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Welcome back to the Garden

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Hello Gardeners,

Welcome back to the school garden! We have exciting year of garden classes planned. I spent the summer training with Seattle Tilth’s Garden Educator Summer Intensive, and reading books like the Week-by-Week Vegetable Gardener’s Handbook. I highly recommend both experiences, by the way, to everyone from novice gardeners to garden teachers!

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I’d like to share an article that was sent my way about the value of garden education. Check it out here: https://theconversation.com/do-kids-who-grow-kale-eat-kale-64724
I found it interesting because it doesn’t claim school gardening to be a cure for all ills, but instead examines the tangible results. I know what I see in my students as a result of their garden classes – confidence, deep knowledge of science and their place in the natural world. The most gratifying result that I saw was children enthusiastically trying vegetables. One teacher last year told me that a student who wouldn’t eat vegetables at home last year was later eating kale with enthusiasm – because he had grown it and eaten it in the school garden.

Last Spring, the graduating 3rd graders planted several heirloom crops to be grown over the summer and enjoyed by this year’s new 3rd graders. In the front left in this photo are Scarlet Runner Beans, about to spiral up the trellis we built from bamboo and a donated metal trellis. Behind and to the far right are Makah Ozette potatoes, a delicious tuber placed on Slow Food’s Ark of Taste list, due to its incredible flavor.

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The crops have grown all summer, thanks to our watering volunteers, and now the beautiful beans have climbed to the top of the trellis! The long hearty bean pods will be used for a lesson on seed saving.

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Meanwhile, the potato plants are responding to the changing temperatures and turning colors, getting ready for the delicious underground treasures to be harvested. We now plan an annual Potato Soup Day here for the 3rd grade classes. If you are interested in helping to cook a simple recipe in bulk, please e-mail me, SnappdragonsGarden at gmail dot com. The soup was a big hit last year with the kids, and really helped bring home the connection of harvest + feast, as well as a lesson about local history.

Tomorrow is the big day, as half the third grade classes will be coming outdoors for their first garden class, with the remaining classes coming next week.

Thanks for all of your support!

Rowan Maya Lang
Garden Educator

 

 

Goodbye for the Summer

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.

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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.

AwesomeSauce
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!

Our garden team has kicked off the planning process for our transition to the Wilson Pacific site. With our exceptional Garden Educator, Rowan Lang, we have identified the requirements for the garden, and have done a preliminary site analysis (as much as we can do without physically being there).  This week, we presented our ideas to the PTA Board and were warmly received. Staff and parents want to make sure our kids have time to dig!

Below, we summarize the powerpoint [[19 MB PDF]] that Grace created to show what we are hoping to accomplish at the new site. She has already begun meeting with school district representatives in order to finalize the design in time with plenty of time for the transition.

We need your help in making sure the garden is installed as quickly as possible at the new site! We are forming our transition committee now and will hold the first meeting in early March. Fill out this doodle poll if you would like to attend, so we can find out a good time to meet! Please email KimberlyChristensen@live.com with any questions.

http://doodle.com/poll/4y6y32ytspzq3d44

 

School Gardens Provide:

Sense of belonging and connection. The garden has familiarity and fosters a sense of attachment and place. It has a variety of enclosed and public spaces for private and open exchanges.

Movement and exercise. The garden supports low-impact activities, including walking, wheeled mobility, gardening, play, formal exercise, and physical rehabilitation. These activities build strength, reduce stress, and elevate mood.

Sensory nourishment. The garden offers heightened interactions with nature through the senses. Natural distractions improve emotional states, diminish troublesome thoughts, and foster positive physiological outcomes.

Sense of control (actual and perceived). The garden allows individuals to make choices. It provides a temporary escape, a sensation of “being away,” an opportunity for the user to gain control of his or her emotions and refocus attention.

Site Project Details:

1330 N 90th St, Seattle, WA 98103 (Historically Wilson-Pacific Elementary)

  • The BEX-IV (Building Excellence) Seattle levy funded $110M to replace aging elementary and middle-schools on a 17-acre site in Northwest Seattle, scheduled to open in the Fall of 2017.
  • Cascadia Elementary, a 780-student elementary school spanning 1st through 5th grades, serving the Highly Capable Cohort (HCC), will occupy the elementary school at this site.
  • The SNAPP-Dragons school garden program founded at Cascadia Elementary will move into a new Garden Maker-Space to integrate classroom requirements with local watershed and community interests.

