Here’s a great post about garden-based learning from a blog in Texas that I started to follow recently. Here’s to many more garden experiences for children in 2013!

DALLAS GARDEN BUZZ

Happy New Year from

The Earth-Kind® WaterWise Demonstration Garden

 on Joe Field Road. 

We hope you will take steps in 2013 to cure Nature Deficit Order.

 Book a trip our garden!

Excerpts from the Great American Campout website and American Academy of Pediatrics: 

  • An “indoor childhood” hurts bodies & spirits.
  • Today’s kids are more likely to “tag” a friend on Facebook than outdoors in a game of “freeze tag.”
  • Kids today run from school to activities to sports w/ barely a minute to catch their breath.  Loss of free time can contribute to stress, anxiety, & depression in children. (American Academy of Pediatrics)
  • Studies show being outdoors is the perfect anecdote.  Time in green spaces reduces children’s tension levels & enhances their social interactions, helping them to feel more connected to self and others. 

Learning in the Garden 

Sources cited:

  • Growing Food LiFE Curriculum Series
  •  Botany on Your Plate (Univ…

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Keyhole Gardening

There’s always something new and interesting to learn about in the gardening world. I thought I’d share this interesting post about keyhole gardening today. I’ve never heard of this idea which was developed in Africa to conserve water and resources. Wouldn’t this be a great addition to a home or school garden?

DALLAS GARDEN BUZZ

Keyhole gardening is considered an “African survival strategy” in a land of scarce resources and unforgiving climate.  According to reports from the BBC, 3 keyhole gardens can feed an African family of 10 for an entire year. 

A humanitarian aid organization in southern Africa developed this particular sustainable gardening method.  The design originates in permaculture which is a branch of ecological design & engineering that develops sustainable human settlements & self-maintained agricultural systems modeled from natural ecosystems. 

          A keyhole garden is the “ultimate raised-bed planter.” It consists of a circular shape w/ a 6 foot diameter & stands about waist-high.  A notched-in section like a pie-shaped wedge allows access to the plants.  It can be constructed from local recycled materials & incorporates a central composting basket into which food scraps/organic wastes are placed.  The garden is also watered through this basket.  It uses far less water than conventional gardens &…

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A Few Thoughts About Garden-Based Learning

This morning over coffee I read this link   to a story about garden-based learning on Jamie Oliver’s website. It describes a school program in Morgantown, West Virginia and the work that’s being done to teach children experientially, using the garden. It sounds quite similar to the garden that I talked about here when I blogged about the Nathaniel Bowditch School in Salem last summer. Gardens are popping up in schools all over the country as we come to realize that our children need to learn, in a very hands on way, about where their food comes from, or perhaps I should say “where it should come from”.  Many American children are growing up with the idea that food comes from a box at the grocery store. I recently sent some zucchini home with one of my kid’s friends and heard later that they had no idea what it was. It really made me think about what I could do to share home grown food with people. I’ve always liked to give vegetables and eggs away.  Now I’m trying to give them to those who might not experience them often rather than to those whom I know will appreciate them. Even if someone looks at the zucchini on the counter for a few days wondering about how to cook it, then tosses it, at least there’s some thought about where it grew. Sorry, I’m digressing a bit, the point is, kids (and adults) really benefit from the hands on experience of planting, growing, harvesting and eating. Most kids don’t experience this at home for so many reasons so it needs to happen in school. Their health and the health of our planet depends on it.  Check out the link if you have a few minutes, think about giving some veggies away freely, and consider supporting your local school’s garden.

Thank you for indulging me for a few minutes while I stood on my soapbox! Sometimes I just can’t help it 😉

Enjoy Everything!

Michele

Potato Day!!!

The moment you’ve all been waiting for has finally arrived!

Yesterday we harvested our pot of potatoes!

We had a few friends visiting after school who helped out.

Here comes the wheelbarrow.

The team lifted up the pot and dumped it in!

Success!!

We found  the pottery and rocks that we’d put in for drainage.

And here they go, a treasure hunt for potatoes…the kids loved this!

We were all quite surprised to find potatoes in there!

Everyone found a few..

Here’s our little harvest. Next summer we’re planning to plant several pots, start toward the bottom third of each pot and gradually add soil as the plants grow. We did a little bit of that but probably not enough.  For this year, we were just excited to see that we grew potatoes!

 After we’d removed potatoes and pottery the girls spent about twenty minutes digging around in the dirt and admiring the amazing bugs that they found. That made my day!

This is what gardening with children is all about!

Green in the Middle, A Salem Public Schools Garden Program

This week I was invited to visit the “Green in the Middle” garden at the Nathaniel Bowditch School, here in Salem.  The garden began as part of a garden club at the school’s former location on Federal Street. Now it’s the work of a group of middle school students and teachers who participate in an after school program during the fall and spring and a morning summer program. The participants plan, maintain and enjoy this amazing space and in the process learn about subjects in the STEM areas (science, technology, engineering and math).

Over the past three years the students have designed and installed many great features like this spiral stone path and the bench around the Silk tree.

