Edible Peace Patch Blogs

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Monday, November 29, 2010

Learning to keep our hands to ourselves

Today we taught the kids about the water cycle and how it affected our plants and their growing process. After playing the rain game with the kids we walked around the garden and they were in aw of the growth over the last couple weeks. We talked about how they need water and the cycles involved. The kids were so intrigued with the vegetables that they could not keep their hands off of them. Once they saw the eggplant and tomatoes they were excited and almost uncontrollable. They wanted to touch and grab at each plant. Turning your back for a moment we had two green tomatoes off their vine. We used this to teach the kids more about cycles and the seeds inside of them. We explained to them that this was unacceptable and they the veggies were not done growing. They seemed to understand that we could not pick the plants until they were ripe and ready to be eaten. They kids then ventured over to the aloe plant and were very interested. I found a piece that was detached and broke it into smaller pieces for all the kids. I explained that the aloe plant does not get watered because it was a desert plant. Deserts do not receive much water so we mustn't over water the plant. With one of the classes we discussed Thanksgiving and talked about what vegetables they had and where they might have come from. It is amazing to see how much the kids are learning and remember from previous lessons. They are all becoming more involved and inquisitive about the garden.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The sun is shining the weather is sweet here

As I walked through the garden today I was pleasantly surprised to see how well everything was doing. Every bed shows promise of filling with fresh green produce and other foliage. Our greatest discovery was the presence of an extremely long eggplant, which was ripe for harvest. We picked it and gave it to professor Curtis for his own enjoyment.

Unfortunately we did not have students visit us in the garden today. Lakewood students were being treated to a performance by a local high school drum line. However, we did check on the students and they expressed disappointment at missing out on their time in the garden. We can’t wait to see them again.

I worked on the Edible Schoolyard my freshman year at Eckerd. This was the first semester on the project. It was an awesome experience that I continue to value. Here is a video that Kelly Schiller made about that first semester.

The Edible Peace Patch Garden from Kelly Schiller on Vimeo.

These kids really have a lot that they need to learn for the FCATS. However, I am still not sure if we teach them more than they teach us. This is an incredible project that gives so much to so many people. Sometimes things don’t go the way you want them to, but you have to adapt to the situation and work with what you have. When the garden was vandalized we salvaged what we had and put new plants into the ground immediately. We adapted and carried on. Classes of first and second graders are very unpredictable. As teachers we often encounter bizarre interactions and comments from students. Every time we adapt and carry on the lesson trying to teach as much as we can. That is what this is all about; exposing the kids to healthy decisions, bringing them together with the environment, providing valuable science lessons, and small taste of college. Like the Rolling Stones said “you cant always get what you want, but you try real hard you might just find you get what you need.” That is true and we must adapt, persevere, and carry on towards the goal that we know is right.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Caterpillars and Butterflies!

Today in the garden our classes were extremely excited for this week's lesson. Keeping with the last few lesson plans discussing the importance of critters and bugs in the garden we examined the life cycle of a butterfly. The process known as Metamorphosis was our key concept of the week. The first stage of the life cycle is known as the egg stage. Next the caterpillar, crysallis and then finally the butterfly stage. By incorporating rock, paper, scissor in the lesson plan each student paired off with another and they started out as eggs. By playing rounds of rock, paper, scissor the students slowly evolved from egg to butterfly. The slow progression represented the lengthy growth process of the life cycle in a fun and interesting way. As the student soon mastered the game we spent the rest of the time together playing a game of butterfly tag and then observing the garden and all of the critters in our compost! There is also a crysallis hanging off our crape myrtle that really adds to the visual aid in teaching about Metamorphosis. This is one of the best lesson plans to date and the most fun. It was a successful lesson that our students took home with them in knowledge and a new fun game.

