young saw an idea that meshed with the school’s magnet focus on medical science and wellness, as well as an opportunity to expose her students, predominantly low-income and African-American, to careers in science.

“It’s opening doors for them to think outside of, ‘I think want to be a teacher or I want to be a nurse,’ ” she said.

The Eckerd students are the Miracle-Gro in the mix.

About 15 of them are helping, with a revolving schedule that has at least three of them onsite every school day between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. Many of them are getting class credit. But many are also going above and beyond, taking steps to become official mentors to Lakewood students who have emotional and behavioral disabilities.

One day last week, they helped those students plant chives and look for earthworms in the compost pile.

“Oooh, look at that!” said 11-year-old Cortez Cox, who like many of the students had never gardened before. “Something’s in there moving.”

Davis, the special education teacher, said the garden is having a powerful effect on her students. They describe the garden as “ours,” not “mine,” she said.

“Before, we were all mean to each other,” said John Grant, 12. “But now, if you have a watering can, and somebody wants it, you say, ‘Here.’ ”

The school plans to use the garden for other grades and classes.

Already, prekindergarten students have turned the soil in their hands, and second-graders have made ceramic signs with images of vegetables.

Eventually, the garden will be ripe for lessons on everything from photosynthesis to the web of life, said Peggy McCabe, the school’s science curriculum coordinator.

Students will be able to collect data on plant growth, test soil samples and watch the life cycle of butterflies, she said.

Better yet, they’ll get to reap what they sow. A harvest party is set for April.

FAST FACTS
Helping and learning

• The Lakewood Elementary garden project is in need of supplies, including 25 pairs of kids work gloves, a dozen hand shovels, watering cans, a tool shed, border fencing, a garden bench and a trellis for peas and cucumbers. If you’re interested in helping, contact Kip Curtis at (727) 864-7854 or curtiska@eckerd.edu.

• To read updates about the project, go to a blog maintained by the Eckerd students, theedibleschoolyard.blogspot.com/.

• If you’re interested in starting a school garden of your own, you can find a downloadable guidebook at the California School Garden Network, www.csgn.org/. You can also get tips and support from the Tampa Bay School Gardening Network, web3.cas.usf.edu/tbsg/.

School Garden News – Arizona

School’s gardening way yields national attention

By Rhonda Bodfield, arizona daily star, azstarnet.com

Primary school teacher Molly Reed can cook, but she’s no Rachael Ray in the kitchen.

So imagine her surprise to be flying to New York as a special guest on the cookbook queen’s daytime television show.

Reed herself brought the limelight to Borton Primary Magnet School, even though she jokes that she’s now appealing to her principal for help in picking an outfit for her national debut.

She sent an e-mail to Ray last fall, explaining how the school’s community garden is being used to tackle poor nutrition and obesity at Borton, 700 E. 22nd St.

The school, which has a focus on inquiry-based project learning, long has incorporated some small gardens into the curriculum. In fact, by Principal Teri Melendez’s count, there are a dozen gardens at Borton, most of them small plots belonging to specific classes.

Last year, Reed had a class garden, which culminated in a harvest celebration, including a stir-fry using the veggies they’d grown. She was there to guide their first experience with tofu.

Inspired, she successfully wrote a grant and the new schoolwide garden was built with community muscle, technical expertise from the Community Food Bank and a lot of soaking and digging, digging and soaking.

Although a run date hasn’t yet been determined, the film crew already spent a day out at the school late last month, capturing the students in the garden and as they ran the occasional farmer’s market where students washed, packaged and sold their harvest, including lettuce, arugula, radishes and broccoli.

Their last effort sold out in two days and brought in $60, which helps support the garden.

Students improve literacy by writing factoids about each plant — carrots, for example, apparently come in seven colors. The project also helps teach math, with students adding purchases, making change, weighing vegetables and charting growth.

There are a million lessons to be taught. They’re learning that just because eggs are blue or brown doesn’t mean they’re rotten; that the tall leaves are clues to unearthing carrots with a little heft; and how to harvest broccoli — which, if you’ve ever seen it grow, is a legitimate question.

A confessed “chocoholic,” second-grader Alexandra Holiman said her family subscribes to Ray’s magazine, which she finds amusing because there’s a recipe every month for folks who cook for their canines.
Fortunately, she’s also a carrot-snacker, which is why she likes harvesting. “They’re really sweet. They are so good I want to eat them all.”

The new project is an extension of the school’s overall focus on good health.

Two years ago, the school started offering salads with nonfat dressing as a lunch choice.

It has a walking club and schoolwide jump-roping in the morning.

“We want children to know what’s healthy for them so that they can make good choices as they go through life,” Melendez said.

Reed’s students have an even clearer picture of how food affects health. She won a mini-grant last year to set up a student-powered bicycle generator to show students how it takes energy to make energy.

Initially only able to pedal about 10 seconds because of the high levels of friction, they learned about how they need to eat well to be strong. On Monday, one student pedaled for 280 seconds.

Second-grader Allie Tucker attributed some of the growth to the garden. “Sometimes, we eat from there, and the vegetables help make our bones strong.”

Reed said breakfast for her students at the beginning of the year all-too-often consisted of sugary cereals or hot cheese puffs. But after months of sampling the edible plants and herbs grown in the garden, she’s seen a big change.

