Archive for June, 2011

Boy does this look exciting!

First of all, I had no idea there was a group or entity called nor do I have any personal connection to it. But this link to the Engaging Our Grounds International Green Schoolyard Conference looks really exciting. Click on the list of Presenters for a clue. Even though I have no job, and no school garden yet, I might go just for inspiration! But at $300, I also am thinking what it would cost to launch a garden wherever I land. 🙂

One stylish school garden in Fresno

Vegetables are coming in and The Giving Garden at Rata High in Fresno is just getting greener. Makes me smile every time I pass it. Take a look at their latest photos if you want to see what a stylish school garden can look like.  Not sure what I’ll be doing by August because like so many other teachers, I’ve been laid off. Several irons in the fire. Meanwhile, I stop and smell the …. vegetables.

Garden designed for disabled students

Excited parents can get a lot done working together. They are the impetus behind the new Giving Garden at Rata High School in Fresno, just down the street from me. Check out this Fresno Bee story, Once the garden grows in a little more, I hope to post a few pix of features that would work for any school garden. They had an architect design theirs, and some parents do the pitching to sponsors for the project.

The parents did a great job, and you can talk to them on Facebook, It’s one of the most lovely designs I have seen, and I have toured several school gardens in Santa Cruz, Sacramento, Riverside and now Fresno. Who knows, maybe you’ll find something inspiring in this story like I do.  🙂

Garden in a CD case

That’s right! A CD with a small lima bean inside can be immersed in water, compared with seeds with no water, and for older grades, compared with different solution strengths of added Miracle Gro. Simple two-page directions with opportunities to chart for math skills. Now I have a use for all those CD cases from some band that I got for a song at a garage sale. Source: the National Ag Science Center in Modesto, and originally from the Resource Area for Teachers in San Jose. Check out the link:

I want to take the tour!

Dealing with vandals in a school garden

If you struggle with vandalism, you will enjoy this quick read from Rodale about an experience bringing vandals into the circle. When the vandals are younger, this can work. But you have to catch them first!

Teaching How to Read a Seed Packet

A student's work

My students learned how to read a seed packet by writing titles or summaries for the parts of information on the packet. This ties into the sixth grade standard RC2.1 Identify the structural features of popular media (e.g., newspapers, magazines, online information) and use the features to obtain information. Now, it’s not the listed “for example” sources, but the same idea — How do I find meaning in the words in front of me? By using the titles and the arrangement of the graphics.

How I organized the materials: I copied fronts and backs of seed packets — flowers and vegetables — on my color printer at home. I precut them out using the table cutter at school. Kids flipped them over, and I came by and put a glue dot in each corner — faster than passing out glue sticks, listening to complaints about ones that are dried up, don’t work, out of glue, etc. They could arrange them on their own page, as long as there was room to write some information.

How I introduced the concept: First, I showed a web page that I had posted on my own FB page. This got attention because they couldn’t believe their teacher was hip enough to be on FB! That was my first laugh. Then I clicked over to I used this to introduce the idea that there is information, organized a certain way to help you find what you need to know. The red outlining of the pieces of the packet reads easily to little thinkers on the big screen. Then I reminded them they were learning a standard, and introduced the standard. Fourth-graders were impressed they were learning sixth-grade skills.

How I taught about their packet: I modeled, used “think alouds,” and asked students to share out they would guess based on what they saw.

None of them had read a seed packet before, but a few had seen them. I modeled what to write on on their papers using the digital overhead projector, while “thinking aloud” about how the info was organized. I also used the real seed packets under the camera, so they got the feel of the packet since they had only copies.

Examples of my think alouds: “These letters are all capital letters, and the type size is the largest, so that tells me this is the most general information about what seeds are in this packet.” “This picture shows me what the plant will look like full grown, not when it’s just sprouting, not when it’s half-grown, but when it’s done.” “This graphic on the back is a planting guide. It has categories on the top that are shown with little graphic icons — the sun is a symbol for how much sun it needs, the scissors are a symbol for when you can harvest.” “The words below tell the answer, so for Cilantro, I can harvest All Season.”

My lessons learned:

Use seed packets from the same company so that the information is organized in the same way. For a large group, it is too confusing to use different companies packets. I mostly used Cornucopia seeds bought at Target, partly because the graphics were easy to read. I also had some Renee’s Garden and Burpee Signature but should have stuck with just Cornucopia. At the time I put it together, I was thinking that I wanted them to see how much variety there is in what seed packets look like. But for teaching, they need to be more similar so the kids can follow more easily.

Add some odd plants into the mix, for your kids who might rather be doing something else. I picked plants students had eaten, for familiarity. Next time, I will pass out some weird-looking food seeds for students not into this, to raise their interest. Purple carrots, for example. That might mean using only Renee’s Garden seeds, which are more expensive!

The kids enjoyed this activity, even though I feared they might be bored. Why? Because they got to handle glue, and had materials in color. They felt like they were building something with their seed info posters, like they were cracking the code!

Grass heads

Do you know any of these people?

Wish I’d taken a picture! During my gardening class, one student brought the used sock I’d asked for. In fact, she brought two, kid-sized, both with patterns on them. So after school, we did the craft I’d envisioned if all 31 of the others had brought socks. We made grass heads, from the book “What Shall I Grow?” (Usborne Publishing/Scholastic), 1999. They call ’em Green-haired creatures. Attached is the book’s version. If you do this with patterned socks, buttons that are solid colored are definitely best. I used pins with plastic heads on them, from Walmart — about $2.50 for 100. I picked solid colors for the pinheads, but there is pearlized available too. They give the eyes pupils. Grass grew as pictured. I also spritzed the top with water the first few days. The principal happened to see this project and loved it.



1. Wet an old sock. Put it into a mug, or a wide-mouth cup (like we did — not carting 30+ mugs to school).

2. Use a spoon to spread lots of grass seed all over the bottom.

3. Fill sock with potting soil.

4. Wrap a rubber band tightly around the sock, just above dirt line. Chop off sock top.

5. Pour water onto top of sock. Lift it up, and let water drip off.

6. Turn it upside down. Put in high-rimmed saucer or plastic container (deli meat containers, recycled, work great). Pour water around.

7. Push a plastic-topped pin thru button hole to make nose. Again, for eyes. Experiment with size and color for best looks.

8. Put grass-head in warm, light room. Keep top watered well. Grass appears in a few days.

%d bloggers like this: