Introducing Chesnut’s New Garden Club

Many thanks to School Master Gardener and 1st grade teacher Ms. Jodee Christian for starting up Chesnut’s new Garden Club! Ms. Ginna Hobgood, School Master Gardener and Kindergarten teacher and Mr. William Betz, previous Ecology Club guest teacher and new Chesnut para, joined her in welcoming 3rd, 4th and 5th graders for weekly Garden Club meetings in the first semester. The group planted, harvested and used our new mobile cooking cart from the Captain Planet Foundation Project Learning Garden grant to prepare some delicious whole food recipes.

In second semester, the Garden Club has a new roster, giving the younger grades a chance to participate in these after-school meetings. Never fear, our first graders were still learning in the garden in first semester. Here they are harvesting the sweet potatoes they planted as Kindergarteners. Harvests aren’t always bountiful, but certainly do always teach a lesson. This year we learned about the food chain and photosynthesis when deer munched on the sweet potato vines over the summer, thereby dwarfing our sweet potato crop. (Chesnut’s Facilities Action Team is working on a fencing solution for next year).

Time to Start Your Fall/Winter Veggie Garden

dcg plant sale

WHAT: Dunwoody Community Garden Fall Plant Sale (Includes organically grown cool weather vegetables and perennials)

WHEN: Saturday and Sunday, October  1 & 2, 9 am – 5 pm

WHERE: Brook Run Greenhouse Complex (on the right by the skate park)


Bok Choy
Brussels Sprouts
Mustard Greens


Blue Balloon Flowers
Fern, Autumn
Fern, Dixie Woodland
Fern, Ribbon
Fern, Southern Wood
Lily, Canna
Lily, Ginger
Hollyhock, Zebra
Hosta, variegated
Hosta, standard
Iris, Japanese Roof Top
Iris, repeating
Orchid, Chinese ground
Passion Flower vine
Spider Plants
Sweet William

Chesnut Earns AdvancED STEM Certification and Sets Gardening Capstone (Grades K-1) and Hydroponics Capstone (Grade 2)

One of the most exciting pieces of news yet for Chesnut’s Gardening and Farm to School programs is that in earning AdvancED STEM certification (awarded last May) the faculty chose to set Gardening as the K-1 capstone and Hydroponics as the 2nd grade capstone. STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math, and ultimately permeates all core subjects by encouraging children to innovate and think critically, whatever the task at hand. STEM activities teach that a setback is a normal part of a work-in-progress, because students are expected to learn from their previous efforts and apply those lessons until they succeed.

Some may not at first see the connection between food production and engineering or technology, but any farmer can tell you it is most certainly a daily reality! Chesnut faculty developed our own Engineering Design Model which trains student engineers to 1. Ask a question, 2. Imagine the possibilities, 3. Plan a solution, 4. Create it using materials they select, 5. Test and Modify it, then adjust and repeat until successful.


For example, last spring when the fifth graders were out in the garden, they worked together to solve several problems surrounding irrigation. In a daisy chain of rain barrels, the fourth rain barrel had become disconnected, but was three-quarters full of water. Students had to analyze the situation, diagnose the problem (the rain barrel had shifted too far from the connector), try various solutions (pushing it back into place, first with one person, then with the strength of several), until finally finding a way to tip the barrel from side to side to take advantage of the force of the swaying water inside to generate enough force to push the barrel close enough to connect.


Next, upon going to fill up a watering can from the rain barrel, they discovered a leak in the watering can. Again, the solution process began. Ultimately they found a material to plug the hole that would hold, and allow them to use the watering can to water their newly planted radish seeds. In the radish seed planting, there was of course a math lesson, as we calculated the maximum number of rows, space 6″ apart, would fit inside our raised garden bed dimensions. And there was a social studies tie-in, because the fifth graders had been discussing World War II food shortages and the answering swell of victory gardens in the United States. Like those 1940s families, we were challenging ourselves to maximize production in a small plot of land.


While some students planted radish seeds, others were learning about the plant life cycle by tasting this science lesson. Students pulled up lettuce plants that had gone to seed and passed out lettuce leaves, which they of course found very bitter. We discussed how the chemicals inside the plant change during its life cycle, and the students theorized why a plant would turn bitter as it prepared to drop its seeds.

One visit to Chesnut Garden afforded our children access to hands-on, real world, science, math, engineering and social studies lessons. And now that our K-2 STEM capstones involve the garden and hydroponics, we are encouraged that Chesnut Garden will serve even more as a learning lab for our students. We thank our teachers for adopting it as such and look forward to sharing more reports of hands-on learning in Chesnut Garden.


