Edible Peace Patch Blogs

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Monday, November 28, 2011

Reflections for a Rainy Day

Aaarg, the rain!  It kept the little ones inside, so we were not able to do our lesson today.  It was our assessment day and I am not sure if we will get to see the kids again… sniffle, sniffle… we never got to say goodbye…
It is mind-boggling how fast the semester has gone, how far the garden has come, and (more than anything) how far the children have come.  Although we were not able to “objectively assess” them, I can tell how far they have come.  Maybe they will not remember exactly what a “decomposer” is, but they have experienced the cycle of food scraps to compost heap to soil to plant food to human food to food scraps… and repeat.  Their attitudes towards dirt and bugs have, in most cases, done a complete reversal.  Many have gone from screaming yelling about how gross bugs are to screaming and yelling (hey, it’s what kids do after being cooped up in a florescent lighted rectangle for most of the day, and are then exposed  to real stimulus outdoors) about how cool they are.  Dirt has gone from simply something you don’t want to get on your uniform, to something that plants live in and feed on to make us food.
I will never  forget helping Tydarius get over his fear of insects.  He was obviously fascinated by the roly-polies.  Edging closer to the bugs he would tentatively reach out to touch them, but as soon as contact was made he would let out the most blood-curdling scream and tear off, only to come back to hover over the bugs again.  Scooping up a handful of dirt with a few roly-polies in it, I called Tydarius over to me.  Holding out the dirt in my cupped hand I asked him to place his hand over mine and on top of the dirt.  Holding still, I explained to him that there were roly-polies in the dirt and that they were harmless and more afraid of him than he of them.  On the count of three we flipped our hands over, so now Tydarius was holding the dirt.  No screams.  I removed my hand and left him standing there, marveling at the little gray sectioned bugs snuffling through the dirt in his hand.  Soon the chaos of a first grade class digging for insects called my attention elsewhere, but I will never forget the look on his face; a look of utter awe. 
I was lucky enough to be born and raised on a Permaculture Land Co-operative, and so these things have always been a part of my reality, but this experience has quickly taught me just how far from natural cycles and food pathways most children are.  It has given me great joy in sharing what I know with the students here at the Edible Peace Patch.  And the best part is that they love it too! 
With that, I’ll leave y’all with the wise words of Wendell Berry:
“Do unto those downstream as you would have those upstream do unto you.” 


Friday, November 18, 2011

Science is a great game. It is inspiring and refreshing. The playing field is the universe itself. Isidor Isaac Rabi

     Things are really coming along in the garden. The pole beans are reaching to top of their poles and starting to branch out to other areas. There is now an almost constant supply of bees and other insects buzzing all around. 

   The children are amazed by the flowers every week. (much to our amusement it is usually the same flowers each week.) But either way it is really great to see so many different colors coming to bloom in our garden. Everyone has been working so hard to far that every flower is like a small reward for our diligence. Working with the kids at lakewood though is reward enough. 

   Tomatoes! It is really cool that vegetables are starting to come in. Even though they are still green everyone including the kids are excited for them to start turning red. With there presence right at the entrance fully red tomatoes will be quiet a welcome when entering the garden.

    The three sisters bed is really coming into its own. The corn stalks are starting to make a presence and the gourds are taking some shape. Soon the corn will be taller then most of our students. Watching them grasp the concept that food grows right out of these plants is a real pleasure.

   Some of our vegetables are really coming along nicely. Some of the leaves are looking a little worn down by bugs and a few of the pineapples are looking a little dried out. However science is the real point to much of what we are doing and this has been such a great chance to teach these students. 

   We started on the math lessons this week and watching our kids count on their small fingers was very rewarding and entertaining. They were very good at math but even better at the coloring. Better then i am at least, with math... i'm pretty good at coloring if i do say so myself. 

    Everyone was looking very sleepy this friday morning. But we all gave thanks for what we each have in our lives and in the garden. I think we are all really dissappointed we won't be seeing each other over thanksgiving. 

