Edible Peace Patch Blogs

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Friday, October 29, 2010

Giving Love to the Garden

Today was a great garden day. The morning ran well, with a continuation of the soil activities. The kids seemed a little unruly today, but it could just be the Friday air. This was only my second time working with the kids. I can only work one day a week due to an overloaded schedule for my final semester here at Eckerd. However, I spend a lot of time working with a team to create the lessons that will be taught during the week. Today I realized that it is one thing to sit in the library and come up with what will be done, decide what should be covered etc. and another one entirely to go out in the garden and actually teach. Through my experience today I had a strange feeling looking around and noticing that the kids pay very little attention to the worksheet which has been drawn up for them. They are far more interested in being outside than another piece of paper put in front of them. Additionally, they seemed desperate for a more hands-on lesson, rather than watching us do something which is cool and educational, but too hard for them to do themselves. I'm struggling for answers to this conundrum. The garden is meant to be a place where science education can interlink with the local outside environment; inspiring the kids to think critically and become more aware of the natural world around them. The kids are too young to do certain things themselves as well as the fact that we don't have enough supplies for every child to get to do it alone. I'm thinking we need to start doing more movement activities (games to describe soil composition, bee pollination etc.) as well as larger hands on projects such as weeding around the beds, each child getting to plant a bean plant in a pot and watch it grow. It is a hard task to find a way to teach science within a garden setting in 25 minutes, a real challenge. A girl whose father works for the school came out to chat with me while I was finishing up this afternoon and got me thinking about how important simply doing small tasks in the garden together can be for the kids. She was SO excited to use the hose and water with me. She chatted away about how plants "dance" when you water them. THAT is what we're missing. It was wonderful. Moments like that I think are almost impossible in our very rushed activities. Yes, science standards are extremely important and we have a rare opportunity to teach in a growing outside environment. But, I think we are missing some of the meaningful things that the garden truly has to offer. I would like to find more of a balance between the standards and making the garden an experience in itself.

Following the morning shift, I had to get to class for an hour, but came back for an afternoon of garden love. There is nothing I love more than playing in the dirt and green for a few hours in the sunshine. The tomatoes were trellised, carrots which never sprouted re-planted, and broccoli re-planted in the cauliflower bed which never grew. I also found mysterious beautiful little collard green sprouts growing in the tomato bed. They were moved to where the broccoli never came up/wasn't planted. Generally, the garden looks a little disheveled at the moment, with plants coming up in all kinds of strange ways and combination's. But its getting better with every bit of work that goes into it. Here are some more pictures from the day

Trellised Tomatoes


Thursday, October 28, 2010

Gettin' Down and Dirty

The theme of the day was soil. We tried to teach the kids about the differences in soil types and their effects on plant growth. The same three experiments as yesterday were done today and the kids rotated in groups to each station. We struggled to finish the lesson and make sure the kids understood what the essential points were, because it was a race against the clock. The combination of the three lessons was confusing for many of the kids, so I suggest less involved lessons. It was a challenge getting through the lesson in time and completing the worksheet. Many students had trouble understanding the questions on the worksheet, but I couldn't spend as much time as needed to clarify it to everyone and get through the experiement. As always the hands-on part of the lesson was the kids favorite, and they were excited to gather different soils. One boy found a colorful beetle when collecting soil in the garden and proceeded to describe how much he loved the movie beetlejuice he had just seen. Both classes were curious about the cardboard we had laid down, so I explained how it is supposed to prevent weeds from growing. The kids wanted to know more about weeds and were very glad to help pull up some grasses coming up through the mulch. This surprised me considering how much us gardeners despise weeding. As we walked toward the garden, one girl took my hand and informed me that she was writing a story about me and the other gardeners, which her teacher will give us when its finished.