School Garden indicated on Cascadia Schematic. Note Pillings Pond

Cascadia Garden Requirements

  • Defined Entrances
  • Classroom Seating Area
  • Outdoor Blackboard
  • Tool Care and Storage
  • Separation from Administration
  • Signage for Public Education
  • Accessible
  • Thinking Spaces
  • Creation Spaces
  • Hand-washing and Food Prep
  • Winter Interest
  • Rain and Shade Shelter
  • Propagation and Season Extension
  • Composting and Plant Maintenance
  • Water Management
  • Fitness and Balance
  • Bird Habitat
  • Dragon Theme

Maker Spaces

To do incorporate all of these things without having specific single-use zones, we have decided to create a “Maker Space”.  Maker-Spaces provide a place for a community to share expertise, tools, and materials to create something new with a wider impact than what could be made by someone working alone.

  • Food Literacy, Food ProductionDragon Rock
  • Fruit Guilds
  • Native Cultures
  • Pollinator Garden
  • Water Capture, Flow, and Dispersal Observation
  • Worm and Bug Habitat
  • Bird Observation
  • Drawing and Painting
  • Plant and Seed Sales
  • Soils, Shade, and Sunlight Studies
  • Plant Identification and Field Notes

Our Garden Maker-Space enables us to teach all elements of curriculum from literacy and art, to math and science using observation and manipulation. The Garden provides an opportunity to explore concepts in ways that can not be done indoors.

Site Analysis Details

Grace recently completed a Permaculture Design Course to use as a framework for designing the site to fit into the environment.  Permaculture designers start from the macro scale and work towards the details.  We start with the watershed.  Cascadia is part of the Thornton Creek Watershed.

Rowan and Grace visited Pilling’s Pond  last fall and were delighted to be invited on a tour of the site.  David Kunkle mentioned that he has seen river otters in his duck pond, which clearly have come up the Thornton Creek, through the North Seattle Community College wetlands and then into the Licton Springs drainage.

Below is a map of our site in relationship to the active mineral springs at Licton Springs Park.  We would like to capitalize on the possibility of using Pilling’s Pond as an additional learning opportunity. We are also aware of the impact of the wetlands and seasonal flooding issues [Video], and want to ensure our garden does not impact anything downstream.  During the construction process, a 4-ft culvert has been installed to divert the flooding under the athletic fields; without it, they would be on a riparian zone!

Watershed

Other existing elements

We sit on a level shelf, that drops precipitously into Pilling’s Pond.  The pond (and the wildlife) are protected by a barrier of bamboo to its Northeast, between the school and the pond.  The bamboo will have no impact on our garden.

The only other issue is a large poplar tree that can potentially shade our site.

Zones of Activity

As always, in any design project, we start with the base map:
Base

Then, we drill down to look at any impacts.  Here, this map shows the solar aspect (orange and yellow), the winter storm (purple) and drainage (blue) directions.  Of most importance is the entrance zones for the school and community (red) and the daycare (pink), and the location of the Administration offices (black).

We will want to encourage the community to walk by the garden without actually coming in, or picking food.  Good signage about what we are growing and how to be respectful will be effective.

The access to the daycare will mainly be through the west building, but we need to keep a wide path clear for annual delivery of woodchips for the playspace.  We want to ensure that the noisiest parts of the garden-usage will not be centered next to the Admin offices or classrooms.  We also have a responsibility to keep the garden looking tidy, as it is the first impression for all visitors to Cascadia.

Sector

Defined Spaces

While we’re still working out the details for all of the elements, here are some proposals for some of the spaces.  The Central Classroom space should be covered for wind and rain shelter.  I hope to have it paved, so there is a flat workspace that could be used for a variety of activities.  The paving could be in the form of a labyrinth, perhaps with a dragon’s head at the center.  Walking a labyrinth calms both mind and body, and seeing the whole of it helps children visualize patterns.  By encircling the central space with recycled timber seating, you get the dual purpose of balance and agility, as well as a centralized focal point for leading lessons.  A toolshed can be painted with blackboard paint so you can write up the lesson-of-the-day.  It also keeps gloves and trowels and clipboards organized.  It would be great to encircle the seating with additional shrubbery for a low-maintenance enclosure.  All of it creates a calming and coming-together space that is flexible for many uses.

