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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!


Easy instructions for adopting a plant.


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

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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.


Learning flower anatomy indoors.


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!


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

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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.


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.


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!


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

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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


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

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


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

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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!


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.


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.


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



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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 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.

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!

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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 ‚Äėeyes‚Äô.¬† If using Makah Ozette potatoes, don‚Äôt bother to peel them.¬† Cut them into 1‚Ä≥ 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.


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.

IMG_7704 (1)  IMG_7722

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!

IMG_7724 IMG_7737

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.


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!


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

IMG_7764 IMG_7840 IMG_7880 IMG_7886


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.


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.


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

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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.

Cohort B will meet Friday, October 2nd

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!


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!


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.
Saffron took advantage of the tree trunk sit spot to lean through the branches and do a little weeding:

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

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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

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