In terms of garden maintenance the usual jobs were done including watering and weeding as many beds as we could. We transplanted the papaya plants along the fence and watered them plenty. More cardboard and mulch still need to be put down along the fence. The compost was compressed and watered. We didn't have time to organize the shed so it could still use some straightening up. We found another strange looking worm-like creature in the compost that was a purplish black coloration. It didn't seem wet like a worm so I was wondering if it was a type of burrowing snake, but I couldn't get a picture before we lost it in the soil. All in all it was a successful day at the garden, and I look forward to next weeks compost lesson.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Silt Sand and Clay, Horray!

Today's lesson in the garden: what's really beneath our feet? Exploring the garden's soil in three stations was how our plan was set up. At the first station our students collected some soil on the outskirts of the Three Sisters section and with their sight, scent and touch examined this soil. Next they put that soil in group water bottles and observed what happened to their dirt as water from a watering can was added. This brought out oohs and ahhs and these students had never thought about all the different minerals and such that was in the dirt right below their feet. At the second station, their senses were tested again.

Three trays full of sand, clay and silt were passed around and using sight touch and smell our students deduced the differences between the three. Surprisingly these Florida natives had no idea that most of the soil in Florida was made up of these three elements. The third and final station was a grain station! For this experiment we took plastic graduated cylinders covering the top with pantyhose and laying down some silt on one, sand on another and clay on a third. After this preparation water was poured over them and we watched as the water escaped into the graduated cylinder. We were testing the grain size of the different textured sediments. This was by far the favorite of the students in our groups and this lesson was great to teach about what makes up the base of the garden.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Sunday in the Peace Patch

We've got cucumber sprouting, and black-eyed peas, little bits of lettuce and maybe some collards, broccoli and watermelon and sweet potatoes. The sprouts are springing all over the garden. In some places, we can see that too many seeds were put in a single hole. In other places, we see bare spots where seeds did not make it, or seeds were not fertile. The garden will need to be thinned and thickened as needed this coming week. We try to work toward a kind of rhythm or ethic of work where the garden is seen as the set of problems it presents us with, but finding that pace is difficult. Sometimes the problems the garden presents us with are that some see the problems better than others, but no one wants to tell anyone what to do. As we struggle along these edges, we fold piece by piece more beauty into this landscape. The seeds are mostly all planted. The spouts are mostly all sprung. The excitement of the new births makes the tedium of the needed maintenance that much more difficult to attend to. We understand. But those neglected other things are starting to pile up. Sedges and grasses have not only grown thick in places and turned to seed, whose sprouts appear along with our vegetables in the raised beds, they are pushing back up through the spaces left between the cardboard under the mulch. We can get ahead of these thing with a concerted push in the week and a half ahead. We do not want to fall any further behind on them. Today I layed more cardboard in places where the grass was coming thickest. I will borrow the recycling truck on Monday or Tuesday and bring another load of mulch. I noticed the sign has continued to loose letters and no one has taken to gluing them back on. I recall a conversation early in the semester where QFM students said they would make a new sign. Perhaps that time is upon us now? The butterfly bushes along the edge are doing very well. The corral honeysuckle does not appear to be among the living, although I'm not sure if it ever got the regular watering it needed. I watered the garden with the spin irrigator, which seems to soak the soil fairly well, if very slowly. I was able to perform maintenance at the same time that the garden was being watered. The Peace Patch is coming together, we need everyone's best efforts as we finish getting it into shape.

Friday fun!

This week, Alina needed to switch shifts, so I took on her Friday classes. Since last Friday was an inservice day, this was the first time for the kids to come out to the garden. Our first class was a group of second graders. We wanted to give them the opportunity to plant since they didn't get to last week, so we had them plant sunflowers and sweet potatoes. My group specifically planted sunflowers, and I was amazed at how well behaved all of them were. They finished their worksheets at a lightning fast speed and planted their sunflower seeds without delay, fighting, or other distractions. I was amazed at how well behaved they were. Well, little did I know that Katie on the other hand had every single one of the difficult students in the class. The teacher even pulled her aside and told her she had picked out all of the trouble makers. With this, my group was done in about 10 minutes with what should've taken up the entire lesson time. Improvisation time! We toured the garden looking at our new watermelon growing, the aloe, the papaya, and the tomato plants. At the end when Katie's group was done we reconvened and did a rain dance with the kids, and they really enjoyed it.

