Xochi installing a pea trellis
Our little garden is bursting with life (and no longer buried under 3 feet of snow!) Back in early May, Xochi, Michelle, and a few other UMass Sustainable Food and Farming students led our annual pea planting activity with Ms. Bhowmik’s 2nd grade class. Peas are a perfect plant to complement their plant life cycle unit because (fingers crossed) they produce an exciting crunchy sweet sugar snap snack to enjoy before the end of the school year.
Since the students are studying life cycle of a plant, we also have garlic in the ground as it is fun to observe its growth. Plus, we get to examine the different parts of the plant we eat. Every year when we work with garlic the students always want to eat it! They surprise us with a tolerance and desire to taste it, smell it, and talk about eating it on pizza and spaghetti.
Mushrooms growing with garlic!
Last week, when checking on the peas and the trellis we installed, we were excited to find the mushrooms we “planted” or inoculated (to be technical) last year have popped up! King Stropharia, also known as “wine caps”. These delicious edibles with dark purple gills LOVE their woodchip bed and continue to pop up after the spring rains. When checking on the garden, a young boy and his mom (Fort River employee) joined us to observe the mushrooms and went home with one to try. We made his day!
Looking forward to summer and collaborating with some summer programs to maintain our gardens!
As the winter winds come swooping in and the days are getting shorter, everyone was excited to get back into the garden at Fort River on one of the last warm days of the year, November 5th. The UMass Sustainable Food and Farming crew, along with Ms. Monica Bhomik’s second grade class, had such a fun time talking about one of our favorite foods: garlic! After discussing the strong, pungent, and sweet flavors garlic can have, the kids told us the foods they like with garlic in them, some of their favorites being pizza, garlic bread, stir fry, and spaghetti. Then we spoke about how garlic has a family just like the second graders do: the Allium family, which includes shallots, leeks, and onions to name of few. These related plants smell and taste much alike, and also grow in a similar way.
In two groups, the second graders broke up big garlic bulbs, separating them into garlic “seeds,” peeling back a few layers of the papery skin to give the cloves a kick-start. The students did an AWESOME job planting the garlic pointy-side up and root side down while their peers in group two inspected the radishes we planted in October. The second graders were super excited about the different colors the radishes were as they plucked them from the ground: pink, white, and red, and had a mini tasting of these spicy treats!
There was also another EXCITING FIND popping up in the garden that we “planted” LAST JUNE…..MUSHROOMS! When Willie Crosby, a local mushroom farmer and instructor at UMass came to the garden, we inoculated the wood chip beds with King Stropharia (also known as Wine Caps) and they were popping up among the kale and bok choi planted back in September.
To close our lesson in the outdoor classroom, we all came together put down a “blanket” of straw to keep the garlic bed warm through the winter. The second graders knew that the plants needed water to grow, so they enthusiastically took turns using the watering can to give the garlic the good stuff. We sent the kids off with a garlic planting take home activity to keep the fun with bulbs going at home! The UMass crew will make another to the schools to prepare the gardens for winter sleep! If you want to be a part of the school garden project, we are looking for PARENTS, TEACHERS, STAFF and community members to join us. Contact Sarah at email@example.com. HAPPY WINTER!
fall spinach and radishes popping up
October is here and school is back in full swing! We were all so excited to get back into the garden as the mild heat slipped into an autumn breeze. The mammoth sunflowers are HUGE, heavy with seeds, and both schools have some fun squash growing. With all the chaos that goes along with this special time of year, it has been great getting some quality planting time in with the students.
Ms. Monica Bhomik’s second grade class at Fort River created two new beds by sheet mulching with some compost and transplanted kale and bok choy into an existing bed. We direct seeded spinach and radish into the new beds, along with some baby parsley. It was a BLAST! The weather was beautiful and the kids were all so enthusiastic about going outside and getting their hands dirty.
As Ms. Monica’s class had been covering rock formation in class recently, it was a great opportunity to talk about some of the rocks we found in the soil with the second graders. We also took a walk around the garden, smelling some of the oniony lily family members and seeing the gourds ready for harvest. The gourds will definitely make some fun fall decorations in the classroom!
At Wildwood Elementary we extended two beds with more compost. We then got to work with a small group of kids from the after school program. We talked about what plants need to grow big and strong (soil, water, sun, and TLC!), compared different parts of the plant that we eat, and planted bok choy, kohlrabi, radish seeds, and spinach seeds. Even though it was one of the first cool weather fall days, everyone was happy to be outside and could not wait to water all the new plants that we get to watch grow throughout the season!
Michelle, Xochi, and Julia at Wildwood garden
We hope to return to both schools sometime in late October to plant some garlic that will grow through the winter and talk about bulbs together!
Pea blossoming at Wildwood
Here we are almost halfway through June! Only a couple weeks until SCHOOL IS OUT for SUMMER! An exciting time as our world gets more vibrant, more green, and more colorful each day. Our peas at both Fort River and Wildwood are growing up and showing some remarkable color. Observing each stage of the pea’s life cycle is a great complement to the 2nd great soil unit where students follow a plant’s life cycle from seed to fruit. We started the peas 2 weeks earlier this year in hopes the students can REALLY see them and TASTE their fresh sweet sugar snap good-ness.