Butterflies in the Garden

The weather was just beautiful today, and our shift immediately started off on the right foot, as we saw a butterfly visiting the butterfly bushes around the perimeter of the garden. A good thing in itself, this was even more exciting due to the fact that we were discussing butterflies with the kids. Our second grade class came out, and after a quick review of the garden rules, we explained the concept of the butterfly game. It is impossible, it seems, to explain the rules of a game to second-graders, and then expect them to wait quietly until you tell them to start. While the process may have been a bit chaotic, the kids (and us) had a lot of fun, and all of them knew the metamorphic stages of a butterfly by the end of the day. We tried moving the game to a more open space, so that our "butterflies" could have some space to fly around. This proved counterproductive, however, as it complicated to no end the process of maintaining some level of control over the game. After a second round of play, time was up for our second graders, and they had to go back to class. There was one more surprise, though, because a silkworm of some sorts had made a cocoon on our crape myrtle tree.
Between classes, we thinned some of the plants that needed thinning, especially the beets and cauliflower, and performed the never-ending task of weeding. As winter is approaching, we did not water anything, except for those plants that got replanted in the thinning process. I cannot believe how much the garden has grown since we began.
Since our second class missed the bug hunt last week, we only played the butterfly game once through with them. This was probably for the best, as they grew bored with it very early on. I feel that they either did not entirely grasp the concept of the game, or were to caught up in acting to actually play. Either way, we went to the compost pile with our bug bin, and had all of the kids catch sowbugs out of the decomposing grass. This was a lot more fun to the kids, and they spent the rest of their time in the garden looking at bugs. Especially the large cockroach that I added to the bin created quite a bit of excitement. At the end of their period, we showed these kids the cocoon as well. As they were lining up, I noticed more than a few pairs of cupped hands, and collection trip with the bug bin yielded at least five unfortunate new "pets". On the way out, we were blessed with yet another butterfly sighting, which flew right past the entire length of the line of kids going back to class, much to their appreciation.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Monarch Maddness!

Sunny, warm, and a cool breeze; today was a perfect day to enjoy the garden and in my opinion, one of the most fun lessons yet! This week we are studying the cycle of a butterflies' life. We all gathered around and discussed the four stages: egg to caterpillar to cocoon to butterfly! Once we got the cycle down, the fun could begin. Last week, several classes let Monarch butterflies loose that they had been observing in their classrooms. With our luck, the butterflies have made our Edible Peace Patch into their new home! They love all the wild flowers and Florida Friendly flowers.
After putting on our imaginary "Garden Goggles", good listening ears, our "Careful Garden Hands", and our "Quiet Garden Voices", the students went out into the garden and observed some of the butterflies fluttering around. We also found a cocoon hanging from the Crape Myrtle tree so we will have to keep an eye on that over the next few weeks and see what happens. Once the lesson was shared, we reinforced it in the students minds with an exciting game called "Evolution". Starting out as an egg, each student has a partner that they play rock paper scissors with. Whoever wins "evolves" into a Caterpillar. The game keeps going round and round until you go through the entire cycle. Once the cycle is complete you start over again as a level two. Once the students got a hang of the game, there were several make-believe butterflies, caterpillars, eggs, and cocoons wiggling around the garden with lots of giggles and excitement. We finished up the day by having a quick re-cap of what we learned to day with a lot of repetition. The concept of the butterflies metamorphosing really seemed to click with the kids today and I know it was something they really enjoyed!

Friday, November 12, 2010

A Mellow Friday in the Garden

Today was another wonderful garden morning. Our classes on Friday are always a little hyper and all over the place so today we tried to begin with an exercise to get them more focused. We did a little stretching, turned our garden listening ears on and turned on our scientist eyes. We also shook out some pent up energy. I'm not sure it incrementally improved their behavior but I'd like to keep doing it just as a way to bring everyone together before we split up into groups for the lesson. The bug hunt went well. We got side tracked by looking at the plants though, which was fine by me. We sampled a few leaves of the "spicy lettuce mix" and some of the kids loved it. Others made grossed out faces and spit it out with lots of laughter from the group. It was a pretty cute little scene. The okra and cucumbers looked a little rough today with shriveled up and yellowed leaves. Prof. Curtis said it's from over-watering so we're going to have to tone that down! It's such a relaxing task, plus we're used to it being so hot, that I think we have been giving them a little too much water. The cooler weather makes watering much less necessary. Hopefully the 'cukes will look better once they dry out a little.