Classroom

Possible Layouts

Depending on the total space allocated, there are many ways to organize the desired elements.  We hope to have a fruit-tree hedge to define the space and provide food production.  This would be well signed to tell the community what we are growing, and invite them to participate in the garden.

A central water feature is desired so that children can envision the water cycle from pump to flow to watering-can to plant.  A cistern underneath would capture any spillage and recycle it.  The physical effort of pumping water reinforces the effort native cultures need to use to transport water to their village, and will strengthen the connection to the environment and the preciousness of water.

Raised beds for annual fruit production should be placed for maximum solar exposure.

Perennial food crops can be inter-planted with the boundary hedging.  The use of native trees and shrubs is encouraged so that they will survive without watering during our dry-summer months.

Composting woody material can take place between compost fences designed to separate sections of the garden.  This will also feed the soil.

A drought-tolerant perennial garden can be planted at the entrance to be used for bird, bug, and bee observations.

layout

We are still working with the district and the “Self-Help” requirements so elements are in flux.  We would be delighted to hear your suggestions about other elements to include or different ways of thinking about the space.

Final Questions

  • Can we use the full front area?
  • Can we reduce boring/shading “Landscape” trees in front of growing spaces, and choose dwarf fruit trees instead?
  • Can we dig a hole for the water pump cistern?
  • Are we permitted to install structural posts for rain/shade shelter?
  • What is our maintenance plan to ensure site, fruit trees properly maintained?
  • What is our exit plan to return site to grass if necessary?

Can you help us?

Please!  This design is still in development.  We would love to hear your thoughts and suggestions.  We would love to have you help Rowan and her interns in the garden this spring.  We will definitely need help fundraising, obtaining materials, and constructing the new site.

Detailed ideas can be emailed to us, and you can always comment here on this blog!

Grace Hensley: grace at eTilth dot com

Kimberly Christensen: kimberlychristensen at live dot com

Rowan Maya Lang: snappdragonsgarden at gmail dot com

We’re looking forward to working with you.

Potato Leek Soup!

It’s been a wild and wonderful time in the garden! We have successfully planted out all the beds with fall lettuces, winter onions, peas, chard, kale, and garlic. We also dedicated two small plots to edible cover crops, namely corn salad and fava beans. Those can be snacked on until Spring when we will till them into the soil to add organic matter. Fava beans are especially wonderful as they are nitrogen fixers – that is, they pull nitrogen from the air and form nodules on their roots which nourish the soil. We’ve spread compost and filled the worm bin with strips of newspaper and dried leaves for bedding, and added red wiggler worms to eat some of the fruit and veggie waste from the lunchroom. We’ve tidied around the garden and kept it looking nice.

Last week and this week, we taught a lesson about the Makah Ozette potato. This potato has been tended by the Makah people of Washington for the last 200 years, after being brought here directly from Peru by Spanish explorers.  It’s a wonderful earthy-tasting fingerling potato that has adapted very well to our climate, and we now grow it on our school garden. We talked about why potatoes were so important to the native people  – they are tasty, nutritious, and store well. Check out this earlier blog post by garden parent Grace for more fascinating information about this potato https://snappdragons.wordpress.com/2013/04/23/slow-food-the-story-of-the-makah-ozette-potatoes/.

Our amazing garden parents donated homegrown potatoes and made this nourishing and delicious soup which we served to the kids. We saw a lot of smiling faces licking the cups clean and asking for seconds and thirds, and we have had requests for the recipe. So here it is!

