School Garden News – California

School Garden Teach Kids
By Kathryn Nichols

Garden manager Tanja Roos walks through the greenhouse at Carmel Middle School and plucks a ripe cherry tomato from a bushy plant near the back door. She hands it to a visitor, a vivid taste of summer in a little red globe.

Growing and harvesting vegetables – it’s so simple that even a child can do it. Yet this elementary activity is a springboard to learning about science, the environment, nutrition, and the sweet sensation of working together for a common goal.

New school gardens are blooming in California’s Monterey County with almost every year. Teachers and administrators are finding that the garden can be woven into just about every aspect of the curriculum, even history, cultural studies, foreign languages, and English.

At Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Academy in Salinas, students often do creative writing and poetry projects in the garden. At All Saints Day School in Carmel Valley, kids hold an autumn feast each year to celebrate native American traditions of the harvest, using squash, corn and beans they’ve grown themselves. Not only that, but everyone loves being in the garden.

“After lunch, the kids had the choice of going to recess or working in the garden,” said Kim Derenzo, who up until recently was the garden manager/nutrition coordinator for Martin Luther King Academy. “It wasn’t unusual to have 40 to 60 students come out to work in the garden on any given day. And they really worked.”

“There’s nothing better than having kids out in the garden,” said Roos. “As much as we can get them involved, we do.”

School gardens aren’t a new concept – in fact, as early as 1909, Montessori was espousing gardening as a way to increase youngsters’ appreciation for nature, and to develop desirable traits like patience and responsibility.

But school gardens took on a new significance in the 1970s and 1980s, especially in the Bay Area, when famed Chez Panisse founder Alice Waters urged schools to grow their own produce and use it in cooking projects.

“Berkeley was the Mecca of school gardens,” said Roos, who grew up there and went on to managing Carmel Middle School’s remarkable garden, the Hilton Bialek Biological Sciences Habitat.

School gardens became even more desirable as a practical way to teach science skills, a green laboratory that needed only soil, seeds, sun and water.

As time went on, the schools also had the pressing need to teach children about nutrition, and there’s no better way to get kids to eat their vegetables – they are far more likely to try produce they’ve grown themselves.

Derenzo said she would often sample items with her students straight out of the garden – even raw beets and radishes. “They’d eat it up,” she said.

State and local grants became available for gardens, and groups like the California School Garden Network and the National Farm to School Network are now lending support in the forms of guides, curricula and information.

Enthusiastic parents, community members and staff have also been instrumental. Family members, teachers and college students worked side by side to develop Martin Luther King Academy’s garden a few years ago; “You’d see grandparents, parents, babies out there on work days,” recalls Derenzo.

At Carmel Middle School, turning 10 acres of open space into a garden was the dream of science teacher Craig Hohenberger and then-principal Carl Pallastrini, inspired by the garden and kitchen classroom established by Alice Waters in Berkeley.

Hohenberger started by taking his science classes outside in 2000, and planted an organic garden. Now it’s known as the Hilton Bialek Biological Sciences Habitat, named for a former Carmel School Board trustee who was an instrumental supporter of the garden. The Habitat currently includes a pond and small waterfall, a bee garden planted with native varieties to attract insects, a solar-powered greenhouse, a native plant nursery and an outdoor kitchen, as well as a stunningly beautiful one-acre vegetable garden; plans call for the building of a Green Education Center there in the near future.Every student at Carmel Middle School is involved in the Habitat in one way or another. If they’re not banding birds or helping with watershed restoration, they’re planting seeds in the greenhouse, making pizza in the wood-fired oven, or tossing vegetation on the compost heaps.

In 2006, the Habitat received the Governor’s Environmental and Economic Leadership Award, California’s top environmental honor, for its exceptional programs.

Not just public or elementary schools are going back to the garden. Preschool programs are offered at the garden run by Salinas Adult School, for instance. Community groups like the Boys and Girls Clubs and YMCA spend time at the Bialek Habitat. At All Saints, a private school in Carmel Valley, the garden area has expanded from five to 18 planter boxes and added a chicken coop last year, according to teacher Mandy Winston.

Winston directly teaches science to 24 fifth-graders and also rotates other classes, kindergarten through fourth, through the garden for a variety of programs.

“What always amazes them is being able to harvest something that grew from a seed they planted,” said Winston. “It’s like a light going on: ‘Hey, this is where it comes from!’ And they finally understand what part of the plant they’re eating.”

Fifth-graders at All Saints spend much of the school year learning about plant science concepts like photosynthesis and pollination; third-grade students have an agriculture unit that involves growing lettuce and having a salad party in honor of Monterey County’s most famous crop.

And research is discovering that garden-based learning does, indeed, pay off.

A 2005 study in Temple, Texas, found that third, fourth and fifth-grade students who participated in school gardening activities scored significantly higher on science achievement tests compared to kids who didn’t garden. There’s also evidence that children who get to try fresh vegetables develop better eating habits, and that through taking care of a garden, they learn a lifelong sense of stewardship and responsibility for the land.

