First graders begin to explore the various states of matter, which is a perfect excuse to make ice cream. First of all, students are shocked to learned that all ingredients in our vanilla ice cream can be traced back to plants…even the milk. The kids play one of our favorite games – Step Inside – where they act out what it feels like to be a liquid, solid, or gas. Then we assemble our individual ice cream ingredients and watch first-hand how our liquid becomes a solid, and then reverts to a liquid as we eat it with a spoon. It is a tasty way to explore science concepts and makes for a memorable garden experience.
Our third grade gardens are bursting with goodness, so it's time for our annual produce sales. These sales are the culmination of our small business unit, where student farmers have been thinking through the economics of farming. Over the past three months we determined the cost of growing our produce, tended our crops, advertised our sale, and thought through important ways small businesses support their local communities. On sale day we harvest, wash, package, label, distribute, and sell our produce with all proceeds going to a local charity. It is a fun and empowering day for the students and a joy to facilitate. Thank you third grade farmers for all the hard work!
Sixth graders at Westerly School explored the idea of how a family budget can inform and also limit our access to food. We dissected the difference in cost per calorie between a fast food salad and a double cheeseburger. Then we watched a clip from the documentary Food, Inc. Students were fully engaged and asked big questions about why healthy foods might be more expensive than less healthy alternatives, and how our work schedules and busy family demands can impact our decisions about meals. Then we discussed the history of bean chili as a way to stretch limited food dollars into a healthy and satisfying meal for the whole family. The chili was delicious, and the students continue to to develop meaningful tools for thinking about how and what to eat.
We love worms and appreciate the role they play in supporting fertile soils. So at Ground Education we are always looking for ways to incorporate our worm bins into various garden lessons. Long Beach first graders study the concept of matter, which is a great reason to play with worms and highlight their work as decomposers. Last month Lowell Elementary students got up close and personal with about 3,000 red wigglers. We held worm, fed worms, looked at worm eggs, talked about worm anatomy, explored what worms can and can’t eat, and read the classic Diary of a Worm, by Doreen Cronin. The students loved their worm play and all agreed to help support worms in their efforts by feeding the school worm bin their fruit and veggie leftovers.
This week we worked with 7th grade students at IVA Middle School as part of our poetry in nature curriculum. We visited a thriving local food garden and made our own tea concoctions by harvesting a variety of fragrant herbs – thyme, chamomile, various mints, lemon verbena, calendula, etc. While enjoying a hot mug of tea in the garden, we wrote a series of trail poems. Trail poems start with a brainstormed list of related words, like a trail of thoughts created as an experience unfolds. Once you’ve created your word list, you revisit them in order and create a poem incorporating each one. The results are simple and sometimes powerful and the students were eager to share their creations with the group.
Fourth graders study early California history, which works well with our native plants and animals curriculum. Last week we were busy identifying and documenting native Long Beach plants, which we’ve been working with students to restore in several local school gardens. We also performed our favorite no-rehearse play about the Iroquois Three Sisters Garden of corn, beans, and squash. This is a playful way for students to learn how sometimes very different plants work better together than they do separately. It’s a celebration of food diversity, and a reminder that careful observation of and interaction with plants can lead to new and exciting discoveries. Plants have a lot to teach us, if we just learn how to listen. And because a play is better with popcorn, we showed students how the flint corn we grew last Fall can turn into popcorn right before our eyes.
In honor of Earth Day 2017, we made seed cookies with students for the garden to eat. Using regular potters clay, we created a cookie shape and sprinkled California Poppy seed onto the surface. The students had fun playing with the cool clay and took the cookies home to plant. Hopefully their gardens will eat them up and produce a late-Spring crop of native wildflowers for the families to enjoy.
Did you know the average American throws away 20 pounds of food every month? That's the size of a pug!
This Spring we are partnering with the 6th grade students at Westerly School for a food-focused service learning project. In May, we will visit a local farmers market and make homemade jam as Mothers Day gifts with the students of Precious Lamb Preschool. To prepare for this day of service, students are exploring different factors that influence how we make decisions about what to eat. This week we discussed how our decisions affect the planet, particularly when it comes to what we don’t eat. Food waste is a big problem in America, but these 6th graders were ready with tons of great ideas of how they can be part of the solution. From creative leftover cooking, to changing purchasing habits, to worm composting, these students proved they are ready and willing to do their part. To celebrate, we made the classic “stone soup” out of leftover vegetables they all brought from home. It’s been a real pleasure thinking about environmental and social justice issues with these students and we can’t wait until our service day.
Third graders study California State Symbols, which gives us a great reason to hatch baby quail in the classroom. Right now we have incubators all around Long Beach, with tiny rock-like quail eggs nestled inside. To kick-off the hatching process, we learn all about this ground-dwelling bird and the adaptations that make them well suited to our local Coastal Chaparral. In addition to supporting social studies, hatching quail helps reinforce the third grade concepts of biomes, food chains, and native plants and animals. Plus, the students love to role-play the quail daily dust bath ritual.