The second group of kids was a great surprise for me! Most of these first graders had been in Mrs. Baker's Kindergarden class which I taught last year on Thursdays! It's amazing how within the past three months they've all doubled in size! This class finished planting the sweet potatoes, the sunflowers, and we also had them spread some wildflower seeds into the wildflower bed. I think the most important thing I learned from this class is that even though our worksheets are great for the second graders, there is still a large learning gap between second and first graders. I think the curriculum committee will need to revisit our lesson plans and make two different worksheets for the different grades. I feel like I was completely oblivious to this until this week. I want to see what my other gardeners think, but I'm glad I caught this now.

During our hour break, Katie soaked everything, and I staked the papaya plants. They're still looking extremely sad, and I'm worried about transplanting them again right now since they were originally placed in the wrong spot. I also went around and re-staked some of the butterfly bushes that had lost a stake over the course of the summer. Surprisingly I found at least three butterfly bushes that someone had probably given up on and pulled the stakes out of! I was so excited to see how well they're doing! The garden is almost in tiptop shape, and I can't wait to see it when it finally is!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Beans and Corn

Today we continued the germinating extravaganza, and explored the differences in germinating monocots and dicots. The children were very eager to get started on the activity. We split into two groups with each group germinating corn seeds and bean seeds. The worksheet for the lesson discussed the differences between germinating seeds in soil and in cups with moist paper towels. The word hypothesize was introduced to the kids, and they made excellent guesses as to the differences in germination. We wanted to show what happens inside the seed when it germinates, so we split a germinated seed in half to see the beginning of a stem. After the lesson the kids helped to water the beds and both the watermelon and pinneapple plants. The kids especially love watering the plants and all want to hold the watering can as long as possible. The activity was fun for the kids, but they each wanted to do their own germination. The concepts of monocots and dicots were somewhat hard to convey to some of the kids, but they enjoyed learning how to spell each word.

The remainding time not spent with the children wa devoted to staking the edge of the three sisters garden and tying string across as a barrier. We also made sure to water the new papaya plants.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Germination Station!

As the week continues today's classes were full of excitment when they learned that the activity today was germinating individual seeds! As we split into groups, our students again visited the concepts of hypothesis and growth of plants. Today's lesson was different however because instead of planting a few seeds in the beds, the students planted classroom experiments with corn and bean seeds in a cup with paper towel and soil. After watering the soil, the students are able to see the soil and the seeds visibly to watch as the plants germinate. In our groups the students discussed the needs and importances of these seeds.

In their classrooms they stated it was their job to water and give the seeds plenty of sunlight. Hypotheses were conducted in whether or not the students believed the plants really would grow. We have some very optimistic gardeners on our hands and hopefully next week these plants will be able to be planted in our Three Sisters garden. The Three Sisters garden is a Native American style of farming that plants corn, beans and squash in the same garden and the three grow on one stake. Not only did the students learn about the seeds and the process of germination, they also learned about the insides of seeds after a group dissection took place. Today's students learned a great deal about seeds and how so much happens before the plant even reaches top of the soil.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Sprouting Seeds

Today was the second day using this week’s new lesson plan. We started the day by getting the clipboards and other materials ready. We eagerly awaited the students. Upon arrival we split the class up into two groups and reviewed the rules of the garden. We took the groups of kids through the garden showing them the plants they had planted before, the tomatoes, pineapple. We also reviewed the definition of a hypothesis and had the kids predict what would happen if we placed two seeds into soaked paper towel in a cup. The children were enthusiastic and remembered all of the necessities for a plant to grow.
Each of the children took turns either getting soil, placing the seeds in the cup or watering the paper towel.

