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).

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!

Chesnut Changers Become Predators, Prey and Migratory Fowl

Our first 4th/5th grader Ecology Club meeting was our best kick-off meeting yet, because of guest leader William Betz, who recently graduated UGA with a Bachelor’s of Science in Forestry. Known to many of the kids as “Billy,” the head lifeguard at the neighborhood pool, Mr. Betz was immediately enthusiastic when asked to teach our kids some of what he knows. He devised and led two games to teach us about animal survival skills and habitat loss.
First we played the Thicket Game, in which the “predator” must stand in one place, close his/her eyes and count to 30 while all the other “prey” hide. Whichever prey the predator can see from his/her vantage point is called out and becomes a predator for the next round, during which the prey must move closer to the predator. Mr. Betz led the pre-game discussion, during which the students named animal adaptations that help prey survive (i.e., camouflage, scaling trees, etc.). As we played, we paused to think about why prey would ever intentionally move closer to its predator (i.e., habitat loss), and what made some of the students acting as prey better at “staying alive” (i.e., staying still, wearing colors that blended in with the environment).
Next we moved to the lower field to become migratory water birds. For this Migration Headache game, Mr. Betz created three areas:  the nesting habitat, stopover habitat and wintering habitat. The kids gave examples of migratory water fowl (herons, cranes, etc.) and then transformed into their best bird-selves (one stretching the definition to become a dragon instead), flapping their wings and cawing as they migrated from the nesting habitat to the stopover habitat. At first, there were enough stopover bases for all the birds, but as the game progressed, habitat loss occurred, and some slightly tearful birds had no place to land. They cheered up when they became baby birds in the nesting habitat by the game’s end, at which point we discussed human events (draining a swamp for new construction, polluting water) and natural events (drought, avalanche, tsunami) that create habitat loss.

When Mr. Betz asked what humans could do to help, the kids suggested making laws to preserve natural wildlife habitats, creating national parks, and planting trees.

The Chesnut Changers thank Billy Betz for lending his expertise and time to make our first meeting so informative and action-packed!

Where Can You Buy Organic Seedlings Locally?

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

WHEN: Sunday, October  5, 1-4 pm

WHERE: Inside Brook Run Park

VEGETABLES:

Arugula (Rocket and Wild)
Collards
Cilantro
Broccoli
Brussels Sprouts
Cauliflower
Mustard Greens
Bok Choy
Lettuce (Several varieties)
Endive
Kale (Italian and Blue)
Kohlrabi
Dill

PERENNIALS:

Columbine
Hellebores
Japanese Maple Trees (small)
Hollyhocks
Candy Lily
Balloon Flower
Toad Lily

A Start to Garbage-Free Living for Chesnut Students

IMG_4031This 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. terracycle image

“I Ate A Rainbow and Now I Feel So Strong, I Could Pick Up the School!”

2013-12 Chesnut Rainbow SuperKid copyRight 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:

Roots, stems, leaves, flowers, fruits and seeds

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).

Many kids asked for more

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.

rainbow of produce3. “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”).

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Chesnut 1st Graders Double As Sweet Potato Farmers

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.