“The passion our staff has for the garden is felt by the students,” said Roos. “Passion is addictive – it’s a magnet. It shows them this is an important thing to be doing. And the bigger picture is that this is about the health of our planet.”

The Child’s Food Garden

Thank you to Michael Levenston at CityFarmer.info for uncovering this gem, a digitized school book from School Garden Series, published in 1918. The uniforms may have changed, but much of the instruction is still valid.

The Child’s Food Garden, With a Few Suggestions for Flower Culture by Van Evrie Kilpatrick, 1918, Principal of the Carlisle School, New York City and assigned to supervision of School and Home Gardens. President of the School Garden Association of America. 65 pages. Includes many photos and illustrations

Preface:
Every boy and every girl who has a garden at home, or who is given a plot in a school garden, ought to learn to do the work successfully. Yet, as the author has found, children, especially those who live in cities and towns, know little or nothing about producing anything from the soil, and since the teacher cannot always be present to direct the work, there is a danger that discouraging mistakes will be made.

The importance of encouraging our children in outdoor work with living plants is now recognized. It benefits the health, broadens the education, and gives a valuable training in industry and thrift. The great garden movement is sweeping over all America, and our present problem is to direct it and make it most profitable to the children in our schools and homes.

Link to Flip Book of the book here.

Link to PDF of the book here.

Herb Bed – Annuals, Biennials, and Perennials

We’re eight weeks into the school year and we’ve been harvesting since week one.  Only a year round school garden can make such a boast, true, but the real secret is our perennial herb bed. Whenever we’re in between seasons or waiting for something to mature there is always the herb bed. Since day 1, we’ve been harvesting: basil, sage, parsley, marjoram, rosemary, mint, thyme, oregano, and sorrel.  Other than basil, which is an annual, and parsley, which is a biennial, all are perennials.

Basil

Perennials are the classification of plants that go through repeated flowering and seed producing cycles before they die, or grow for several years, put out one seed production cycle, and then die.

Basil, which is currently seeding, is the only annual in the mint family. An annual completes the lifecycle (seed, growth, bloom, seed) in one year or one growing season and then dies. Most vegetables that we grow are annuals.

Biennials require two growing seasons or two years to complete their growing cycle. Swiss chard and beets are biennials.

Swiss Chard, Year 2


Beet going to seed

School Garden News – Oregon

Growing lunch
by Leslie Cole, The Oregonian

Schools embrace healthier kids with locally-grown foods

Mention school lunches, and it’s hard to find someone who’s not hungry for change.

Maybe you can’t see, smell or taste it just yet, but the shape of public school meals is shifting, in the Portland area and beyond.

Food costs are climbing, money is tight and results that resonate with families across the state will take time. But right now, the future of the school cafeteria looks promising.

Some recent developments:
• Two years after a splashy pilot program of scratch cooking and gardening began at Abernethy Elementary in Southeast Portland, Oregon has new positions in two state agencies dedicated to what’s known as “farm-to-school.”

Cory Schreiber in the Department of Agriculture and Joan Ottinger in the Department of Education are charged with connecting farmers with school cafeterias, encouraging students to eat more local fruits and vegetables, seeding a statewide school garden program and getting lessons about food into classrooms.

• Local purchasing has taken a big leap forward. More than 32percent of Oregon schools buy some of their food for school lunches from farmers and processors in their communities, according to an Oregon Department of Agriculture survey. Recently relaxed rules in the 2008 federal farm act encourage more local purchasing. School districts that buy more than a certain dollar amount must get bids on food purchases. For many years, it was impossible to cite a preference for local products (meaning Washington, Oregon and Northern California) when soliciting bids. Last year, that restriction was removed.

Despite other hurdles — and there are many — school food service directors are buying fresh fruits and vegetables from nearby farmers when they can, with little or no additional federal or state money in their pockets.

A yearlong grant from the Kaiser Permanente Community Foundation has given enough oomph to two public school districts — Portland and Gervais — to put not just locally grown produce on lunch trays, but also monthly hot entrees in Portland schools using Oregon products.
Doug BeghtelThe food that students grow end up in the cafeteria and could someday, school officials say, defray as much as 20 percent of the cafeteria’s produce costs.
“We want to use it to demonstrate what could be possible statewide,” says Deborah Kane, vice president of the food and farms program at Ecotrust, which supports farm-to-school activities around the West.

What’s missing is permanent funding. Oregon is one of only a handful of states that does not provide money for public school meals. School districts need more resources, say a coalition of food and public health activists working on farm-to-school issues, to create programs that reach every student.

Farm-to-school supporters are gearing up to ask for it: State Reps. Tina Kotek (D-Portland) and Brian Clem (D-Salem) plan to introduce legislation in 2009 requesting that the state match a portion of the federal dollars if districts purchase Oregon foods. If the bill is enacted, the state would kick in as much as 15 cents for every lunch and 7 cents for every breakfast to purchase foods produced, packaged or processed in Oregon. The proposed legislation also would provide up to 150 grants for complementary food- and garden-based education, up to $10,000 a school year for each of two years.