We had a nice treat again today of seeing butterflies in the garden. Some classes have been doing hatching them in their room and then bringing them out to the garden, so I think that's where the new members have come from.

On top is the infamous spicy lettuce! It looks so healthy and beautiful. The carrots planted in two rows on the sides are finally starting to poke their heads through too. On the bottom is the big momma collard that is somehow twice the size of all the others! They are looking really healthy and I think enjoying the cool weather. I'm going to head to the garden this weekend and spray some neem oil on the cucumbers which in addition to being over-watered are being munched on by insects. Neem oil is something I had on hand for skin care but was told by a visiting reporter today at the garden that it is also really good for pests. We'll see if it works!

Thursday, November 11, 2010


It was a beautiful morning in the garden- the clear sky was nicely complimented by the cool temperature. Our flowering plants are taking off really well, and we have three beautiful monarch butterflies flying from flower to flower. The kids especially loved the butterflies and they had fun chasing after them. Today's lesson plan was dedicated to bug hunting. We explained to the kids that butterflies and bees are welcome in the garden because they pollinate our flowers. Some beatles, spiders and ladybugs are also good to have because they eat the bad bugs. Because we don't suppliment our garden with pesticides, we also have pesky bugs, like snails and grubs, which eat our plants. Today, we found some curious bright red bugs (pictured right) on the firebush, and after some investigation I think they may be early instar Leaffooted Bug nymphs. At the end of the day, we relocated the bad bugs far away from the garden and put the good bugs on the compost pile.

To recover from the vandalism incurred over the weekend, we replanted some watermelon seeds today! We're hoping for a mild winter to give the watermelon a good amount of time to grow and catch up with the rest of the plants. As the weather has been getting cooler, we've begun to reduce our watering to every other day. The garden is looking healthier and more loved everyday!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Last Call for Seeds

As previously mentioned, our lesson plan this week revolves around insects. Before we broke up into small groups, we talked to the children about the vandalism to the garden and how this was their garden. The lesson was interesting yet flexible, and I was able to additionally quiz the children on FCAT types of questions, as well as talk about how some plants fruit above, and others below ground.

The garden is growing in nicely, though there are a few empty spaces. Since the cucumbers are built on mounds, I planted a bunch of basil between the mounds. Our window for planting seeds is fast closing, and so we're going thru each bed and planting where it's needed. If we cant thwart the cold and grubs, our garden will be quite fruitful by Spring.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

critter hunting

Today was a very entertaining experience of searching for critters in the garden. We excitedly awaited the kids, ready to catch some bugs. When the children first came out we sadly informed them of the vandalism which has taken place in the garden over the weekend. Although the children were sad, they were still thrilled to see the other plants. We passed out rulers and helped the kids measure the height of their plants.
We then gathered around the compost pile with shovels to collect some bugs. At first the class was not impressed with the rank smell emitting from the compost pile. As soon as a couple bugs were found the smell no longer seemed to matter to any of us. David, being the bug expert, explained to us all the different functions of the bugs found in the garden.
After the classes we watered, weeded and organized the shed. Although the damage done to the garden has saddened us all, we have bounced back and the garden is beginning to look great again.