    A surprise visit cheered us all up. And ironically it showed up during the week we were doing our butterfly lesson. Taking pleasure in small things is something this garden can really supply you with. 


Thursday, November 17, 2011

November Rain

"In the garden, Autumn is, indeed the crowning glory of the year, bringing us the fruition of months of thought and care and toil. And at no season, safe perhaps in Daffodil time, do we get such superb colour effects as from August to November."
               Rose G. Kingsley, The Autumn Garden, 1905

I managed to acquire a few pictures before the thick clouds above condensed, quenching the thirsty roots of flourishing plants in the garden.  I could not take my eyes off the growing squash in our three sisters garden bed.  So much progress has been made in all the beds and it is my understanding we will have arugula growing soon!
Sadly, the downpour began right on time for the children to come out.  We missed their smiling faces as we sought shelter in the shed, waiting for the pouring rain to subside.  The time I spend in the garden each week brings my soul such tranquility and joy.  What a wonderful thing it is to partake in the cultivation of environmental education in a flourishing garden.  As environmental studies is not my specific area of study at Eckerd College, I learn new things each week while gardening and teaching lessons to the students.  At the beginning of this semester, the process of weeding was out of my comfort zone (I was not accustomed to weed identification).  I am now growing quite comfortable with the identification and removal of weeds, and I see that it can be quite a therapeutic process!
Thanks for reading :)
"Walked for half an hour in the garden.  A fine rain was falling, and the landscape was that of autumn.  The sky was hung with various shades of gray, and mists hovered about the distant mountains - a melancholy nature.  The leaves were falling on all sides like the last illusions of youth under the tears of irremediable grief.  A brood of chattering birds were chasing each other through the shrubberies, and playing games among the branches, like a knot of hiding schoolboys.  Every landscape is, as it were, a state of the soul, and whoever penetrates into both is astonished to find how much likeness there is in each detail."
Henri Frederic Amiel 

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Busy Butterflies

The butterfly counts not months but moments, and has time enough. 
-Rabindranath Tagore

As we began working on the garden this morning, the sky was full of clouds, threatening the garden with rain. We worried that the weather would keep the class from joining us in the garden. However the rain held off and the kids were able visit for this week’s lesson on butterflies! Although the clouds were gray, the children’s shining faces and exuberance, as they ran towards us, made the day seem a little brighter.

We started the lesson with a poem that described the butterfly cycle. While the poem was read we had them act out the different stages, mimicking the round egg, the wiggling caterpillar, the wrapped up cocoon, and finally the fluttering butterfly. Doing the silly motions with the children has me laughing right along with them. 

Using the white board, we than had them come color in certain areas of the butterfly based off math problems. Each color had its own number. It was difficult to get the students to try and figure out the math, while they were so excited to color! They all yelled out as many numbers as they could so they could be the first one with the correct answer and then chosen to color in the butterfly. It took some persuasion to get things in order.

With the children so riled up and full of excitement, we thought we would try a more active game with them. We had them play “Rock paper scissors”. The winner would get to metamorphosis in to the next stage of the butterfly cycle. They would play until they became butterflies. This was also very exciting and fun to play with them! By now, it was time for the kids to go. As the children said goodbye, we prepared to get some mulch for the garden.

In the end this cloudy day turned out to be quite lovely!
Until next time,

Monday, November 14, 2011

What Kind of Fly do You Put on Toast?...

What Kind of Fly do You Put on Toast?...
A Butter-fly!!!

Whoever said puns are the lowest form of comedy must have lived a very sad life. That one was my own original creation as well!

Todays lesson was on Butterflies! Our kindergardener lepidopterists (Butterfly Scientists) learned specifically about the butterfly cycle, how a Mama Butterfly lays an egg, which hatches into a caterpillar, which spins a cocoon (or chrysalis if you want to get technical), and finally becomes a Butterfly and the cycle starts all over again. We acted the cycle out, read a poem about it, arranged cards with pictures and words of the cycle, and quite a few other activities to help them learn this cycle. Acting out the cycle was particularly fun as it got the kids active and moving about, and seemed to help them focus on the idea a bit more than just telling it to them. The cards were really fun as well. One of the kids in my small group suggested that we each take a card and go around in a circle reading out the stage written on our card, which was a really good idea that we had a lot of fun with. We then spent the last few minuets in the garden and the lesson had a perfect ending as well as a monarch butterfly flew into the garden and all the kid got a really good look as she fluttered around us!