Kindergarteners and First Graders Study Pumpkin Life Cycle in Chesnut’s Pie Garden

We call them “volunteer plants” — seedlings that push up out of the garden unexpectedly, sometimes from a predecessor who left its seeds behind after decomposing in the compost pile.

Last August when the students returned to school, in addition to pumpkins they had planted, they were surprised to find other varieties that had cropped up out of a rotting pumpkin left to decay in our compost pile, whose soil had then been added to the Pie Garden.IMG_2774First grade teacher Ms. Radford seized on this opportunity to demonstrate the plant life cycle — a science standard — to the students, who observed the pumpkins (fruits) ripening on the plant vines. They chose one pumpkin to study its decay in Ms. Radford’s classroom all year, after which the students harvested those seeds for replanting in the Pie Garden.

Meanwhile, parent Garden Leader Carissa Malone put those squash to good use – by turning them into homemade pumpkin pie! The kindergarteners who had planted the pumpkins were treated not only to Ms. Malone’s delicious cooking, but also to a presentation she put together to demonstrate how their school-grown produce became a delectable treat. This reinforces a basic Farm to School objective, which is to debunk a misconception our children can sometimes have:  that food comes from grocery store shelves. In this case, it came from their school!

pumpkin scooped


Urban Farm Scavenger Hunt in Decatur This Saturday, 3/19


Come visit a real-life science lab – an organic farm! This scavenger hunt will feature hands-on interactive activities and engage kids and adults on all levels. Participants will explore pollinators, micro-organisms with microscopes, and nutrition plus we’ll have a tasty science activity with local Chef Phillip Meeker and a tractor ride!

What: Georgia Organics family event in partnership with the Atlanta Science Festival at Love is Love Farm
When: Saturday, March 19, 2016 from 12 p.m.- 5 p.m.
Who: Families with children (activities geared towards children 5 -12 years old)
Where: Love is Love Farm in Decatur,Georgia
Cost: $4 for Georgia Organics members, $5 for non-members

Note: there will be a tasting station, but no lunch served at this event.

FREE Gardening Class Feb. 13th at Dunwoody Community Garden

What:  “Raising Tomatoes” Class, part of Second Saturdays Education, led by DCG Master Gardeners

When:  Saturday, February 13, 2016, 11 am

Where:  Dunwoody Community Garden Greenhouse Complex (opposite the skate park in Brook Run, 4770 Georgia Way So.)

Cost:  FREE to the public, but DCG Barn seats about 50, so come early and enjoy a donut and a cup of coffee

imagesDetails:  Master Gardener Richard Osterholz will explain how and when to start and plant tomatoes, the benefits of planting seeds vs. transplants, heirloom vs. hybrid, proper care including weeding, watering, mulching, pruning and fertilization, problem-solving and more.

Visitors can also browse the DCG’s library of garden books and visit the greenhouses where DCG’s crop of more than thirty varieties of organic tomatoes has been started, to be sold at the DCS Spring Plant Sale in the second week of April. 

For more details, please visit

Is There A Chesnut Changer in the Schoolhouse?

IMG_0965IMG_0963Yes, now there are more than 400 of us!

With the recent win of a Captain Planet Foundation Project Learning Garden Grant, Chesnut has committed to a three-year program that will ultimately enable all faculty to teach math, social studies, science and language arts standards via outdoor lessons with a focus on environmentalism. As a result, we have disbanded our monthly after-school Ecology Club, and will instead focus our efforts on including all Chesnut students in such programs throughout the school year.

IMG_0969In a sense, the fourth and fifth grader Chesnut Changers’ wish came true — we did develop a “secret door to the garden” — by availing ourselves of Captain Planet’s resources to help build a school-wide culture around environmental stewardship. Captain Planet provides instructional materials including a mobile cooking cart, standards-based curriculum and faculty training, as well as Food Corps volunteers as classroom facilitators.

In addition to having five School Master Gardeners on staff, this month Chesnut will also have six Project Learning Garden trainees, including fifth grade teachers Ms. Bock and Ms. Wessels, fourth grade teachers Ms. Denson and Ms. Onorato, first grade teacher Ms. Skoog and school counselor Ms. Sule. More to come on what they bring back to Chesnut from their training. In the meanwhile, we will continue to share news of the latest Chesnut Changer happenings.

Closing out the last year of Ecology Club by cooking up a batch of recycled crayons in leaf shapes!