Potato Leek Soup (by Grace Hensley)

  1. Dig up, wash (scrub) all of your potatoes, and trim off any green parts or tough ‘eyes’.  If using Makah Ozette potatoes, don’t bother to peel them.  Cut them into 1″ pieces or chunks.
  2. Pull 4 leeks from your garden, trim the roots, discard most of the green tops. Slice in half lengthwise, and wash the leeks well.  Cut into thin rounds.
  3. Saute leeks in 2 tablespoons of olive oil (dairy free!) or butter (yum!) until soft.  You can add garlic and onions, too.
  4. Add 1 tablespoon thyme, and 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper, and stir for about 30 sec.
  5. Fill up the pot with water, add 2 bay leaves, 2 celery stalks cut in half, and all of your potatoes.
  6. Boil until potatoes are soft.
  7. Remove the bay leaves and celery.
  8. Use your immersion blender to make a puree.  If you don’t have an immersion blender, wait until soup cools(!) before blending in a regular blender. [Trust me, you can’t clean soup off the ceiling.]
  9. Season with salt and pepper until it tastes good.
  10. Sprinkle with chopped parsley.

Don’t have makah ozette potatoes? You can still find some at area farmers markets. While many markets have closed for the season, the Ballard and University District Farmers Markets operate year-round, and many farmers still have choice produce available.

Cheers!

Rowan Maya Lang
Snappdragons Garden Educator
Cascadia Elementary School

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Hello friends,

WOW, what an incredible first two weeks in the garden. It is an honor and privilege to work with such dedicated teachers, curious and engaged children, and brilliant interns.

Running garden classes starts with planning: class schedules, planting schedules, and sorting out the multitude of garden tasks into short, meaningful activities for the students.

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When the students arrived, we met up in a circle near the garden, introduced ourselves, and talked about our favorite vegetables. An awful lot of kids like broccoli and peas! Many children answered with a favorite fruit, and some answered with a vegetable that is actually a fruit, like tomato or cucumber. Their classmates were quick to correct them. One child’s favorite vegetable was “fruitcake”.  I guess that counts as a fruit?

We talked about the basic things that plants need to survive… including DIRT. We just so happened to have a song about dirt, “Dirt Made My Lunch”. The kids learned the words and the motions to go along with the song, and we sang and danced together. We have three musicians in the bunch of us, so we were able to get quite a groove going with the enthusiastic kids!

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Then we got to work. Some of the students were directed in a Sit Spot activity by intern Daoud and their teacher. They had a few moments of quiet contemplation as they discovered and drew an illustration of a plant in the garden.

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In the meantime, Summer or Hannah and I led garden activities. With Autumn in full swing, we needed to get the fall and winter plants into the beds fast! First step, though, was preparing the soil. The kids harvested finished worm compost from the worm bin and dug it into the raised beds, along with compost from Cedar Grove. There was a lot of searching for live worms in the bin as they went, and they were fascinated by the pill bugs, spiders, and centipedes they found. I made sure to collect all living creatures that were discovered so we could add them back to the worm bin post-harvest. They all wanted to take their new invertebrate friends home with them, but I explained that the critters needed to stay in the garden where they have important work to do.

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We had lots of collards left over from Spring garden classes and decided to snack on them. Many of the kids got to taste collards and examine the differences between collards and their cousins, kale. We harvested much of the collards as we’d rather have the space available to grow other goodies like lettuce, spinach, kale, and a cover crop of corn salad (mache)
We also found cabbage loopers (cabbage moth larvae) on the collards – they are very hard to see as they are the same green as the leaf and like to stretch out along the stem. But once I pointed one out, the kids were great at finding them and gently picking them off our beleaguered collards!

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There was plenty planting to do, and the energetic kids dove into the gentle art of planting.

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A highlight was digging for potatoes! A few lucky kids got to dig for buried treasure in our potato box. Since it doesn’t get a lot of sunlight, the potatoes were pretty small. Still, the students were overjoyed when they found one of the tubers, as excited as if they’d found a gold nugget.

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And finally, we allowed the kids in Ms. Rohrabachs class to host a small but pompous burial ceremony for a spider whose corpse was discovered in their classroom earlier that day. They buried it with many kind words at the base of the elm stump in the native plant garden.

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It’s starting to look like a real garden again, after a summer of vacations and drought. Daoud, Hannah, Summer, Jill and myself are all looking forward to an exciting fall and spring with the 3rd graders.

Big thanks to Jill Del Sordi for the photos!