-Noah Schlager

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Beetle Queen Conquers Peace Patch

For those who haven't seen Jessica Oreck's incredible documentary on the Japanese love of insects, Beetle Queen Conquers Tokyo, I have the trailer posted above. The film explores how in Japan the interest in insect ranges from kids collecting insects on family vacations to businessmen spending thousands to tens of thousands for these impressive stag beetles. Some of these beetles cost more than a VW Beetle! But at any rate what we see is a culture where attention to ones environment, and the living things within it, is cherished through childhood and into adulthood. It is a sort of evidence for E.O. Wilson's idea of Biophilia, the innate curiosity and bond between humans and other living things. 

Here in the Peace Patch there is no shortage of Biophilia, especially when it comes to insects. our sizable population of rolly-pollies (woodlouses or terrestrial isopods for you technical folk out there) has been of particular interest to the Kids. I have often in past classes had to drag kids away from their collecting to focus on the plants; I must sympathize with them though as I found most plants to be SO boring when I was in first grade, especially compared to insects. This time however, our roles switched from keeping the kids focused to keeping them from grabbing at them too much (we did have a few rolly-pollie casualties). The kids learned that an insects body has a head, a thorax, an abdomen, 6 legs, 2 antennae and wings! We also worked on reading out loud the names of these insect body parts, some of which like thorax are kinda hard to say and remember! We then showed them a few of the different types of insects in the garden, as well as some critters like rolly-pollies and spiders that look like bugs but aren't! One of the kids and my favorite bugs was a little white weevil (most likely Artipus floridanus) that I found and that the the kids could hold and let crawl on their hands. This was one of my favorite lessons thus far!

As someone who spent a lot of time catching and raising bugs as a kid, and who still has a pair of hibernating hercules beetles in his refrigerator and a jar of caterpillars munching away on his desk, it really makes me really excited to see the excitement that these kids get from bugs, and that i am in a position to support and nurture that love and curiosity. Most kids in America aren't like me, and by the time they are in college don't really care about bugs or even despise them. I can only hope that a few of these awesome kids will hold onto this love of nature and living things as they grow up. I hope that we as a community can support this bond and between kids and insects and that America can become a place where kids and adults alike can keep exploring and growing upon this relationship with our fellow living beings!

- Noah Schlager

Friday, November 11, 2011

Chilly Weather, Warm Hearts

Give me odorous at sunrise a garden of beautiful flowers 
where I can walk undisturbed.  ~Walt Whitman

     This mornings meeting met our group with the chilliest weather we've seen yet. As we all gathered bright and early, we huddled together to keep warm and each spoke of the personal impact of the garden thus far. Everyone shared heartwarming stories of how the garden has changed their perspective and the indescribable feeling we each get when one of the children remembers your name and holds your hand or hugs you just for being there. It is amazing to witness the joy and excitement on their faces when they run to greet you and, without knowing much about you at all, attach themselves to you and ask hundreds of questions. The feeling really can't be put into words, especially when something in your lesson seems to have scattered over being noticed and without expectation, is remembered when you see the students again without any reminder. 
     After our meeting  I walked about the garden noticing the bounty that had sprung over the week that needed to be harvested: squash blossoms, okra, cilantro,  and lettuce. Squash blossoms, an amazing treat if you've never tried one, taste (to me at least) reminiscent of a spicy queso cheese. I harvested a few and set them aside for my morning class to sample.

     After our lesson on bugs in the garden was completed I handed out the tasty treats, showing what part of the squash plant they originated from. The kids were beyond excited to eat flowers and with no lack of hilarious faces decided they weren't the grossest thing in the world to eat.

    The kids noticed all the baby veggies beginning to sprout on our way back from the squash bed. They especially loved the baby gourds and tomatoes.