Monday, November 8, 2010

RIP Watermelon

After a chilly weekend, I whisked off a little early to the garden this morning to check on our beloved plants. Much to my dismay, I discovered that someone else had been going through our garden this weekend and not in a friendly manner. Our eggplant and pepper plants had been pulled from there beds; veggies, roots, and all, our fence surrounding the Three Sisters Garden had been knocked down, tomatoes were pulled off the plants, our pineapples had been yanked out and tossed about, sweet potatoes were torn apart, and so on. The general trampling of the garden was pretty disheartening. Immediately I went to checkout the watermelon. Many of my students have named it and standing around the watermelon at the end of class, recapping what we have learned that day, has become somewhat of a ritual. Sadly, someone seems to have made off with not only the watermelon, but the entire plant is nowhere to be seen. With such vandalism going on in the garden, you would think it would put a downer on the mood, but instead Alina, Sydney, Breen, and I got our hands dirty, grabbed our tools, picked up what could be salvaged, and went to work fixing what could be fixed. Facing this obstacle with a positive attitude will allow us to get the garden in tip-top shape again! When our classes came out, we took a little detour from the garden itself and did things a little differently. As part of our weeks lesson, first we discussed the benefits of good bugs in the garden and the destruction some bad bugs can cause. We talked about where to find the bugs and what they looked like. As a group we then trekked to the compost pile to see how our "soup" was breaking down and see all the insects that were munching away on it. We also added veggies and fruits left over from the school cafeteria to the pile. What was different was that today we ended with a discussion about the damage the garden had been subject to. The disappointment on my students faces after telling them that the watermelon was gone was upsetting, but their excited buzzing about getting the garden fixed up and planting more things with a "fresh start" really outweighed their gloom. Having all three of the classes express their concern that someone would do that to "their garden" and talking about how much they "love" their garden really proved what a great purpose the Edible Peace Patch stands for.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Garden Garbage

Today we had our final classes of the week come out and fufill the mission of mixing up their very own compost "soup". I was relieved to take the bananna peels, apple cores, left over cucumber, and old coffee grinds that have been saved up and filling up my dorm's mini fridge for the past week out to the garden. Our students got down and dirty and loved mixing up the yucky stuff with the newspaper shreds. One of todays highlights were all the "rollie-pollie" bugs in the compost pile. The kids loved watching the little critters travel throughout the pile, decomposing the different matriels.

I'm not sure if it was the brisk morning air or the fact that it's Friday or maybe they are still weening off of their Halloween candy, but whatever the case is, the students were a little antsy today so we did a round of Simon-Says "Garden Style" and went over different plants by "Simon says point at the cucumbers" and "Simon says, on the count of 3, what color is the eggplant?".

Continuing on our breaks between classes to keep the garden looking loved for and cleaned up, Alina and I got another load of mulch to continue around the beds, we pulled some weeds in the 3 Sisters Garden, moved the excess tomato plants to the front bed, thinned out some of the kale, and watered all the new additions.

I think the most rewarding part of this job is when you know the students have really learned something. One of the students readily pointed out as he was leaving the garden today that the mushrooms growing in the field would be perfect to through in the compost pile. There is an old Chinese proverb that says “Tell me and I'll forget; show me and I may remember; involve me and I'll understand.” Out in the garden, we are all about the hands on learning experiance. Today I had a student tell me that 'The Garden' is his favorite teacher. How cool is that?! By being part of this garden, the students learn through their 5 senses about the world around them.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

"Truth is the strong compost which beauty may sometimes germinate." -Christopher Morley

After a chilly 75 degree night in St. Petersburg, you would think that the next morning would be of the like or colder. But, of course, this assumption is wrong. This steamy morning the garden looked glorious! The tomato plants (as seen above) are flourishing! There is even a plump, green tomato pushing toward maturity! These are the tallest plants in the garden so far and they look amazing in the middle of the beds. They are going on a field trip soon to the front of the garden where they will show off their beauty first thing as you head south into the garden.

The beastly watermelon is growing strong and is about the size of a little league football! As the beast fattens, the stem is shrinking, making it fragile for young, active hands. A democratic vote declared that the beast is one of the children's favorite foods. When it's time to see it, they become very excited, losing all sense of hierarchy in the classroom as they sprint towards the palisaded watermelon. A natural instinct to protect the beast settles in as we become more frank about the garden's rules. The rind is luminous, forseeing a juicy, and of course beastly, watermelon to enjoy!