Rowan Maya Lang
Snappdragons Garden Educator
Cascadia Elementary School

Hello friends,

I am pleased to announce that Garden Education classes begin on Friday, September 25th.Our seven 3rd grade classes are split into Cohort A and B and will be alternating weeks in the garden with Rowan and company.

Cohort A meets this Friday, September 25th.
Thilo
Morford
Landschultz

Cohort B will meet Friday, October 2nd
Alva
Rohrabaugh
Warren
Ada/Klein

I had the opportunity to meet Mr. Morford’s students in the classroom last week to talk about what we will be doing in the garden. They also learned a song, “Dirt Made My Lunch” that we’ll be singing in the garden. We are so excited to get started next week!

We also recently hosted the first Garden Work Party of the season. Intern Daoud discovered that the large elm tree in the middle of the raised bed garden had sent masses of micro-roots into all the raised beds, stealing nutrients from the annuals. That’s something we’ll have to work on long-term. At this work party, Daoud valiantly plunged his hands deep into the soil of the raised bed next to the wall and cleaned it of roots. That will be a great spot for winter root vegetables. Thanks, Daoud!

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Intern Hannah applied her pruning expertise to cleaning up the native plant garden, some of which had gotten pretty cooked by the hot sun over the summer. She also cleared off the coveted sit spot on the tree stump. Thanks, Hannah!

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Saffron, a 5th grader, and her mom Sydney came to help with the garden. Sydney is an urban farmer and they both did a stellar job weeding. We also checked out the worm bin situation and noted that it would need refreshing with new bedding and worms once the kids harvest the finished worm compost inside. Sydney offered to bring worms by when we are ready for them. Saffron and Sydney took home some pruned branches and weeds for their pet bunny to munch on.
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Saffron took advantage of the tree trunk sit spot to lean through the branches and do a little weeding:
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1st grader Sophie and her mom Eva also came to help in the garden. We mixed up some fish emulsion fertilizer and they watered the whole garden together! Sophie also helped to sweep the path with one of the kid-sized brooms. Unfortunately my phone was having issues in the moment and I couldn’t take pictures of the two wonderful ladies in action, but I sure appreciated their help!

We will probably have another work party in early Spring, and in-between there will be other opportunities for parents and for kids of all grade levels to help out and enjoy the school garden. Thanks so much for your support, I look forward to working together to build this great garden experience for the children.
Rowan Maya Lang
Snappdragons Garden Educator
Cascadia Elementary School

Welcome Rowan

Rowan w carrots053

Hello gardeners and parents! My name is Rowan Maya Lang, and I am looking forward to an exciting year of adventures and learning in the Snappdragons Garden. Some of you may remember me as an intern with Cohort A in last spring’s garden program. I am thrilled to take on the role of Garden Educator this year. I love to garden, and I love to share my knowledge in fun and engaging ways with kids and adults. I am a lifelong learner and hope to instill curiosity and joy for the natural world into my students. The third grade classes at Cascadia Elementary will be meeting every other Friday from September-November, and February-June.

A bit about me: I am an urban homesteader in South Seattle, where I grow food in my organic garden, keep chickens, and work as a community activist to support food justice and organic urban farming. I’m a core volunteer at Beacon Food Forest, a public permaculture project that is transforming public land into an 7-acre regenerative food garden. At Seattle Tilth, I have volunteered with the Adult Education program, and worked as an outreach educator for their Master Recycler and Master Composter program. In 2014, I interned at Tilth’s Rainier Beach Urban Farm and Wetlands for 6 months, where I grew vegetables from seed to harvest for their annual plant sale, CSA, and community food bags programs.

I hold a certificate in Permaculture Design from the Permaculture Institute USA, taught by Toby Hemenway; Master Food Preserver, Seattle Tilth; Master Composter and Recycler, Seattle Tilth. In late 2015, I will be adding to my education as a Fruit Tree Steward through City Fruit. When I’m not teaching and volunteering, I work as a Fine Gardener at private homes, and grow organic vegetable seedlings for the Second Use Handmade and Homegrown Spring Sale in South Seattle.

Now, let’s get our hands dirty and have some fun!

Rowan Maya Lang
Snappdragons Garden Educator
Cascadia Elementary School
SnappdragonsgardenATgmail.com