Growing Soil: The “Om” Solution

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What is “Om”?

Om isn’t just the mantra we chant while meditating or doing yoga, in the garden it also refers to organic matter.

The 6th grade classes learned that the reason we want to make organic matter in the garden is so we can provide nutrients to our plants. The more organic matter we create the more life we create. In nature 1 inch of organic matter takes 1,000 years to accumulate. In the garden we can make organic matter, also known as compost, in a few short weeks.

All the 6th grade classes learned how to make compost in the garden in two different ways, through our 3 bin compost system and vermi-composting( worm composting).

In our three bin system we use dead plants from the garden and some food scraps along with straw and chicken poop to create healthy rich compost that we can use in the garden.  We create layers  in our compost cake, the  greens being (nitrogen) and browns being (carbon). Even though chicken poop is mostly brown it is actually a great source of nitrogen for our pile. Making compost is an aerobic process, meaning it needs air to break down. In the garden we usually flip the pile 2-3 times per week to help speed up the decomposition process.

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Here students flip the compost to incorporate more air into the pile and chop dead plants into small pieces so they will break down faster.

 

Vermi-Composting is a fast and efficient way to make compost and recycle food scraps. Composting worms, also known as red wrigglers, can eat half their own body weight or more every day. This means that after adjusting to their new home, 1 lb. of worms will eat approximately 1/2 lb. of food each day.

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Students sort through old worm casting to find worms to add to our new worm bins.

Steps for building a worm bin-

1. Sort worms

2. Rip up newspaper and get it wet, like a rung out sponge.

3. Get two bins that can be stacked inside each other. Drill holes in the bottom of the top bin so the worm castings( worm poop) will fall to the bottom bin for easy collecting. Drill holes on the sides so worms can breath.

3. Add worms to bottom bin on top of some wet newspaper, this makes a nice soft bed for them.

4. Add food scraps and newspaper in the top bin. Worms will work their way up to eat the food. Worms are mostly vegans, they like most fruits and veggies , coffee grounds and egg shells are nice. Please don’t feed the worms oily or fatty foods, meat,  dairy, sugar, processes foods, and please no citrus fruits such as lemons and oranges.

5. Put lid on the top and keep in shady spot.

 

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The students love using power tools in the garden. Here students are drilling holes in the bottom of the bin so worm castings can be harvested.

 

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Nature Journaling Week 3

 

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For our third week in the garden, we started with a pebble meditation, where students do a silent walking meditation while gathering four pebbles. We all walked across the entire garden to a shady area under some trees, since it was an uncharacteristically warm late winter day in March. The pebble meditation helped the students relax and focus their intentions for their garden time after their long and active day at school. The skills the students learn by practicing meditation can help them manage stress and connect with their own thoughts and feelings during a time in their lives when they are growing and facing new struggles and stresses.

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After meditating peacefully in the shade, we made our way back to the outdoor classroom circle and shared some poems from the previous week. Students were encouraged to look at one another’s progress in the garden journals to get ideas and appreciate their classmates’ work. After sharing, students did a group observations activity to collaborate on expanding the way they are making observations in the garden. The students worked together in two large groups to make observations about two plants in the garden.

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Here a student makes a list of as many observations as they can about this Rock Rose

This activity really helped all the students make more detailed observations in the garden.

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Zoomed in sketch of the Pride of Madeira

 

 

Natural Journaling Week 2

 

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Following a garden rule of “Getting dirty!” while sketching his plant.

For the second week of our six-week Nature Journaling curriculum in the garden, the students focused on getting to know the plants they chose better by drawing them from different perspectives and beginning work on an observational poem about their plant.

Ms Castro says, “It is amazing to see how much the sixth graders discover in the garden about nature and about themselves each time we get to have our class time with Miss Lindsey. All through the previous week, the students eagerly awaited Friday, our day to have class in the garden.”

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When the students arrived at the garden, we started off the class by leading a chanting meditation, which was a new experience for many of the students. My thirty students “OM-ed” uncertainly at first and then quickly gained confidence. What a neat sound to hear, of eleven year olds focusing on trying something new with an open mind!

After meditating, the students went to their plants and drew them from three different perspectives. It was fun to see students taking this assignment seriously and drawing their plant from close up, far away, and from a new perspective in-between. This time offered students the chance to get to know their plant on their own and focus on learning by observation about their plant.

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Zoom In/Zoom Out activity with three sketches.

The next activity was for students to make more observations through writing by listing ten things that their plant reminds them of, then plugging in these analogies to a poem that we posted in the outdoor classroom circle on the whiteboard. This was great practice for writing using figurative language and sensory details, and the students could touch and smell their plant to add depth to their writing, an opportunity we don’t often have in the traditional classroom setting.

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Poem student created about their plant using figurative language.

 

Nature Journaling with Ms. Castro’s class, Week 1

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Ms Castro’s class started their Nature Journal unit on February 28th.

Nature journaling or field sketching encourages students to write down things they notice in nature, questions they have, and how they are feeling. It allows for them to explore creative writing and gives students the opportunity to make a personal and deeper connection with nature. At the end of the unit each students will have spent six  weeks drawing, observing, asking questions, writing poetry and falling in love with the plant of their choice in the garden. Their final project will be a biography of their plant and a final sketch that will be part of the APG Garden Field Guide book.

To prepare for the students first adventure out to the garden they constructed their own nature journal using recycled brown paper bags.

For the first class we went over some general natural journaling techniques to be better nature observers. The three questions they will be asking while observing their plants are,

-I notice
-I wonder
-It reminds me of

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Take a look at some of the pages from the students first journal sketches!

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This student was making observations from two parts of the plant

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This student was asking lots of questions

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Great use of a key

Having Fun in Garden Club!

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Garden Club  meets every Thursday during lunch time. Students have the opportunity to meet new friends, make delicious garden fresh recipes, care for the chickens, and get involved with other garden activities while earning service learning points.

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Here students get to harvest 3 fresh eggs from the coop and make a delicious scramble and fresh salad!

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Students made Vietnamese salad roles last week with lettuce and carrots.

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Students love the hens in garden club. They even came up with their names, Ginger, Night shade, and Daisy.

What’s New in the Garden!

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Welcome to our new APG Garden Program blog! Here you will find updates on what classes are doing in the garden, workday info and garden related happenings.

This spring so much is  blossoming in our outdoor  classroom. We currently have 9 classes coming out to the garden engaging in hands on project based lessons that tie in with curriculum. Classes also include practical garden maintenance skills like planting, pruning, composting and chicken care just to name a few. Our general rules for the garden are,

1. Respect all living things– (People, plants and animals)
2. Try something new
3. Get dirty
and more importantly,
4. Have fun!

Here a 6th grade student tries something new during a sensory scavenger hunt, a piece of lettuce straight from one of our cut-and-come again salad beds.

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All classes have had the chance to get  familiar with the garden tools they will be using. Here a 6th grade class is learning the Tai-Chi of tools to help with good posture and form to keep from getting injured while working.

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Mr. Ellsworth’s class is having fun learning the proper way to flip compost.

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Here two 7th grade students in Mr. Johnson’s class are planting lettuce seeds for a new salad bed.

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