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These plants need homes for the summer! They include strawberries, potatoes, grapes, perennial herbs and native plants.

Greetings Cascadia and Decatur Families,

We have a number of plants that we are hoping to keep alive for the summer so that they can be re-planted at our new schools in the fall. We’d love it if you could adopt a plant (or three) and do your best to keep them alive for the summer (but no worries if they don’t make it – some survivors are better than no survivors!).

Please stop by the school garden at current Cascadia to adopt your plant between now and the last day of school! Plants are in pots or earth bags and can be found near the boulder by the N. 43rd St. entrance to Cascadia. See pictures for more details! Questions? Email KimberlyChristensen@live.com Thank you!

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Easy instructions for adopting a plant.

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This is what an earth bag looks like. We need these back even if the plants don’t make it ūüôā

Hello Spring

Greetings Gardeners,

Spring has finally arrived, and after some heavy winds and tremendous down pours, we are finally back to garden class! ¬†Our first couple classes were held indoors upon our return from winter break, but that’s just what us gardeners have to do while we wait for our weather to perk up. ¬†We took this time indoors as an opportunity to thumb through seed catalogs, to plan¬†our perfect garden.

Gardeners stay busy during winter months by ogling over seed catalogs, ordering new¬†vegetables and fruits to plant when the time is right for next growing season. ¬†In small groups we flipped through pages and pages of plant varieties, some grown for their exceptional flavor profile, others grown for their unique shape and size, and many other reasons. ¬†We learned how to navigate a seed catalog, and then how to decipher what varieties best suit our needs based off the many factors listed in each plant’s profile passage.

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Learning flower anatomy indoors.

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The parts of a flower.

In addition to picking out seeds in the catalog, Rowan and Jessica brought in some seed pods from their home gardens and the Beacon Hill Food Forest for us to practice seed saving techniques. Dissecting bean pods and pulling swiss chard seeds from it’s stalk we collected enough for every student to save their own seed. ¬†Packaging the seeds in little envelopes we documented all the¬†important¬†information we needed to save them for future use.

Name of the seed
Optimal growing conditions
When to plant
Our name
Where it was harvested

 

Starting some seeds indoors we had a high germination rate of kale, beans, poppies, lettuce, and a few other veggies.  We will be transplanting these outdoors very soon, as they are growing vigorously indoors!

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Caring for our indoor starts!

Finally braving the weather of sideways rain and chilly winds, we went out to the garden bundled up at the end of class to see how our garden faired the winter.  The overwintered crops did just wonderful!  Sampling kale and arugula we learned that in our temperate Seattle winter weather, some plants live on through frosts and even snow.

Looking forward to a productive and educational spring while enjoying the warm sunshine and light showers!  Thank you Rowan the Garden Educator, Jessica the Garden Intern, and of course the determined 3rd grade gardeners!

 
Happy spring and thank you for the support,

Reid Ellingsen
Garden Intern
Cascadia Elementary School Garden

Goodbye Fall

Greetings Gardeners,

What a busy and exciting fall we had!  Having put our little school garden to bed, tucking in our kale, lettuce, carrots, and arugula under reemay, we are back at it and waking up the garden.

First though a little update on our final lessons before winter break.  We discussed the changes that come with fall; observing the change of colors, feeling the temperature begin to drop, and noticing people become less frequent outdoors.  The students shared some of their favorite things about fall; playing in piles of raked leaves, carving pumpkins, and eating warm tasty meals with their family.

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Colorful mandala of fall leaves.

What happens to the leaves of deciduous trees? ¬†We dove into pigmentation, specifically of chlorophyll and it’s purpose. ¬†We even talked about other pigments like yellow (carotenoids), orange (beta carotene), and red (lycopene). ¬†The cycle of nutrients and energy is important in both our annual and perennial gardens and is apparent through these changing colors. ¬†These indicator colors give us insight into the nutritional value of our fruits and vegetables.

