School Garden News – Orlando, Florida

Volunteers Transform Garden for Butterflies
Scouts and others pitch in to make the Endeavor Elementary nature site a hands-on teaching aid.
By Kenda Robertson, OrlandoSentinel.com

When the students at Endeavor Elementary School in south Orange County learn about the life cycle of a butterfly, they no longer have to sit in a classroom and see the process through pictures in a book. That’s because the 800 pupils, ages 5 to 10, are able to watch the insect transform from a chrysalis to a full butterfly in their school’s 3,000-square-foot butterfly garden, which is an Audubon-certified sanctuary.

Purple weeping lantana, blue porterweed and red pentas greet the children each day as they pass through the garden on their way to the playground. As butterflies flitter and ladybugs crawl, the youngsters are introduced to the world of nature and a host of living things.

With more than 1,000 plants and 20 different species, there is a lot to see, touch and explore. A brick walkway allows pupils with disabilities to enjoy the garden, too. The idea to create the special educational garden at the school was developed about two years ago when Marriott Golf’s Grande Pines Golf Club in Orlando decided to become an Audubon-certified golf course through the Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary Program. The program, which helps golf facilities protect the environment, calls for the golf club to complete several steps. One of those steps is to create an animal habitat outreach and education program, says Chris Flynn, golf course superintendent for Grand Pines. He and his team supplied straw and mulch for the school’s garden, installed an irrigation system, helped build the garden’s walkway and continue to assist with routine maintenance of the site.

Once the appropriate steps were taken, the golf club and the school’s butterfly garden officially became Audubon-certified.”We felt a butterfly garden would be an easy and fun way to get kids involved and make them aware of the importance of protecting the environment at an early age,” Flynn says. “It’s an incredible learning experience as they help weed and care for the plants.”

Scout takes the lead
When then-14-year-old Kenny Carter Jr., an Eagle Scout and former student at Endeavor, heard about the butterfly garden proposal at the school, he volunteered to take on the garden as an Eagle Scout Leadership Service Project.Carter says he wanted to give back to the school and faculty who “taught him well and helped him progress.” He also wanted to honor the memory of his grandfather, Aubrey Carter, a 35-year teacher who had died several months earlier, and to whom the garden was dedicated on Dec. 1, 2006.

Although it took a year and 700 hours of Carter’s time for the garden to be completed, he says it also required a lot of teamwork and collaboration from many others in the community for everything to turn out so well. To start the project, Carter recruited Shari Fling, a master gardener volunteer who designed the 50-by-66-foot sanctuary. The teenager also organized a fundraiser at the school to raise money to buy plants, worked with Lukas Nursery and Garden Shop in Oviedo to get the plants at a discount and enlisted the help of his Boy Scouts of America Troop 996 to plant the garden. As she drew up plans for the area, Fling says she chose hearty, drought-tolerant, nontoxic plants that are easy to care for and that attract specific butterflies.

Some plants are Florida natives including the brightly colored beautyberry, which attracts birds. She also used simple plants, such as pentas and lantana, because children can see and identify them at their local plant nursery.

“There are two things you need to attract butterflies — a source of food and drink,” Fling says. Larval and nectar plants provide these necessities and serve as an invitation to specific butterflies. In the end, Fling chose plants to attract about a dozen species of butterflies, including fennel, which attracts the black swallowtail, and milkweed, which attracts the monarch.

“We are indoors so much with computers and games that kids miss out on a lot of outside fun,” Fling says. “I want this garden to inspire these children to see caterpillars and butterflies, and allow them to touch nature without being afraid.”

Helping kids and teachers
Kristen Vadnais, kindergarten teacher at Endeavor, says she uses the garden to teach her 5-year-olds about living and nonliving things. She likes being able to take them to the garden and show them rocks, soil, leaves, flowers, insects and, of course, butterflies. “They always let me know when they see a butterfly,” Vadnais says. “They also point out the different colors of flowers, and like to look at the bugs.