“I never thought I’d hear a 7-year-old say, ‘I love chard,’ or ‘I prefer kale over greens.’ “

Kohlrabi – Info and Recipes

kohlrabi

Kohlrabi was harvested recently and like other uncommon vegetables the question most asked was, what do we do with it? First, a little information; Kohlrabi is a member of the cabbage family. Its name is derived from the German Kohl (cabbage) and Rube or Rabi (turnip) because the swollen stem looks like a turnip.

The taste and texture of kohlrabi is similar to broccoli stems or cabbage hearts but milder and sweeter. It can be eaten raw or cooked. Small kohlrabi do not need to be skinned, but the larger ones definitely do.

Of kohlrabi’s two varieties the purple globe is sweeter and tastier than the apple-green.

Nutritionally, kohlarabi is very low in Saturated Fat and Cholesterol. It is also a good source of Thiamin, Folate, Magnesium and Phosphorus, and a very good source of Dietary Fiber, Vitamin C, Vitamin B6, Potassium, Copper and Manganese. See complete Kohlrabi Nutritional Values from nutritiondata.com.

The following are some recipes I found featuring kohlrabi:

1) Pickled Kohlrabi

2) Kohlrabi-Mushroom Soup

3) Freezing Kohlrabi

4) German-Style Stuffed Kohlrabi

5) Roasted Kohlrabi and Butternut Squash

6) Spicy Kohlrabi

7) Avocado and Kohlrabi Salad

8) Creamy Kohlrabi Salad

9) Braised Kohlrabi

10) Mashed Kohlrabi

Winter Harvest

After a three week winter break school gardens with watering angels (or on automatic timers) saw a spurt of growth that caused many to utter “WOW” upon their return.

Peas on the Vine

Peas on the Vine

Pea vines were 7 ft tall and full of ripe pea pods. Bok choy that wasn’t picked before the break had bolted and flowered with stalks as high as 4 ft. Spinach, arugula, swiss chard, cilantro, lettuce and radishes all needed to be trimmed, thinned, or pulled. Bags of salad greens were assembled for all with implicit  instructions to take their bounty home, wash it thoroughly, make a salad and say to siblings and parents, “look what I grew.”

Next week we’re planning to start seeds indoors and in our greenhouse. We intend to get a head start on spring planting by starting seeds of zucchini, corn and tomatoes as well as more cool weather crops such as broccoli, kohlrabi, and lettuce.  Days to Maturity for warm-weather plants dictate that we get them in the ground no later than the middle of March for harvest before school’s end.

Check this Southern California Garden Calendar for vegetables that can be planted in January.

If outside of California check with your local Cooperative Extension or Master Gardener program.

For those who haven’t gotten their seeds yet see:

Botanical Interests

Pinetree Garden Seeds

Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds

The 11 Best Foods You Aren’t Eating

From the New York Times,
The 11 Best Foods You Aren’t Eating

We got 3 of these growing in our school gardens (4 if we knew how to dry plums.)

School Garden News – California

Local schools, local food
Advocacy group pushing Chico school district to serve more-healthful food in cafeterias

By Christine G.K. LaPado, NewsReview.com

Debra Abbott works as an after-school gardening teacher at McManus, Parkview, Rosedale and Citrus elementary schools. Her job is funded by a special grant for low-performing and high-poverty schools. She recently helped some of her students pick lettuce, chard, spinach and carrots from their school garden, showed them how to wash the vegetables, and then helped them prepare fresh lemon vinaigrette to put on the salad she guided them to create.

“All of the kids loved it,” said Abbott of the, garden-to-classroom food. “They said they’d rather eat that than the ‘little fruit pellets’ they [were given at school] for a snack and didn’t eat. These kids want this [fresh] food.”

Abbott describes a “huge disconnect” between what she is teaching children in her gardening program and “the processed food in the cafeteria” that they are eating for breakfast, lunch and snacks. She cited the packaged, sugary cereals and high-fat breakfast entrees such as “sausage on a stick” and “sausage on a biscuit,” and “pizza every day of the week,” as prime examples of school foods that should be reduced or eliminated.

“They could serve Cheerios, Special K or Rice Krispies instead of all those sweet cereals,” said Abbott, “but they’re probably being subsidized by the sweet-cereal industry.”

Abbott is a member of a new organization called Advocates for Healthy School Communities. The group held its second “Change School Lunch” meeting on Jan. 8 at the OPT (Overweight Prevention and Treatment) for Fit Kids office on Mangrove Avenue. The group, which thus far totals nine members, is made up largely of parents, local food educators and school garden teachers—including Maria Venturino, co-owner of the Red Tavern restaurant and parent of two Chico schoolchildren.

Other members include sustainability activist and KZFR programmer Laurie Niles; Kristen Del Real, substitute teacher and school garden coordinator at Hooker Oak Elementary School and mother of two children who attend the school; and Jeremy Miller, president of Chico Food Network, a nonprofit that is working to “foster a local food system that contributes to the long-term viability of farms in our region” and “provide education regarding local food systems,” among other aims.

They are attempting to get the Chico Unified School District to improve the quality of cafeteria food, as well as make progressive, healthful changes to the district’s current wellness policy, which is in the final-draft stage.

Click link above for complete article.