It’s been a while since I’ve updated – turns out that planning and delivering first-year curriculum along with managing a garden takes a lot of time! We’ve journeyed to the end of an exciting year of learning and growing in the Cascadia School Garden. This successful year was made possible by the amazing 3rd grade teaching team, garden interns Daoud, Hannah, Summer, Duncan and Matt, and Kimberly Christensen and Grace Hensley of the Green Team.
Here’s a rare treat: garden intern Matt interviewed me for this short video about the school garden. SnappDragons Garden Video on Youtube!
The Best of Spring 2016:
We talked about the history of the potato as we planted last year’s Makah Ozette heirloom spuds in the new garden annex across the parking lot. We also made a bean teepee there, where we planted heirloom Scarlet Runner beans! In the fall of 2016, a new crop of third graders will be able to harvest potatoes and dried beans in long pods, and enjoy a feast of potato leek soup and hearty cooked beans.
In late Spring, when the winter vegetables were starting to bolt, we had a lesson about the parts of a flower and how pollination works. I brought in hundreds of mustard flowers from my garden and Beacon Food Forest, and the children were able to observe them, name their parts, and finally to eat their flowers. They sure enjoyed that! Most kids are highly enthusiastic about eating edible flowers and greens in the garden. Later, we went out to work in the garden and the students were enthused to find bees busily collecting nectar from the kale and collard flowers, the pollen sacks on their legs bulging with plant DNA.
Several beautiful stories were told by master storyteller Daoud Neil Miller. The children were captivated by traditional tales from around the world about the turning of the seasons. It was during the last story, about the Summer Solstice and how light came into the world, when we discovered that a house sparrow couple had built a nest just above where we circle up. We could hear the baby birds cheeping inside the nest and watched the parents come and go, their beaks stuffed with bugs.
We made seed balls with the calendula seeds that the students had helped to harvest in the fall. It was fun to get messy and make the clay seed balls by rolling clay, compost, and seeds together. Once they were dry, each student got to take a seed ball home along with instructions for “planting” by tossing into an unused corner of a yard. The clay protects the seeds from being eaten by birds, and slowly disintegrates in the spring rains. The compost feeds the seedling while it gets established.
The worm bin is doing very well! Kimberly Christensen, our Green Team leader, set up a weekly worm bin schedule in the lunchroom. Scraps of fruits and veggies from school lunches are saved, and the classes after lunchtime brings buckets of scraps. The students chop them up with shovels and feed them to our carefully-maintained worm bin. The worm bin is a great learning experience, a place where we get to see a whole community of life forms up close while watching decompostion before our eyes. We get to reap the rewards of our labor in the form of vermicompost – worm castings – twice a year, which feed and enrich our school garden.
We closed out the year, just as we left for Winter Break, with a feast! The students collected school-grown greens and herbs from the school garden, and together we washed and made up a salad for everyone to enjoy. We also sampled hot herbal tea made from fennel fronds and mint. The salad dressing offered for the salad was a huge hit, and several students asked for the recipe. This is Rowan’s own recipe, which I call the AwesomeSauce. It also works great as a marinade! Like most of my recipes, it calls for a lil’ of this and a lil’ of that, until it tastes just right. I’ve approximated the amounts here.
Apple cider vinegar, raw: 1 cup
Balsamic Vinegar, 3 TBLS
Olive Oil, 1.5 cups
Sesame Oil, 1 TBLS
Minced fresh garlic, 2 cloves
Minced fresh savory herbs, whatever’s in season (marjoram, sage, and thyme are nice)
Fresh ground salt and pepper
I like to funnel the ingredients into a flip-top bottle or canning jar so it’s easy to shake and serve any time. Keep at room temperature, and enjoy on everything! It’s kid-approved and great for salad dressings, marinades, stir-fries, and for flavoring grains like brown rice.
Thanks most of all to the 175 or so students of the 3rd Grade class of 2016. Keep growing, and think of the future!