“Vadnais says the garden is valuable for teachers, because it gives them a visual to go along with the verbal lessons. “Younger children learn more through visual, hands-on experiences,” she says. “They can see how insects live, learn how seeds grow and watch them sprout.”

Barbara Richardson, editor of kidsgardening.org, a nonprofit Web site, says kids whose learning styles aren’t compatible with classroom learning usually show an advantage in the garden, developing leadership and knowledge through action.

“The wonder that children experience when they plant a seed, see it sprout and cultivate it to maturity is unique,” Richardson says. “Just watch a child pull up a carrot for the first time, and you’ll understand what I’m talking about.”

Carter says it took a lot of people to complete this important project, and he’s proud to have been a part of making it happen. “It was great how it came together, and everyone worked to help our community,” he says.

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Weeek 27 – Late Winter Harvest

Next week is spring break. Make sure watering issues are addressed while you’re away. In the meantime, we are currently harvesting: beets, chard, kale, carrots, cabbage, fava beans, broccoli side shoots, and fennel. Did you know kale is one of the healthiest vegetables you can eat? Read this article Kale: The Phytonutrient Master and start adding some kale to your diet. FYI, we’re growing the dinosaur kale (aka Black Tuscan Cabbage).

School Garden News – Belize

Belize Sows Seeds for Food Security
Written by Megan Tady

“Vegetables in general are skipped out of the Belizean diet,” said Mark Miller, executive director of the development organization Plenty Belize. “Most of the cultures here used to have a much healthier way of eating than they do today. As time progresses, people are eating less and less healthy.”

In 2002, the organization started a school garden program in Belize’s southernmost Toledo District. The gardens are designed to educate young people about how to grow their own organic supplemental vegetables at home.

“We’re hoping that the concept of organic school gardens is institutionalized so that it becomes a norm that we teach our children, and that talking about our food, food supply and health comes as a regular part of what is done,” said Miller. “Whether [kids] grow their own food, or they appreciate where their food comes from, it gives them the ability to make better choices.”

Read complete article here

Week 26 – Starting Tomatoes from Seed

We are currently planting rows of bush beans, zucchini and corn as well as starting tomatoes from seed. We are using a recycled egg carton as our container with one seed being planted in each compartment. Remember to keep the soil moist throughout the entire germination process.
Once the seedling gets two sets of leaves like below we pot-up to a larger 3″ peat pot container. Peat pots can be planted directly in the ground.
Once the seedlings are about 6-8 inches tall we can then transplant them to our garden. Remember to harden-off your seedlings before transplanting. Hardening-off is the process which introduces the seedlings to the outdoors a little at a time. We place the seedlings out side for a day, then bring them in at night. We do that for 2-3 days then allow them to stay out at night 2-3 nights. Once acclimated we can then transplant them to our garden.

School Garen News – Longview, Texas

Gardeners learn science, math, community at Judson Middle School

By Adam J. Holland

A lot can be learned from planting a garden. Judson Middle School students are learning math, science and the art of multitasking by growing onions, potatoes and green beans.

The garden is an annual project of Bill Russell’s sixth- and seventh-grade science classes. Students on Thursday created their rows and started planting crops atop a hill at the campus entrance.
“The lesson is across the curriculum,” said Russell. “With the potatoes you have a 40 meter row — we do everything metric — and you’re planting a potato eye every 30 centimeters. A lot of it is soil science or just the structure and function of different plant parts.”

The academics part of the Judson Middle School garden is secondary though, Russell said.
“The best thing is kids learn to take care of something — a living unit,” said Russell. “They get to see how they affect the growth of the plants and see how everything works together.”

For complete article click link above.

Week 25 – Fava Beans

Its harvest time for our fava beans, the longest pods are 12-13 inches. To enjoy them we first have to shell them from their pods. Simply cut down the long length of the pod and pull out the beans.
Notice the thick inner lining of the pod that protects the beans like a warm winter overcoat. As you shall see there are in fact two overcoats. This explains why this particular legume is a cool-weather crop while others in the family like pole and bush beans prefer warm weather. Take one look at this double overcoat and it all makes sense.

To cook favas, bring a large pot of water to a boil, add salt, then the beans, and cook 3 to 5 minutes. Drain in a colander. Next, peel off the outer white skin (the second jacket) by pinching through the skin opposite the growing tip.

Press the growing end of the bean between your thumb and forefinger and the bean will spurt out. The simplest way to enjoy them is to sauté the fava beans in a little olive oil or butter until tender and then salt and pepper to taste. For those a little more adventurous try fava beans in place of garbanzo beans in your favorite humous recipe. And for those who are truly gourmands or inspire to be…Fava Bean Soup with Short Ribs.
1) Make a beef stock from short ribs. Strain and save meat.
2) Cook the fava beans in the beef stock until soft and tender.
3) Puree beans in a blender adding just enough stock to liquefy.
4) Salt and pepper to taste .
5) Serve with shredded short rib meat sprinkled on top

You’re going to thank me for this one 🙂

School Garden News – Hayward, California

Joy of growing: Teaching garden know-how
By Kristofer Noceda (InsideBayArea.com)

HAYWARD — Youssif Rouchi tears off a piece of mustard greens from a school garden and eats it.

“Wow! Dude, this tastes like that wasabi stuff,” Youssif, 12, says to classmates.

“Hey, let me try,” a sixth-grader says. “Me, too!” another yells.

Mission accomplished.

Fairview Elementary School’s garden program has students excited to try out fresh fruits and vegetables, something officials say can only benefit kids in the long run.

“It’s horrifying because I hear the No. 1 thing kids like to eat is hot Cheetos,” said Debra Israel, who coordinates the Hayward Nutritional Learning Community Project in the Hayward Unified School District.

“This generation of children is not expected to outlive their parents,” Israel said. “It is horrifying.”

The Hayward Nutritional Learning Project, which also belongs to a county coalition that includes the San Lorenzo and Livermore school districts, is funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Eighteen district elementary schools, a middle school and high school are part of the project in Hayward. To qualify for the program, a school must have at least half its students enrolled in free and discounted lunch program.

The idea began as part of a pilot program in 2003.

Christine Boynton, then a fifth-grade teacher at Burbank Elementary in Hayward, worked with the Lawrence Hall of Science and the botanical garden at the University of California, Berkeley, and created a classroom curriculum based on nutrition education.
“She realized it was hands-on, interactive, and appeared to affect classroom behavior in a positive way,” Israel said. “The next thing you know, everyone wanted to start school gardens.”

Boynton now works at the Alameda County Office of Education and directs the Nutritional Learning Community Coalition.

The curriculum has grown over the years, and coordinators at each participating school site have made their own additions.

Matt Nolan, who heads the project at Fairview, introduced a composting program this school year.

At the end of every lunch, students can donate their leftover fruit and vegetables to the “FBI” — which stand for fungus, bacteria and invertebrates — which turn it into food for the school garden.

Students then weigh how much food scraps they have collected for the day and mark it on a graph to track their progress for the year.

“The idea is to track how much food we save from landfills, while also learning and applying math skills,” Nolan said.

After students have entered the data, they take the leftover food scraps and dump the remains in a three-tier composting system.

“It’s about getting kids active, getting out, touching things and giving them an experience of making their own food,” Nolan said. “Many students don’t realize that food doesn’t just come from a grocery store.”

In addition to promoting healthy eating, the program has helped teachers temporarily drift away from test-driven lessons.

“With such an emphasis now focused on accountability and testing, teachers are saying this is the one fun thing students have left,” Israel said. “It’s engaging students in an interactive hands-on approach that seems to be strengthening their success in school.”

Meanwhile, students said they enjoy participating in the program because they know it helps the environment.

“The garden is important because it’s going to help the air become cleaner,” Rouchi said. “Plus, it helps us kids out too, because we know how to take care of a garden now and won’t have to hire a gardener when we get older.”

Click here for complete article.