      Later that day I continued the lesson on bugs with mine and Tristram's afternoon class. The kids were rowdy and were all excited to get their hands on a shovel and dig for bugs! Below I've shared a video that can better describe the amazing capacity the students have for retention in learning. Even the hard words like abdomen or thorax seemed to jump right out of their mouths as if they were born with an instinct for bug parts. 

     I love the experiences I have at the garden. It's amazing to know that the excitement the kids portray on their smiling faces is building 10 fold in me when I'm working and teaching. I don't think any other experience could match it.

** grubs also turn into beetles :) Just to clarify **

Thursday, November 10, 2011

A Bug’s Eye View

What could be more exciting than lots of creepy crawlies, crayons and magnifying glasses? To the kindergarten class this morning, the answer was absolutely nothing. The class was practically jumping to get a look at the bugs we had collected for them.

I used to love to collect bugs and look at their jointed, funny looking legs and have them crawl over mountains made by my hands or knee. When I was in elementary school catching bugs was an exciting pastime. However, upon arriving at the garden, catching bugs seemed slightly scary. Perhaps it is because I am now fully aware that some bugs bite or sting or are just plain scary. Mustering up some courage (and remembering that I am a 21 year old college student and many times the size of an insect), I grabbed a collecting jar and went about catching insects. Before long I was enjoying myself and the tiny creatures once again captured my imagination.

The kids were excited from the very start to see some bugs. As we went over the parts of a bug and counted how many legs they have the kids would yell in unison “1...2...3...4…5…6!” After passing out the bugs I had collected, most of the class wanted to catch some themselves. They all crowded around the different jars and looked at the bugs through magnifying glasses and continually counted the legs, commented on the colors and were generally captivated by the insect. Before long, the kids were drawing the bugs they had seen.

At the end of the session the kids said goodbye to their new bug friends and slowly got in line to go back to class – all the while pointing at the butterflies and bees that constantly circled around our group.

I’d say it was a wonderful morning.


Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Creepy Crawlies

Teaching a child not to step on a caterpillar is as valuable to the child as it is to the caterpillar.  ~Bradley Millar

Today, as we approached the lesson on bugs, I could not contain my personal bias on the creepy crawlies. I usually cringe from the common feeling of the small critters moving across my legs as we work on the garden, yet today I hunt for them. We spent a while looking for specimens to show the kids.

When the class arrived at the garden, and we announced the lesson plan, the kid’s faces lighted up. Their excitement was obvious. We began by teaching them the different parts of the insects. They had a few problems pronouncing some of the words like thorax, and abdomen. After the teaching we showed them the bugs we had collected, even letting them hold some of them. We made sure to tell them to be gentile with them, so we could return them to their home afterward. I found it amazing how eager they were to touch all the bugs. It made me realize how silly my apprehension for the critters were. 

Once the excitement from the live creatures died down, the kids were aloud to draw their own versions of the bugs they had seen. Most of the students had no problem creating their bugs with the correct amount of body segments, and other parts. It was very encouraging to see them utilizing the knowledge we had taught them. 
 Untill next time!

