Archive for August, 2011

State schools superintendent to speak at Cultivating Health Central Valley schools summit

Will I see you Sept. 16 at this event in Fresno? The Healthy School Summit – Cultivating Healthy Central Valley Schools will feature keynote speaker Tom Torlakson, California Superintendent of Public Instruction. Check it out. Obesity among school children is a serious problem.

I look forward to finding out what role school gardens might have in addressing this problem. Others who would be interested: school personnel such as nurses, cafeteria managers, teachers and beyond; school board, community, youth and PTA leaders; and of course, farmers and growers. It’s an all-day 9:30-4 event.

This event is presented by the Central California Regional Obesity Prevention Program and funded by The California Endowment. RSVP requested by Sept. 12.

Six Reasons Why Kids Should Know How to Blog | MindShift

If I get a chance to teach a plants or gardening unit again, I will be adding a blog in there somehow. Exposing kids to this piece of the Internet is part of our district’s mission of creating “career-ready graduates,” even in the fourth grade! We aren’t quite up to eportfolios yet, and many of my students do not have Internet access at home. Still, the idea of letting kids control the messages sent about them is valuable. Maybe it would stop some of the abuse of the Internet by bullying teens. Six Reasons Why Kids Should Know How to Blog | MindShift.

Let’s “Mix it Up” with a School Garden to promote engagement

This story explores the evidence, said to be lacking, that our brains have particular “learning styles.” This message is still taught in teacher school. How about we teach children by “mixing it up” as this story promotes. As 2014 approaches, trying something new that’s really old might become vogue again. Why? Because all schools cannot all be “above average” by 2014. And even if a school as a whole tests proficient, certainly there will be groups left behind in the Annual Yearly Progress measures. Gardens would help “mix it up” and bring something new into the learning environment. We can teach standards through gardening. It doesn’t give the repetition that you can get in a classroom, but sometimes less is more when they are really paying attention.  On the other hand, how can I work in gardening when I have 33 fourth-graders in the class that I soon begin long-term subbing. I am looking forward to it, but yowza! IMHO, this story pushes it overboard, based on what I have seen teaching. We have preferences for how we remember details, or get engaged in a topic. And in what kind of environment we are talking about the brain operating? Brains working in a class of 33 is nothing like one brain working one-on-one with a teacher and/or assisted by computer learning or something else hands-on.

Greenhouse Could Revolutionize City Schools

This looks so amazingly cool! I know it’s New York but it doesn’t mean it couldn’t happen in Fresno! Just got to think outside the raised bed! The pricetag is pretty hefty, but I’ll have to follow their blog to see how it goes. Their goal is to expand eventually to 100 schools. Jamie Oliver should do something in New York, instead of hitting a wall in L.A. Greenhouse Could Revolutionize City Schools | GrowFresh Organics & More | Hydroponic Equipment, Supplies & Nutrients | Fort Smith, Arkansas.

Students from the Manhattan School for Children check out the plants in their new rooftop greenhouse on Monday. (Phoebe Zheng/The Epoch Times)

Organic farmer to speak at Community Gardening Conference

Don't forget to RSVP

Tom Willey will be the guest speaker at conference Sept. 3.

Tom Willey, of T&D Willey Farms, will be the lead speaker at the upcoming Community Garden Conference Sept. 10 in Fresno. Tom and Deneese run a 75-acre farm in Madera, according to their website They have been farming since 1980 and their farm became a certified organic operation in 1987. One look at their plantings, click the Year-Round Crops button to the left, reveals a diverse collection that follows the Mediterranean seasons of the San Joaquin Valley. I look forward to hearing what he has to say. Other topics will include starting a community garden, planning a plot, and keeping a school garden. We’ll also tour the Peach Community Garden. Bring your cameras in case you see an idea you’d like to steal or a plant you’d like to grow!

Art meets food preservation

WPA canning poster

Even if you're not into canning, you've got to love this for art's sake.