After this exercise we took soaked bean seeds and dissected them. We explained the importance of the outer seed coating, the stored food for the plant and where the initial plant will begin to grow from.

The students enjoyed drawing and coloring their impression of the inside of the seeds. The children even began drawing flowers and plants which they believed could come from the seed.

When our two teaching sessions were over we, sadly, returned to garden maintenance. We weeded and waters all of the beds.

I am highly enjoying the connection I am making with the children of Lakewood Elementary and highly anticipate our future lesson plans.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Watching the Seeds Grow

Today was the second trip to the garden for our three classes. Our first class is second graders and our second and third classes are first graders. We started the day by preparing our materials for our activities with the students. We laid out their worksheet with a clipboard, pulled out our soaking beans and prepared our clear bottle and seed experiment. We started by greeting the students and seating them at the table where they picked up a clipboard and crayon. We again went of the rules of the garden, asking them what they thought they would be, which they did very well in remembering from their first visit. Next we split up into three groups and walked over to the garden to show them the small sprouting greens which they planted last week! Next we read the questions of the work sheet and split open a soaked bean. We showed them the three different parts (outer coat, food, and the small plant itself) and asked them to draw and label them on their worksheets. Next we did a seed experiment. We took our pre-prepared clear bottles (an inch of soil a wet paper towel around the sides and middle filled with soil) and placed two bean seeds and two corn seeds between the wet paper towel and the clear bottle. This will show the kids the difference between a monocot and a dicot plant and the way its roots grow.Overall it was a great day and the students seemed to enjoy it and were excited to take their experiments back to their classrooms to take care of and watch grow. After the classes were over we planted four papaya plants that were given to us by the Lakewood's front office ladies. We then watered all the beds and plants along the outside of the garden.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Green emerging in the garden

Today was a truly beautiful day in the garden. We arrived to another fall morning, with blue skies and very little humidity. It was a teacher work day so we finished the planting ourselves without our usual classes of children. Walking around the garden to see how everything was doing we noticed something spectacular, the seeds put in the ground just this week are already poking their heads through the soil! Maybe I have just held onto my childish impulses or it really is a miraculous thing (or a bit of both), but seeing the plants already coming up was so exciting! All the work that has gone into getting the garden ready was well worth seeing how happy the plants are. We finished planting carrots, kale and herbs. We also put in the corn for the three sister's garden and put in the pollinator garden. Wildflowers were planted in a small spare bed to add to the flowers already in the pollinator patch. It was a wonderfully relaxing, breezy and accomplished day. We finished off with a good garden wide soaking and replacement of the entry stone. I haven't yet gotten to work with the kids so I was sort of sad about the teacher work day, however it turned into a really great day overall. Also it felt pretty neat to see all the teachers working around the school as well while we were in the garden. A good old fashioned communal work day. Here are some more pictures from today.

Three Sister's Garden (put corn in today, when corn comes up then we will plant beans and squash)

Pollinator Garden! The flowers were very happy to leave their post outside my window and get into the ground.

Katie found this crazy bright blue worm in the compost pile.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Great Job!

Today was a great day at the Edible Schoolyard! We started by getting the materials prepared for the childrens' arrival. We layed out clipboards with the lesson plans, crayons, watering jugs, seeds, and young tomoto plants. To pass the time, we placed bigger stakes near the watermelon plants to prevent them from being mowed over and we noticed two tiny watermelons starting to grow!

We had the good fortune to have wonderful and attentive classes- the second class was very familiar with the garden since several of them participated and planted seeds last year. We explained the rules of the garden and broke into groups to work on the lesson plans. Next, the kids in my group planted kale seeds, while another group planted young tomato plants, and the third group planted basil seeds. When my group was finished, I showed the kids the pineapple plants and aloe plants and explained to them how aloe helps soothe burns. All of them were very talkative and loved to participate- even a little girl who hadn't been feeling well earlier.