Meanwhile, some Oregonians aren’t waiting. School gardens are taking root in pockets around the state, helped along by community members, passionate teachers and parent volunteers. With grants and donations, a new culinary arts program is getting off the ground in the Centennial district, with the hope of introducing at-risk teens to a lifetime of more healthful eating.

Stay tuned. Meanwhile, sample a few stories of change, below.
lesliecole@news.oregonian.com

Farm-to-school links:
Ecotrust (events, program overviews, assistance and legislative updates),
www.ecotrust.org/farmtoschool

National Farm to School Program
www.farmtoschool.org

Portland Public Schools’ Local Lunch program
www.nutrition.pps.k12.or.us/.docs/pg/10173

Growing Gardens’ school garden resource page
www.growing-gardens.org
(click on Resources, then School Gardens)

Bend/LaPine farm-to-school program
www.bend.k12.or.us
(click on Parents, Nutrition, Menus, and Farm to School)

Centennial Learning Center
www.centennial.k12.or.us/schools/clc

Our Generous Garden

Fellow Master Gardener Anne Nagro (Illinois chapter) has recently published a non-fiction children’s book, Our Generous Garden. The book is based on Anne’s successful seed-to-table elementary school garden project that last year donated 900 pounds of produce to a local food bank. The easy-to-read text written from a child’s perspective follows students as they find the perfect garden spot, design their garden, grow seeds in the classroom and plant the seedlings outdoors. A few recipes are included as well. It is available here from Amazon.com or from Anne’s website, GardenABCs.com. While perusing GardenABCs, be sure to check out the Resources page, as well as the Library page. Great stuff for both garden and classroom.

Starting From Seed

Seeds come in many shapes and sizes. They can be as big as coconuts or as small as orchid seeds that are carried by the wind. Size usually depends on how the seed is dispersed.

Big or small they all have three things in common related to their structure:
1) Hard protective shell outside called the seed coat;
2) Dormant embryo inside;
3) Nutrition (stored food) to keep it viable. Viable means that the seed is capable of germinating when you plant it. If it is not viable the nutrition inside has been used up and the embryo will no longer develop. Much of seed viability depends upon storage conditions. Ideal conditions would be somewhere cool and dry (e.g. a capped jar in the refrigerator).

When a seed is planted in the ground, container, or any growing medium there are four environmental factors that affect germination:
1) Moisture – Germination begins with the absorption of water. It ends when the seedling is self-sustaining. During that period, the growing medium should stay evenly moist (like a wrung-out sponge) and never dry out.
2) Temperature – Seeds like warmth. Generally, 65-75 F is best for most plants. The back of the seed pack will list the desired temperature range.
3) Oxygen – Respiration takes place in all viable seeds. During germination, the respiration rate increases. Soil or growing medium needs to be loose and well aerated.
4) Light – Some seeds require light, some seeds require darkness, and for some seeds it doesn’t matter. The back of the seed pack will list any special lighting requirement.

Ideal characteristics of growing medium include the following:
1) Fine and uniform texture;
2) Well aerated and loose;
3) Free of insects, disease, and weed seeds;
4) Low in total soluble salts;
5) Able to hold moisture yet drain well.

If sowing seeds indoors in containers think about recycling egg and milk cartons, plastic soda and water bottles, or pie pans. Just remember to create holes in the bottom for drainage.

Seed Sowing Tips
1) Depth matters – Problems can arise if too shallow or too deep. In general sow seeds 4 times the smallest dimension (see seed packet).
2) In soil or in a pot?  Sow big seeds like sunflower, nasturtium, corn, peas in soil where they’ll grow.  Sow small seeds like broccoli, oregano, snapdragons in containers.
3) Re-sow seeds, especially of vegetables, every 3-4 weeks for continuously developing new plants.  This will provide sequential food crops to harvest. Plant lettuce in September, October, November and December, and you’ll have lettuce the entire school year.

Seed Diagram (Avocado)

School Garden Resource Fair

Hope to see you all there!

The Los Angeles Unified School District’s
CALIFORNIA INTSTRUCTIONAL SCHOOL GARDEN PROGRAM
ANNUAL RESOURCE FAIR
SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 27, 2008  10:00am-2:00pm

AT THE “HIDDEN GARDEN” IN NORTH WEDDINGTON PARK ADJACENT TO
Rio Vista Elementary School
4243 Satsuma Ave North Hollywood, CA 91602

OVER 50 RESOURCE TABLES!
OVER 50,000 FREE VEGETABLE SEEDLINGS!
FREE GARDEN SUPPLIES, WORKSHOPS, AND MORE!
KEYNOTE ADDRESS by Tim Alderson, Chair, California School Garden Network
FREE To All Administrators, Teachers, Volunteers, Parents and Students
No pre-registration necessary. Supervised child play area available.

Sponsored by the LAUSD Instructional School Garden Program and CSGN Los Angeles, www.csgn.org
For more information contact: Tonya Mandl, tonya.mandl@lausd.net & Mud Baron, m.baron@lausd.net