Second graders in Long Beach study the concept of farm-to-table in their Social Studies curriculum. To bring these concepts to life in the garden, GroundEd teaches a three lesson series where students plant, harvest, process, and eat a typical pre-packaged grocery store salad. This week we introduced students at Lowell Elementary to the project by studying the concept of food miles. Using a pretend lunch pizza, we used maps and some 4-digit addition to estimate that our pizza ingredients traveled a collective 17,000 miles to get to our lunchbox. That is exotic food! We all agreed it would be much better if pizza just grew by-the-slice on trees. After exploring the idea of where meals come from, we planted seeds for our future packaged salads – lettuces, carrots, and herbs for our homemade dressing. It was a busy and wonderful day.
Rocks tell the story of our beautiful planet if you know how to unleash their secrets. Today we invited fourth graders to be amateur Geologists as we studied a variety of rocks and fossils. We practiced identifying minerals using scientific tools like Mohs scale of hardness and made our own sedimentary rocks using colored sand. We also created model river beds to explore the effects of erosion and weathering, two forces that shape our landscapes dramatically over time
In Colonial America, there were no Targets. There was no Amazon Prime with same-day delivery. If colonists wanted the latest fashion, they had to get creative with plants. This kind of self-sufficiency is difficult for modern 5th graders to imagine, but this week they got a taste of how the flax we are growing together can be harvested, woven into linen, and dyed using plant extracts. Together, we practiced hand weaving and made dyes from indigo, tea, coffee, etc. We also created colored fabric that we will use to sew clothes for corn husk dolls during a full-day colonial celebration.
This Fall our first grade classes planted peas. As they grow, we've been wondering how weather impacts our plants. Are they getting enough water? Is it too cold? To answer our weather questions, we made journals for tracking three key measures - temperature, wind, and rainfall. This week students practiced being meteorologists, and used the tools-of-the-trade to record local conditions in our garden. Our favorite part was making old fashioned pinwheels together and letting the wind make them spin.
In Social Studies, 3rd graders learn that kids can be entrepreneurs and that small businesses play important roles in their communities. To reinforce these concepts of Economics and Community, this week we launched an organic vegetable farm. We started by planting a variety of Winter crops, including carrots, spinach, onions, beets, beans, cauliflower and celery. Students named their farm, and read the story Uncle Willie and the Soup Kitchen to understand how businesses can support critical community issues like homelessness and hunger. We also had a Garden Cafe - a silent conversation conducted entirely on paper - to explore their thoughts about what makes a good citizen and what choices we have for spending money in our community. As the Spring progresses, we will tend our farm, figure out our costs and pricing, and plan/organize a produce sale. As for our farm profits, those will be donated to the Food Bank of Southern California. The students will see from start to finish what it takes to run a small farming business and how these businesses can support their local communities.
When it comes to trying new vegetables, we say make it fun. Last week we worked with Kindergartners to create their own edible art, inspired by the Mollie Katzen's wonderful book Salad People. Step one was to identify the vegetables we will grow to create our salad people. Next month we will plant our crops and learn a little about seed germination, photosynthesis, and the hard work of farming as we go. By late Spring, we will be harvesting and creating fun and tasty salad people.
Over the holidays, I had the privilege of touring an 8.5 acre biodynamic farm and orchard in the Upcountry of Maui. At 3,500 foot elevation, O'o farm enjoys a unique micro-climate. Called a "misting forest", it benefits from several hours of heavy cloud mist almost every afternoon. These weather conditions plus the rich volcanic soil make the farm an incredibly productive oasis. The farm grows about 60 different seasonal crops, which they carefully rotate through 8 different plots around the grounds. Soil fertility is carefully managed with cover crops - like buckwheat, fava and clover - grazing chickens, and a robust compost system. Pests are controlled by rotating crops to different plots and planting flowers that attract beneficial insects. On our tour we harvested our own lunch ingredients, which were prepared in an on-site outdoor kitchen by a local chef. It was farm-to-table at its best and an experience I will never forget. For more information or to schedule a tour, check out oofarm.com.
At Ground Education, we look for opportunities to create or restore native habitats on school grounds. Schoolyard habitat projects support native flora and fauna which encourage healthy local ecosystems. Native habitats offer food and protection to local wildlife and are well adapted to local climates. They also give students the unique opportunity to observe positive environmental changes over time. This week we worked with second graders to plant natives on a hillside that we cleared of invasive ice plant. We used our powers of careful observation to describe and identify various local plants. Students practiced making detailed plant drawings and even created their own plant scavenger hunt. Over time, students will observe the restored hillside for sign of pollinators, birds, and other local wildlife.