I couldn’t help but share this blog entry’s beautiful art. It’s actually from another blog, Margaret Roach’s blog A Way to Garden. But I first saw it on another one I follow, Retro Renovation by Pam Kueber. I myself am in a late ’50s home that we are slowly unremuddling. As a fan of retro fruit crate labels, I couldn’t help but share this poster beauty. Plus you get tips on canning, and strategies for choosing what you’ll plant based on what you’ll need in winter. Take a peek!

Great Sunflower Project

Great  Sunflower Project by mtnester
Great Sunflower Project, a photo by mtnester on Flickr.

I missed the July 16 bee count with The Great Sunflower Project. I was on vacation — couldn’t help it. But I will be visiting the Lemon Queens that a few of my students planted as seed last May. Several young sprouts were eaten before they cleared even 4 inches, most likely by squirrels. But several survived anyway as of the end of the school year. Custodians watered the area over the summer, along with their corn growing nearby on a sliver of land across from the cafeteria (and behind the Dumpster — don’t do it if you have another option). I hope our plants made it! Photos, and a count, to come. BTW, this photo is from the pool posted to flickr, by Teresa. 🙂 Bet you didn’t know that scientists figure bees are responsible for every third bite of food we take. Here’s a video on the project, http://youtube/33bRgiSgQcA

Kids need to play in the dirt

Most kids of any age like playing — the work of kids — in dirt. This link from my Twitter feed pertains to the younger set, who might like the new Little Tikes Mud Pie Kitchen,   But it got me thinking about my observations of kids and their attraction to dirt, even in their later years. When I was in the Master Gardeners program, I worked with youth and families planting trees in Riverside, Calif. I remember on a warm, spring Saturday being assigned to a group of teenage girls. It appeared they were from a group home, and this was an assignment or outing. Several were rather standoffish and looked at me as if they were about to tell me to get digging. I was in my MG T-shirt and sturdy shoes, with a “How to Plant a Tree” cheat-sheet draped on me like a necklace.  My job was not to dig it myself, but to show them how to use a shovel, then let them at it. I was a guide.

They had been told in advance to wear sturdy shoes. Several showed up in tall wedgie sandals. To those properly dressed, I joked that they needed to make sure their friends didn’t skate just because they planned to dress wrong. One girl in sandals immediately sat down and started playing with the dirt that her friend had dug up. A couple of the others started picking up handfuls, not to throw, but to examine, or show their friends. I had to push them to finish planting. All they really wanted to do was play with dirt, and push their friends to do a little work digging.

I asked if they had done any gardening. The look I got back suggested I’d lost my mind. Some said they lived in apartments, others had parents who didn’t want them “playing in that nasty dirt,” or had a yard but it was nearly dead most of the time.

Children deprived of playing in the dirt very well might play in the dirt at 15, making up for lost time. I think it’s just the warmth of it, the feel of something new, that got this one girl going. At the least, feeling the dirt gives kids a connection to where their food comes from, to what roots must grow and tunnel through, to what gets covered by asphalt.

They were very proud of their finished job, a tree they planted in Fairmount Park. They took pictures. They tried to memorize the monument trees around it, so they could come back years later and see how “their” tree was doing.  But I think the best part of their day was feeling that dirt.

Before you teach that we need a lot of antioxidants because oxidants are bad….

consider Charlie Nardozzi’s newsflash from USDA researchers in Maryland. They say we need some of the “bad” oxidants for proper metabolic functioning of our bodies. Whoops! Maybe like a lot of things, we need balance? Anyway, we need to keep up with the blueberries, watermelon, pomegranates — just don’t go crazy. Just got back from Oregon and now I want to find which variety of them do well in the Central Valley of California. One of my student’s parents worked in a blueberry processing factory, so I know they’re out there. Anyway, check out Charlie’s Edible Landscaping newsletter of the National Gardening Association. I just love it. So many great ideas.

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