Monday, November 7, 2011

I was worried that I would miss today’s lesson in our wonderful Edible Peace Patch, but I made it just in the nick of time.  I knew being part of a historic march on the Capitol for environmental justice was worth being gone for, but it saddened me to miss a lesson with the kids, especially since I had forgotten to tell them I would be gone.  
With seconds to spare, I leaped out of one of the vans which had taken 225 of us Eckerd students all the way up to Washington DC to call on Obama to reject the Keystone XL Pipeline from Canada’s tar sands.  I dropped off my bags, hopped into Alina’s car, and we sped off to the garden and the children. 
                Today’s lesson was an especially exciting one.  Bugs!        
               “Legs!” the children shouted out as we indicated the picture on our portable blackboard.  “Head!” they shouted in excitement as we indicated the head.  They needed a bit of help with “thorax” and “abdomen”, but by the end of the day Gavin, one of Ms. Early’s 1st graders, after drawing his termite, pointed to the back of his insect and asked me how to spell “abdomen”.  What do you know, after a fun day spent mostly rooting around in the ground looking for ants, termites, roly-polies, spiders, and grubs (and reassuring the children that they were harmless) the lesson had worked! 
                The kids did not want to leave the garden and their obliging teacher let them stay an extra 10 minutes with us, but eventually the time came to leave and to give back all the little insects we had collected back to nature and back to the garden.  With the rest of our time we watered the beds and planted cauliflower and more radishes.  We also harvested some lovely looking okra from our now-chest-high okra plants. 
I must have caught some of the children’s infectious imaginations for as we worked, I fantasized about all the colorful insects they had drawn, flying/crawling/squirming around the garden as they pollinated our plants and decomposed our compost for us.    
 Until next time,
If all mankind were to disappear, the world would regenerate back to the rich state of equilibrium that existed ten thousand years ago.  If insects were to vanish, the environment would collapse into chaos.
E. O. Wilson

Friday, November 4, 2011

A Rainy Morning

As the end of Daylight-Savings Time quickly approaches, our weekly Friday morning meetings have become increasingly dark and cool. This morning, the crew huddled under a big tree while the rain battered down on our garden. The purple skies were just beginning to lighten up by the time our meeting was over, but the rain continued. Everyone seems to feel like the kids are truly soaking in our lessons on recycling and composting, regardless of the intense excitement of being outside!

The garden is looking as green and lush as ever. I was amazed to see so many flourishing cilantro plants in the herb garden, in addition to the rapidly climbing pole beans and flowering okra! We have some green tomatoes plumping up on the vine and a city of sweet potatoes, I'm sure, beneath the soil. The radishes have been harvested and the lettuces and beets are looking beautiful. I remember the carrots in my garden at home as a favorite munching spot for swallowtail caterpillars, so I wonder if we'll have any here as well. Next week, the kids will learn about bugs (a particularly exciting topic in the realm of kindergarten and first grade minds).

Since it was still raining at the conclusion of our meeting and there was no mulch to spread, we duct-taped a quick fix on the welcome trellis and headed out to breakfast for some team bonding time. Unfortunately our class was cancelled due to the weather, but it presented a great opportunity for the girls and I to get to know each other over hot tea and grits at Munch's. We all agreed that the hands-on experience in the garden, working with both the plants and the elementary students, is incredibly gratifying. In addition to the environment-related courses that are amping everyone up just before registration time, we are all staying involved in the garden next semester. The continuation of active learning in the field will not only be educational in the fields of agriculture and leadership, but it will also serve as a working model for building a stronger local community in St. Petersburg.


Thursday, November 3, 2011

It's compost stew making time!

Today was another great day at the garden. It was chilly when we first got there but once the sun started to shine it felt very comfortable. Elena brought some compost from home and we looked at what we had in order to let the kids create the "compost stew." We decided to split up some of the compost into cups so that the kids didn't have to touch the compost itself.
Our kids didn't come out until 9:30 so we had some time to do maintenance. We weeded mostly in different beds. Even though weeding is a bit monotonous, it needs to be done to make the garden look as nice as it does every week. It's always a good day when I have to wake up early and go to the garden. I know that the rest of my day will be wonderful after I see how excited the kids are to learn so much more. When they came out this morning we asked them what they learned last week, and they were spot on with recycling. We then explained to them what we were going to do today. We were going to create a compost stew and they were going to be the chefs. Despite the look of the compost, I tried to explain to them that insects love compost and they will do a great job of decomposing all the food scraps and turning it into dirt. They all seemed to understand somewhat, but it was also hard to get them to pay attention. Once we gave them jobs, they were so excited to create the stew and throw it on top of all the other compost.
I always love coming to the garden in the morning, especially seeing the kids. One little boy and girl gave me a hug twice today. Every time that happens, I just get a huge smile on my face and I get that much more excited to come to the garden every week. I just hope that I am making as much of a difference in these children's lives that they are in mine! 

Thank you for following our Blog!
Jessica Stitt