My group finished the lesson with a silly rain dance- although it hasn't rained, it did become noticably more overcast when we finished! It was so uplifting to get hugs and high fives from the kids and the class' teacher instructed them to sing the Great Job song- "G-r-e-a-t-j-o-b". Before we left, we had time to water all the plants and pack up the tools.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Which way is Texas?

Today was my second day of teaching the first and second grade classes that come out to the garden. In addition to planting seeds and going over the handout with my group of kids, I had extra time to teach them about the compass painted on a rock as you enter the garden- which lead to a talk about which way the sun sets and rises, and the general direction of places like Miami, Canada, and Texas.

Spelling (or how to spell words) is at times a task for the first graders, so part of our lesson time in spent collectively sounding out words. Once the handouts have been properly filled out, we were left with about 5 minutes to talk with the children and make up a fitting activity. So far the children have been really nice and cooperative, though there was one student who wanted to eat the seeds instead of plant them...

Nonetheless, the children energy is invigorating (and paradoxically exhausting) and they truly have an interest and excitement in learning what we have to teach them. I personally never had a garden or Earth Science class in my elementary schools, but I certainly see the value in what we're doing, and I wish I had learned in a garden when I was younger. If nothing else, my first garden (that I had help in making under my play scape at roughly the same age) would have fared much better.

After the children left, I made sure to water the plants (butterfly, pineapple, watermelon) and trees around the garden, and pulled up any visible grass shoots in the vegetable beds.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Sowing Seeds

Today was the first day in the garden for yet two more classes, from first and second grade. One of the first things we noticed was how happy the kids were to see us. Although many of them had been out in the garden last year, none of them had ever seen me before, but I got more hugs than I can ever remember getting in one day. They also love attention; even if some of the kids sulk a bit, others compete for your undivided attention to the point where they almost fight each other for it. Since this was my first time ever working with children, it was interesting to try to figure out how to handle situations like that, trying to pay attention to the quieter kids while not actively ignoring the more outgoing ones. I was very glad with both the teachers, who were very involved with the whole process, except for a single foray into the playground, upon the exclamation "Hey! That's one of mine!". One of her students had dropped out of line and decided it was more fun to play, but he soon joined in the activities with everyone else.
We planted cucumber, okra, and beets with our second grade class, and kale, cauliflower, and more okra with the first graders. The lesson for today allowed the students to formulate a hypothesis based on the question: "What do you think will happen when we put the seeds into the ground?" At first, the answers were unanimously "grow!" but with a little probing the kids really started to think about what actually happens to the seeds. We also talked about what it takes for a seed to be able to grow properly, including soil, water, air, etc. Candy was not generally considered necessary. With a little time left over, I caught a little beetle in the bed that we were working on, and we had fun learning about the importance of insects to the environment.

Fresh Feet in the Garden

Today is the first day when students came out to the garden to participate in Green Thumb 101. When we first got there we prepared by grabbing crayons, seeds, and lesson plans. As a large group we introduced the rules of the garden. Most of the students were really enthusiastic to be outside and learning about the garden. The first week's lesson is about science, art and a bit of creative thinking. We asked our students today to hypothesize what their thoughts were on the seeds they were planting and how they would grow. Most responded eagerly with vegetable and flower names. Today's classes planted black eyed peas, cauliflower, collards, eggplant and cucumber! We met with three classes in 25 minute sessions. The black eyed peas were a hit among the classes and every vegetable was met with excitement by our new garden classes! The time together always flies by and before we knew it, the students were watering their seeds in the beds and drawing the plant as they believed it would grow into. Once these drawings were finished the classes left for the day and some in between sedge pulling went on. The garden is finally becoming an edible peace patch.

Friday, October 8, 2010

And That's Just The Beginning!