There are raised beds full of flowers, herbs and vegetables! It’s beautifully done!

Many aspects of gardening are being explored.

From a simple, perfect hibiscus flower…

to a variety of heirloom tomatoes that are grown from seed in the greenhouse.

A great pumpkin plant is creeping across the yard…

and a gourd is tucked in, with morning glories for company.

I found swiss chard with cucumbers about to climb over them. This is a great idea for my garden next year!

The corn is coming right along.

I also found some beautiful pepper plants. Notice the army of watering cans in the background? Lots of work is underway here!

Colorful cement blocks decorated by students define the butterfly garden.


and beautiful decorations are everywhere!

After my visit I spoke with my friend Deborah Trammell, one of the teachers who works with the program. She described some of the educational opportunities that the garden offers this way:

 “The students designed, mapped, built, planted, studied and wrote about the garden. Some of the highlights are our composter (around the corner), increase in number of raised beds, butterfly garden against wall, spiral pathway. Many of our plants are started by seed in our greenhouse. We have many heirloom varieties of tomatoes. We have made lots of food from our plants,made bird houses, seed paper,planters …soaps, sachets, linen sprays which we have sold to raise money to donate, learned about pollinators and organic gardening, mapping, construction, fundraising and hard physical work…and so many other things” 

I’d love to see more programs like this. As a parent I have a huge appreciation of the value of gardening with children. It was exciting to visit this beautiful Salem garden where everything the garden teaches is shared and encouraged. I really believe that the world would be a better place if every child could learn from a garden!

Michele

A Great Stop in DC—The US Botanic Garden, Children’s Garden

We were in Washington DC a few weeks ago and I treated myself to a walk in the US Botanic Garden.  I would have taken my  family with me for my walk but it was literally 108 degrees that day. They stayed in the cool air conditioned Smithsonian while I enjoyed the garden. Needless to say I had the whole thing to myself and it was glorious! I spent about 45 minutes relaxing and taking in every nook and cranny. One of the highlights was the Children’s Garden. It’s a beautiful child friendly oasis in the middle of all of the DC action.

The Children’s Garden is located just outside of the huge conservatory.

The plants are so varied.  The  shapes, colors, sizes and textures are really engaging.

The posted rules are simple and child friendly.

I saw pots of plants waiting for kids to put into the ground themselves.

Unfortunately I missed the photo, but I loved the concept!

There’s a fountain (pictured on the left) that children can play in and use to water plants. There’s a wonderful green-roofed playhouse!Along with places to hide and run…and to pretend and just “be”…It was easy to get lost in the whimsy and fun.

I hope that next time my children are in the photos too!

They would have enjoyed this… it’s a great place for families to learn, relax and spend time together while enjoying Washington DC.

I could have stayed for hours!

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Early Morning Helpers

Early Sunday morning I went out to find my little guy taking care of the chickens. He’s heading over to tend to the babies, poop scraper in hand!

Here he is hard at work, but if you look closely to the left you’ll notice an escape is underway.

Uh oh! We have church soon and they can’t be left to wander safely yet.

Winnie the Wonderdog wants to help!

This photo doesn’t exactly fit in to the story but my son enhanced it himself, and it’s a cute shot, so here it is!  I think he did a great job!

Getting back to what was happening… here’s little sister to the rescue!

She’ll help round them up again!

“Where should we go? How do we get back in there?”

“I’ll save you!”

She’s a great little chicken handler!

On to the big girls… it’s a tough life for these urban chicken kids!

Enjoy Everything!

A Big Pot of Potatoes!

I tried to plant potatoes in a raised bed a few years ago with  no success at all. My memory of the failure is that we thought that raccoons might have dug them up.  We found the seed potatoes scattered around the garden. Since it’s been a few years it seems like time to try again. I’m hoping that if we plant them in a container and keep them outside the back door, we’ll have greater success. So in the middle of all the rain yesterday my youngest kids and I did some potato planting!

 I sliced the potatoes in half early in the day. The owner of our local Agway recommended this when I bought them. Everything that I read said that drying the potatoes out for a few hours would help prevent rot.

Before we started we gathered up our materials:

  • the cut potatoes
  •  a bag of organic potting soil
  • A great pot that my Mother-in-Law painted for me (I love this, it’s so cute!)
  • A trowel
  • A kid, ready to dig!

We filled the bottom of the pot with broken up clay pots and rocks to help with drainage. Ideally, I would have put a layer of screening on top of this but I couldn’t find any and I knew that my husband was busy at a conference this afternoon. So, we skipped that step. I think it will be okay.

The kids added soil to the pot.. of course they loved this!

When the pot was half full it was time to add the potatoes. We placed them in with the sprouts facing up.

We added another two inches of soil and moved them outside, then we watered them in with rainwater that had fallen throughout the day.

And now we’ll watch them grow! We planted them halfway up the pot with the idea that as the potatoes form we’ll keep mounding the soil over them so that more can grow. I’m looking forward to seeing how this goes. We’ll keep you posted!

I can just hear them growing in there! I think the cats can too!