As the children have learned, everything has a cycle. The water cycle was a new subject for many of the children, but, with the help of "Re-Cycle," the book read, they all became aware of where rain comes from. They even understood that clouds are water vapor! Children and smarter than you think, which is where the compost comes in. Most of them knew that if you put eggs and banana peels together they will help cultivate the land. Those who did not understand became aware of what compost is and why it is important with the help of "Re-cycle." It shared with the children what goes into a compost, what does not go into a compost, and why the compost is important. With their close attention, mainly to the pictures, their minds began to ponder other things that they use daily that could go into a compost. Some even said they were going to take whatever they could find in the kitchen to make their own! That, by far, brings the biggest smile amongst us.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Learning from the Students...

Today we had out a class of second graders first thing in the morning. The thing I love the most about the second graders are the boys. Too soon will these boys become hardened by society, taught not to show feelings, to be men. Yet, while they're second graders, they still run over and fight over who gets to hold my hand. Who wouldn't find joy in being a highly sought after commodity? They are still children at this age, and have so much to teach us! I think I learned two things today: one show your true feelings (even if they go against social norms) and that it's important to let loose once in awhile, too much structure can stifle a person. We really let the kids direct the class today. They quietly sat during the story, walked when asked in the garden, and overall were extremely respectful. Not to say we didn't have our hands full. This class is so knowledgeable and eager to learn it may look like chaos to a bystander, but anytime we asked them to quiet, they immediately did so. These students really love being in the garden and learning. We chose to scrap the worksheet today, and I feel like between the compost story (talked about in detail yesterday) and physically adding and watering to our compost the students retained so much more than any worksheet could teach. Constantly using verbal reinforcement and hands on activities seem to work so much better. Even though we didn't do a pre-test this year, I'd love to see a post test just to see what the students did learn throughout the semester. I think that's the only way we'll know which method worked better and which lessons the students liked the best!

Other than that, the garden is looking healthy, and although it threatened to rain today, no luck. We have a forecast of rain for the next two days, so I'll keep my fingers crossed! Our aloe is becoming brown and spotty again, which I'm not sure why. I've been doing some online research and I keep getting conflicting information. Some websites say to water, others say not to. It was so healthy this summer when the grass took over the bed, so I just don't know what to do. Time to keep trucking through the research and hopefully find something definitive! Til next time!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Composting.. smelly but very useful

Today we talked with the kids about composting. We read them a book about cycles and how our compost pile will help out our garden. Next we had them make a sma
ll compost "brew," they ripped up news paper and we put banana peels, bread and coffee grounds into a small pan for the kids to mix up and throw on our larger pile. Thinking about starting your own compost but not sure what you can or should not use? Afraid of the smell? Things that can be placed into a compost: fruits, veggies, eggshells (broken up), leaves, grass clippings, garden plants, weeds, shrub prunings, straw, hay, green comfrey leaves, pine needles, flowers, seaweed/ kelp, wood ash, chicken manure, coffee grounds, tea leaves, newspaper, shredded paper, cardboard, corn cobs, stalks, dryer lint, sawdust, wood chips and anything else of the sort. Do not compost meats, or bones they will only attract pests. As for your kitchen wastes, it is easiest to keep a large/ medium plastic container with a lid under your sink. This will reduce the smell as well as your trips out to your compost. How do you compost? Start a pile on the bare earth, this will allow worms and other organisms to aerate the compost. Next thing is to add compost materials in layers of moist and dry. You will want to keep the compost moist either by watering it or allowing mother nature to do the job. Make sure to cover your pile; wood, plastic sheet, carpet scarps; this helps retain moisture and heat, two key components in composting. Every few weeks you will want to turn the pile with a shovel or pitchfork. There are compost bins available to purchase if you wish not to manually turn your pile. These bins are specially made to aerate the compost and also keep everything contain instead of on the ground. Don't want the bug around keep a small pile of grass clipping near your pile and every time you add your kitchen waste cover it with the grass clippings. The largest hurdle for backyard and small compost is finding enough carbon-rich materials to balance out the nitrogen-rich materials such as the kitchen scraps or any fresh materials. If you do not think that you will have enough materials to make the compost, talk to your neighbor and work on it together in a central location. I hope that everyone now feels ready to start their own compost. Good luck to you all and wish us luck in creating ours!!