Although prep week might be over, the students have not made it out into the garden yet, but class commences on Monday! Appreciating the cooler breeze this morning, Alina and Katie got down and dirty tilling the The Three Sisters' Garden, continuing the never ending fight against sedge, picking up cardboard from Eckerd College's recycling center and free mulch from the recycling center across the street from the school, bringing in new hoses, and watering the whole thing down. Although we have dirt under our nails and our muscles are aching, the Edible Peace Patch is almost ready to open its gates up to the students of Lakewood Elementary.

So here are some things you might not have known: The Three Sisters' Garden is actually a Native American agricultural practice. We plant beans, corn, and squash together. This interaction actually eliminates the growth of weeds and the plants all thrive and coincide together. Our Edible Peace Patch Garden has 13 beds, that will include plants such as sweet potatoes, black eyed peas, cucumbers, cauliflower, and many more veggies, a wildflower bed, an aloe garden, and herb spiral, and even pineapples; not to mention loads of other goodies!

Our weeks of preparations are finally up and Monday starts classes in the garden! I know all of us in the garden are looking forward to our very first lessons!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

freeing three sister's garden and aloe

Today was another day of exhilarating grass hacking and weeding. More than half of the grass in the three sister's garden was tackled and removed. All that remains to be done is a small section of it, as well as some soil turning. More cardboard and mulch can be placed down between the beds and the three sister's garden.
The aloe patch along the side of the garden was saved today from the lawn mowers. Grass was removed around the aloe and rocks were put down to mark the plants. Similarly, the pineapple and watermelon plants were also weeded and are now very happy. Both plants were watered. The herb garden was supplemented.
Our epic battle with grass is still raging, but today victory was ours. The end is nearing for the grass. The three sister's garden should be finished tomorrow without too much trouble. Almost time for planting!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

the end of the grass is insight..

Today was another adventurous day of grass pulling. We have raked up the grass, laid down cardboard and covered the area with a thick layer of mulch. Although the removing of the grass is tiresome our effort is already becoming apparent. No grass shoots have begun growing and the gardens is looking fantastic. We only have around 1/4 of the grass to remove. The beds are turned, weeded and watered on a daily basis.
The preparation of the garden is getting us extremely excited for the kids, who will be joining us next week. We are ecstatic to show them the garden and begin planting. We have begun discussing our first lesson plan which is going to be awesome!
Our hard work is paying off! It is a good feeling to walk out to the garden and see how far we have come. The end of the grass pulling is almost insight! Bring on the children :)

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

And so it continues...

Though the end is in site- the end of pulling grass that is.

As expected, the group spent their time pulling out the grass and other roots, laying cardboard atop of the seemingly bare ground, and then laying a half inch thick layer of mulch atop the cardboard, and complimenting this all with a shower of water. Gone are the days of a Macgyvered water hose system though, for it seemed we effectively watered the plants (and soon the ones the children will plant...) easily with two connected hoses and water pressure. With the tedious weeding and the ease of access to water, maintence should be relatively easier in the coming months.

An exciting note: if laying the foundation continues on schedule, then class for the children should start next week! The lesson plan for week one has been established, and now all we can do is ponder how we'll hold the children's attention during class. We'll have plenty of time to ponder this as we pull out grass to lay cardboard and mulch...

Friday, October 1, 2010

Grass will never be the same for me

Fall is finally in the air, you could feel that slight chill early this morning! Now maybe this is just in the very sensitive eyes of a Floridian, but it's coming. I look forward to more blue skies and cool breezes out in the garden, compared with the overwhelming heat that has been of late. The battle against the Sedge monster continues. I have never seen such a virulent little plant. We worked really hard today on the left side walkway of the garden. We continued to pull sedge, this time digging deep in the ground to find it's root. Once the area was cleared well enough, we laid down more cardboard and mulch. It seems like the battle against grass will never end and I find it pretty funny that people spend so much time, money and pesticides getting their lawns just perfect. All we have to do is leave for a night and already more has grown! I'm excited for the kids to come out finally the week after next. Then seeds will finally get in the ground and plants starting to grow! I know the garden will look beautiful when that happens. For now, the set-up work continues!