Spreading King Stropharia (or wine cap mushroom) spawn on top of newspaper (sheet mulching)
A student scoops out the innoculated spawn (=woodchips infused with mushroom mycelium)
Our fun doesn’t stop with plants…Last week at Fort River Elementary, gourmet mushroom expert Willie Crosby joined us for a short lesson on mushrooms followed by the making of a mushroom woodchip bed on the inside of the pea bed!
This complements the plant science unit nicely specifically when we talk about decomposition. With Ms. Monica Bhomik’s 2nd Grade class we learned and had fun with a new word…MYCELIUM. This is the thread like network of the mushrooms “root-like” structures that stretch far and wide under ground. It is through the MYCELIUM mushrooms absorb nutrients. Check out local mushroom expert and cultivator Willie Crosby at http://www.fungially.com.
We look forward to deepening our connections in the school curriculum and community to expand our activities in these school gardens which serve as blossoming OUTDOOR LIVING CLASSROOMS! If you’d like to get involved, contact Sarah @ firstname.lastname@example.org !
Interested in fun summer activities? Join Grow Food Amherst for our Summer Workshop and Event Series at the Wednesday Kendrick Park Farmers Market! Featuring special activities for kids! Every Wednesday through the summer from 4-5 (Market runs 2-6!) at Kendrick Park in Amherst (across from Bertucci’s) SEE YOU THERE!
After a long cold winter, it is finally time to break ground, wake up the garden and plant sugar snap peas! Last week, Sarah and Aaron lead the Wildwood and Fort River 2nd grade classes in pea planting activities. At Wildwood, We prepared the beds by raking away the leaves, adding more compost and tidying up our little garden space. At Fort River, with Ms. Costello accompanied Mr. Lott’s and Ms. Bhowmik’s classes as we sheet mulched a new bed with the 2nd graders and some help of some parents! We did an experiment: we soaked seeds for 2 days and planted them on one side of the bed to see if they would do better than the unsoaked seeds.
First, we shelled the peas from the pea pods we saved from last year’s crop, then planted, watered and gave our best wishes for happy growing! Working together, taking turns sharing tools and tasks, the planting was a success. At Wildwood, The 2nd graders and their teachers, Ms. Jag, Mrs. Applegate, and Ms. Condron will be making observations to capture the progress as the peas grow! Even the WW PGO wrote about it in their newsletter!
At Fort River, we’re watching our garlic grow that we planted last fall, and will be planting carrots, lettuce and more!
Now it’s time to plan, who will be here to help us care for these sweet little sugar snaps, greens, herbs, and other plantings throughout the summer months? If you’re interested and would like to sign up, contact Sarah (email@example.com)!
Be sure to say hello to the peas when you’re driving by!
In late February, Sarah and Aaron visited the Wildwood School second grade classrooms with a bag full of local, colorful and delicious root vegetables from Winter Moon Farm. The second graders had a great time snacking on a few varieties of carrot and enthusiastically taste tested less familiar vegetables like watermelon radish and chiogga beat. After tasting each root veggie, there was a discussion about flavors and students categorized their samples as spicy, sweet, or bitter.
In addition to the taste test, we discussed what role each part of the plant played, with a focus on the function of roots. These second graders know their botany! Students were asked to identify other plant parts that we eat, such as lettuce/leaves and celery/stems. The lesson was closed with a vote on which of our sampled root veggies should be planted in the garden this spring. Carrots and watermelon radishes for the win!
Next week we return to team up with Wildwood second grade to sow seeds in the garden. Peas will be planted and students will be conducting observations on plant growth up to the end of the school year. Spring is here, friends!
Although there is still a foot of icy-grey-aged snow covering the ground, we can still grow ideas and do some garden planning! Aaron and Sarah school garden coordinators, and Jane Costello, Fort River teacher, attended the Massachusetts Agriculture in the Classroom Conference in Ludlow. It was a great opportunity to hear the successes and struggles of other school gardens across the state, and come together to innovate, share and co-create this exciting school garden movement.
Aaron (left) and Sarah (right) at Massachusetts Agriculture in the Classroom conference March 2014
These events often inspire innovation and remind us that it sometimes takes steadfast patience and persistence in growing a school garden. We value more than just a vegetable production space and are excited by all the opportunities to make our school gardens living classrooms where students can get their hands dirty and learn lessons from nature, apply their critical thinking, math, science and all kinds of skills gained in the classroom. Due to the unique nature of each school community, gardens differ from school to school. Therefore, the process of their implementation, maintenance, and expansion all depend on involvement of the school community.
Help us spread the word! Tell your friends, parents, teachers that you support this project and contact Sarah (firstname.lastname@example.org) if you’re interested in getting involved! STAY TUNED, more to come!