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Students hard at work, raking leaves to mulch our garden beds.

Finally we wrapped up by completing our end of the season garden tasks.  Raking leaves to mulch our garden beds, seeding fava beans and winter rye as a cover crop till spring, and of course ending on a song!

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Singing the Garden Song with Rowan on the Ukulele, and Duncan on the guitar.

The Garden Song

Inch by inch, row by row
Gonna help this garden grow
All you need is a rake and a hoe
And a piece of fertile ground
Inch by inch, row by row
Someone bless these seeds I sow
Someone warm them from below
Till the rains come tumbling down.

Pulling weeds, picking stones
We are made of dreams and bones
Gotta need to grow my own
For the time is close at hand
Grain for grain, sun and rain
Find my way through nature’s chain
Tune my body and my brain
To the music of the land.

 

Stay tuned for more frequent garden updates.  There are some exciting activities coming up this spring!  Thank you Rowan our garden educator, Jessica and Duncan the garden interns, and of course our little gardeners for all the hard work!  Farewell and good luck to Duncan, who is leaving our garden program.  We will miss you!

 

Thank you for supporting this program,

Reid Ellingsen
Garden Intern
Cascadia Elementary School Garden

The Wonderful World of Worms

Hello Gardeners,

Our most recent lessons were about WORMS. We talked about earthworms, the kind that live in garden soil and eat dead leaves; and we talked about red wigglers, the kind that live in compost and manure piles. Red wiggler, or Eisenia fetida, loves to eat waste high in nitrogen and is perfect for our school worm bin, which the students feed with lunchroom scraps. Worm waste is called castings, and it is some of the best and most valuable natural fertilizer around, rich in microbial life and of a beautiful texture. Gardeners sometimes call it “Black Gold”.

We learned:
The life cycle of the worm
Anatomy of a worm
The worm’s friends: decomposers in the worm bin

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Garden Educator Rowan teaching the Worm lesson.

The students also learned a new song: I am a Worm (Gusano). Gusano means “worm” en espanol! It’s a great song for clapping and singing along. The song goes like this:

 

I am a worm
The wondrous worm
It’s down under
I love to squirm
To eat the dead
And the living’s my toil
And what comes out makes magnificent soil

Chorus:
Gusano nonono nono nonono nono nononono, si!
Gusano nonono nono nonono nono nononono, si!
I aerate the earth as I tunnel and squirm
I’m proud to be called a worm

Our tunnels flood
It rains all night
Come up for air
We don’t like light
We do such good
From us you could learn
But you make us fish bait in return

Chorus

After the song, the students divided into work groups; each group received a tray of worm compost to explore and a worksheet to complete. They counted all the red wigglers they could find, identified the parts of the worms, looked for breeding age worms, and identified other decomposers such as sowbugs, potworms, and mites.


We found a few baby red wigglers, identified by their pink color, and a few students found tiny golden worm eggs. One group of students was lucky enough to watch a worm egg hatch and several baby worms emerge. I have never seen this happen, so it was quite a treat!

The students last task was to choose a champion worm for worm races. We made a “racetrack” from a laminated song sheet and dropped the champions inside the inner ring. (The lamination keeps them from sticking to bare paper). A few classes had enough time left in class to race their worms. Amongst the chosen champion names were such favorites as Squiggles, and my personal favorite, Moldemort.

It was a fascinating experience to see nature up close. This sort of experiential learning tends to really stick! It’s also a great reminder about how many tiny organisms make the world work in ways we have only started to barely understand. Students participate in gathering, describing, and using information about the natural world, giving them a deep understanding of life sciences.

Big thanks to awesome Garden Interns Duncan, Reid, and Jessica for all of their help at the school garden! See you next time.

Happy Autumn,

Rowan Maya Lang
Garden Educator
Cascadia Elementary School Garden

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 Рworm castings Рtwice 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 ‚Äúbeing away,‚ÄĚ 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 ‚ÄúLandscape‚ÄĚ 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.