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

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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

REGISTER HERE 
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 www.dcgo.org.

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!

Installed! Chesnut’s New Math “Pie Garden” (The “E” in “Pie” Is Intentional)

Who doesn’t love a good math pun? Even if you don’t, you’ll love the results of Chesnut’s most recent Clean and Beautiful workday. C&B Chair Andrew Hirst once again led us in a well-planned project with professional outcome.

We’re talking about the final installation of Chesnut’s Math Garden, now dubbed the “Pie Garden,” by our clever Garden Leader Carissa Malone, so that we can grow produce that would either top a pizza pie, or be the filling of a delicious fruit pie. This garden was conceived by Chesnut’s School Master Gardeners, kindergarten teachers Mark Chicoine and Ginna Hobgood, 2nd grade teacher Leah Little, and school counselor Betty Sule, who also all act as Ecology Club faculty sponsors.

WP_20150328_001WP_20150328_006WP_20150328_003Several Chesnut families worked together to level the land, add concrete block edging, infill with gravel and finally relocate the recently constructed pie slice planters in their proper formation. The end result is meant to mimic a large pie, with one slice missing. Now when our students need to study their shapes, they’ll find triangular-esque pie slices (or can the kids figure out which shape they could really make by filling in the missing slice?), circular tree stumps and herb planters, and rectangular raised beds outside in Chesnut Garden.

WP_20150328_009WP_20150328_008In our final hour we also managed to rehang the “How Did It Taste?” sign and construct a compost bin out of salvaged pallets our master gardeners had collected for this purpose. The new large composting stall will allow room for any cafeteria scraps (kudos to our cafeteria staff who has begun composting!) and end-of-season plants to begin breaking down, before being moved to our compost tumblers for the final product – nutrient-dense compost that will feed a future garden crop.

Coconut Collards for All!

In March’s Ecology Club meeting, the fourth and fifth graders accomplished much in only one hour. First they harvested three planters of collard greens that were going to seed, and cleared all the decaying plant parts to the compost pile. Then they washed up and divided their harvest into bags they delivered to more than a dozen teachers of their choosing. Meanwhile, some cooked up a batch of greens for tasting, while others made hand-written copies of the recipe to attach to the teachers’ collard greens bundles.

Whistling While We Work

The students paired off to efficiently harvest more than a dozen collard green plants Ms. Little’s 2nd/3rd grade Ecology group had planted in Chesnut Garden. One partner snipped away, while the other made trips to the compost pile with decaying leaves. The students were so content performing this task that they started up a cheery work song — the theme song to the “Little Einsteins” children’s show. No one felt too old or too cool to join in. They were like happy worker bees. And they were very pleased with the outcome of their efforts – they filled up one tall yard waste paper bag!

While we worked, Mrs. Renals quizzed the students on their gardening knowledge, and they were quick to help each other deduce:

  • Smaller collard green leaves taste more tender and sweeter than bigger/older leaves.
  • We remove all decaying material from our garden because it attracts decomposers who might eat our new plantings.
  • Collard green flowers look and taste like broccoli because the plants are related, as they are to all cruciferous vegetables, including brussel sprouts, cauliflower, cabbage, kale and bok choi.
  • Dark leafy greens are a rich source of calcium, in place of dairy.
  • Perennial edibles that don’t have to be reseeded every year in Georgia include: herbs like rosemary, sage, oregano, thyme, mint; fruit trees, berry brambles, grape vines and asparagus.

Coconut Greens Gift Bags – Chesnut Changer Approved!

The students were proud of their bounty, and so, as soon as all hands were scrubbed, Ms. Sule organized the distribution of greens. Ms. Renals’ favorite part was the students’ excitement at choosing the recipients: “Can we give a bag of greens to Ms. Q?!” They loved making personal deliveries, and in one case, Mya Burrowes left a note in her teacher’s mailbox, telling her where to find her stashed bag of greens in the teachers’ lounge. They were like garden elves, and they loved the giving. They made more than a dozen bundles, attaching a “Coconut Collard Greens” recipe to each one.

Meanwhile, Sofia Renals and Madison Hummel worked together to cook up a small batch of Coconut Collards for tasting. Students and teachers alike came back for more, and the kids were impressed at how delicious something so healthy could be.

At-Home Action Icon canstockphoto2179142At-Home Action: Make Coconut Greens

  • One bunch greens (like collards, kale, swiss chard, cabbage, bok choi)
  • One tablespoon coconut oil
  • Salt

Chop greens into 2″ squares. Heat coconut oil in skillet on medium heat. Toss greens in skillet for 5 to 10 minutes. Salt to taste and enjoy!

Making a Home for Mason Bees at Chesnut

IMG_0524When the fourth and fifth graders voted on second semester Chesnut Changer activities, they agreed they wanted to do more to take care of animals in our environment. Some suggested building birdhouses or bat houses. Then we remembered that insects are part of the animal kingdom, and we might do something that was beneficial to both the bugs and our garden.

So in our February meeting, we read this article together to learn how honeybee populations are suffering, making it difficult for these pollinators to handle all our nation’s crops. We watched excerpts from this “Growing a Greener World” episode about mason bees to discover how this native bee is a hard-working, gentle pollinator that rarely stings.

Then we got to work using recycled materials (paper grocery bags, toilet paper rolls, reused flower pot) to create a place for mason bees to nest. We also filled two reused canisters brought from home to send more mason bee nests out into the world. The students finished by drafting a letter to the Facilities Action Team Chair to ask for help with the Chesnut Garden installation:ScanAt-Home Action Icon canstockphoto2179142AT-HOME ACTION:  Raise Mason Bees to Grow Our Bee Population

By making your own mason bee nests, and participating in the Crown Bees company’s “Bee BuyBack” program, your family can help increase our country’s pollinator population. For more information, go to the “When to Do What” tab on the Crown Bees website.