On Jan. 16, 2014, Ecology Club learned how to upcycle. Upcycling is when you take something you don’t need and make it useful.
We took an empty milk carton and made wallets. First we cut the top and bottom and cleaned it out with a disinfectant wipe. Then we folded it into 3 creases. We pulled it back up and cut the sides to the first crease. We put duct tape on the sides and corners. Finally, we folded it in and on the creases, then put Velcro on it and you are done.
AT-HOME ACTION: Upcycle any composite material container into a wallet or coin purse. To try this at home, use any composite material and follow these instructions.
This month Chesnut begins participating in its first TerraCycle brigade, giving Chesnut students a way to reduce their footprint every day at school. Our thanks go to new Wellness Team parent Alison Bardill, whose dream it was to launch this program ever since she attended Kindergarten Round-up.
TerraCycle is an international upcycling and recycling company that collects difficult-to-recycle packaging and products and repurposes the material into affordable, innovative products.
To understand the importance of this program, we began discussing the “Three R’s” (reducing, reusing/upcycling and recycling – in that order) in our after-school Ecology Club meetings. We watched this video on how traditional landfills operate, and this TerraCycle “What Is Garbage?” video to introduce the idea of “zero waste:” life without garbage.
It claims a startling statistic, “99% of everything you buy becomes garbage within one year of purchase.”
This TerraCycle Drink Pouch Brigade video demonstrates how Chesnut students can now reduce their trash while giving their empty drink pouches new life. During lunch or the after school program, empty plastic drink pouches (with or without straws) and empty drink pouches with spouts can be placed in two collection containers, located in the school cafeteria. TerraCycle sponsors pay for our collections to be shipped to TerraCycle where they are made into innovative products from tote bags and pencil cases to plastic lumber and pavers. On top of helping the Earth, for each unit of waste collected, Chesnut will earn TerraCycle points redeemable for donations to the school.
Right before winter break, Chesnut students arriving at the gym for P.E. were greeted by members of Chesnut’s Wellness Team. Coach Lonny Dykema, alongside PTC Wellness Team parents Jo Chin, Angela Renals and Jessica Spencer, launched Chesnut’s second series of Farm to School nutrition lessons. After reviewing how this lesson — “Tasting a Rainbow of Plants” — had gone the previous year, the group had altered some of the activities to increase student participation and applied learning opportunities.
The goal was for students to be able to:
- Identify the six plant parts and understand that all produce we eat is a plant part
- Understand the value of eating many colors of fruits and veggies every day
- Taste fruits and vegetables of various colors
- Make suggestions as to how to add color to their plates.
To meet these objectives and the correlating National Health Education Standards, Coach’s team devised a lesson plan with three main activities:
1. “What’s in Your Grocery Bag?” – Plant Part Identification Game: Students split into groups, each with a poster depicting the 6 plant parts (root, stem, leaf, flower, fruit, seed) and a grocery bag with a variety of fresh produce that the children were to place in the correct places on their posters. The kids dove in, passed their bags around, and largely correctly labeled their items. The challenges were at times the coconut (seed), garbanzo bean (seed) and asparagus (stem AND flower).
2. “Tasting a Rainbow:” Students each received a mini rainbow to sample: one snap pea (green), olive (blue/purple), chickpea (white/tan), bell pepper (yellow), pear slice (red) and kumquat (orange). We hunted for each by color, tasted, then challenged the students to name the food. Just as the slightly exotic pomegranate was a favorite last year (and requested again this year), the unknown kumquat met with rave reviews this year. Part of the fun in these lessons is encouraging the kids to be open to trying new foods and to developing a taste for them. We also discuss why we left the skin on their pears, and why we eat the kumquat’s peel: because the color (in the skin) tells us where many of the nutrients are.
3. “Turn This Plate from Simple to Super:” Slides depicted various typical kids’ meals (bowl of cereal, mac n cheese, cheese pizza, hamburger and fries, school lunch with chicken fingers and fries) alongside a rainbow of whole fruits and vegetables. We asked the kids to suggest how they could add more color to their meal with colorful whole foods. We had so many hands in the air with suggestions, we had to take 3 or 4 for each meal. When items like ketchup, Fruit Loops or pepperoni were suggested, we had an opportunity to compare colorful whole foods to colorful processed, or changed foods, and think about which gives our body more fuel (“super powers”).
Back in October, Ms. Little’s second grade science class came out to the garden to harvest lettuce and taste it in a salad. After the empty bowls had been cleared away, it was time to get to work! Garden Leader Carissa Malone had placed pencils into the soil to show the kids where to plant each clove of garlic.
After planting a clove, students removed the pencil to mark the space as full. The pencils turned out to be the perfect garlic planting tool because in addition to holding available planting spaces, they helped the children push the cloves down into the soil (cloves need to be planted 4-6 inches deep).
Last year, as part of their science curriculum, Chesnut’s Kindergarteners started sweet potato slips in their classrooms, which they planted in Chesnut Garden on the last day of school. It was only fitting then, that they be the ones to dig in the dirt this fall to see what had become of their crop.
They had planted two beds of sweet potatoes and, unintentionally, a third (when vines sprung up in the compost bed where the starter potatoes had been left to decompose).
Pitchforks in hand, Garden Leader Carissa Malone, two mothers from Ms. Radford’s class and first grade teachers Ms. Jordan, Ms. Radford and Ms. Landis guided the children’s garden work. The kids could recall the process of growing and planting their sweet potato slips, and had a blast hunting for the rewards of their work and patience.
After wiping off their sweet potatoes with paper towels, the student farmers weighed them, and divided the harvest into brown bags to take home and share with their families. The sweet potato vines (which could also be prepared like any leafy green and eaten), were added to Chesnut Garden’s new compost tumblers, where they’ll become rich soil amendment for future crops.
Ms. Jordan concluded the outing with a math exercise as the students gathered on the tree stump seats, to calculate the total pounds harvested: 31.4 — enough to send every child home with a sweet potato, and hopefully, something more. Like a taste of the feeling of self-sufficiency.
Worms are interesting creatures. Worms are both boys and girls. You can care for worms yourself.
This is how:
Take a container, such as a jar. Rip newspaper into strips. Wet the strips, then put them in your container. Finally, put the worms in. The worms will multiply very quickly.
Worms can eat half of their own body weight each day. You can feed them compost, such as the peel from an orange. Do not feed the worm too much. Caring for worms is fun! You should try it!
Our thanks to Trecia Neal at the Fernbank Science Center for teaching us about worms and composting at our October Chesnut Changers Ecology Club meeting.
Thanks to a record after-school Ecology Club enrollment from our kindergarten families, and the initiative of our kindergarten teacher Master School Gardeners in Training — Ms. Hobgood and Mr. Chicoine — the kindergarten science curriculum will now feature hands-on Ecology and Farm to School lessons!
Ms. Hobgood and Mr. Chicoine have secured Ms. Williams’ support in launching these new units for all four kindergarten classes. As a result, instead of staying after school for a monthly meeting, kindergarteners now experience ecology/Farm to School fundamentals built into their daily science lessons.
Lessons throughout October include:
- Fruits and Vegetables: Compare/contrast various fruits and vegetables; play “What Veggie Am I?” game
- Worms Help the Earth: Support science standard on plants, using the garden to identify compost critters; Master School Gardener Christen Ramo (former Chesnut teacher and mom of a current Chesnut kindergartener) to guest teach worm unit
- Sheltering Animals: Build a “Critter Garden” in Chesnut’s backyard using painted rocks from first Ecology Club meeting; create rock garden with hiding and burrowing places
Much thanks to Ms. Hobgood, Mr. Chicoine and Principal Williams for launching yet another creative approach to learning at Chesnut Charter!