elementary

BACK to School Special!

Kids are going back to school and what better way to greet them than with a brand new book?  Wild Tales & Garden Thrills, by D.S. Venetta, is a new fiction series for elementary-aged children (grades 2 – 4) that connects kids with nature and the food they eat. And what better place to do so than a school garden?

EVERY school should one!

Venetta, Dianne- Beans, Greens and Grades (final) 800 px @ 300 dpi

Lexi and Jason Williams take center stage at school when Principal Gordon enlists their help to establish a garden at Beacon Academy. The kids are THRILLED to be selected as Green Ambassadors for this important project, but quickly learn how challenging it can be to work with others toward a common goal. Not only must they teach their fellow students how to garden, Lexi and Jason feel the pressure to make it fun and exciting (or become known as “The Most Boring Gardeners Ever” in school history). When the principal reveals a generous amount of grant money has been offered to continue the green program if the children succeed, the stakes rise.

No worries! Lexi and Jason are up to the task, assisted by their student council members. But as they formulate, organize and implement the plan for Beacon Academy’s first school garden, the kids are sidetracked by trouble, toils and trauma. Everyone has their OWN opinion on how to care for their plants, what should be done, and who should be doing it.

Hey–wait a minute. Who’s in charge around here? Find out in book 2 of the Wild Tales & Garden Thrills series!

And don’t miss the back-to-school special offer! Get the entire series–coloring books included–for over 30% off. Talk about getting kids excited about gardening–this series is it! Visit www.dsvenetta.com for full details.

Sustainability Education has never been so FUN!

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“This is a story that kids will be absorbed in without realizing how much they’re learning–about seeds, planting, plant life cycles, bugs, fertilizer… If you’re looking for a chapter book to get kids excited about nature, gardening, and science, this one would fit the bill.” ~ Queen Bee Books

 

We Have Sprouts!

It’s a very exciting day when you visit your garden and discover your seeds have sprouted.  (Germinated–for you scientific types out there.)  Last week Lower Elementary worked hard to plant their red beans and this week?

Simply marvelous.  Gorgeous, really.  Bean sprouts are one of my favorite sprouts in the garden and you can easily see why. More

We’ve Broken Ground for Our School Garden

Actually, we broke all the weeds out of our garden and it’s looking good.  Thank you, Middle Schoolers!  They are the brawn of the group. 

(Brains, too!) And boy can they do some damage to some weeds.  This color-coordinated gal is weeding garden beds.  One glance at the photo and you know we’re not talking any small amount of weeds.  But after an hour of fun in the sun…

It was just about weed-free.  Amazing, isn’t it?  Truly, they did outstanding work.  Even harvested our summer crop of peanuts!  Then Lower Elementary came onto the scene and tilled a row and prepped it for seeds.  Remember, plants like soft beds (just like kids!), so we had to be sure it was tilled to a fluffy-fine perfection. 

Next they formed holes, plopped the seeds in and covered well.  Water in and we’re good to go! 

Up next was Upper Elementary and these boys and girls may give Middle Schoolers a run for their energy bars, because as you can see, they cleared our pole bean fence in no time flat. Previously home to our sunflowers, the pole beans will enjoy the space and deposit some much needed nitrogen into the dirt.  Cucumbers will make the fence their home come spring and they need their nutrients. 

As organic gardeners, we rotate our crops so you’ll never find the same veggie in the same spot come next season.

For their lessons this week, the Middle Schoolers received the “Organic Gardening Essentials” handout while Elementary students received “Starting from Seed” — LE = lower elementary and UE = upper elementary.  All lessons can be found in our Kid Buzz section, under Lessons in Organic Gardening.  Feel free to copy and share!

And follow along, won’t you?  It’ll be fun! 🙂

Growing by Leaps and Bounds!

We’re talking both kids AND plants — these students have energy to share!  And share they do; their tools, their seeds, their worm poop.

Well, some things are easier to share than others, but from what I’ve seen, these gardeners are all about sharing the adventure of gardening.  Especially these little ones.

Our kindergarten students were in charge of planting black beans.  First they amended the soil (threw black dirt and formed two rows).  “Can I use my hands?”

“Yes, if you’re wearing gloves.”

Next they dug holes in two neat lines (carved them as they saw fit).   “Are these too close?”

Spying the holes side by side, I suggested they might want to stretch them out just a wee bit further.

Then they planted seeds in an orderly fashion (wildly orderly fashion!) and pointed at their handiwork.   “Is this good?”

“Remember:  only one or two per hole!”   Not handfuls.

Ensuring a good start, they sprinkled them with fertilizer (covered them with worm poop) until finally they tucked them in for a nice fall harvest (patted them down with their shovels).

Voila —  we have our bed of black beans!  At the rate these kids planted, jungle of black beans may prove more accurate. 

But if need be, we can “thin” the growth.  At least this way, we will be certain to have a superb “bean to sprout” ratio!

Sort of like our corn.  We’re going to have a bumper crop, for sure! 

Lower elementary planted sweet peas along the fence. 

When I asked who likes peas, only one boy claimed he didn’t. 

A response to which I duly smiled.  “You’ll LOVE these peas.  Plucked fresh from the vine, they taste like sugar.”

He returned a skeptical look. 

“Really,” I assured him.  “Vegetables never tasted so sweet until you grew them yourself!”

Another child piped in, “You can eat them right from the plant?”

“Yes sir, so long as you wash them first.  You never know what night visitors you may have had or what they may have been doing.”

Ewe.  But true.

And don’t forget the herbs! 

These girls worked like the three amigos, dropping their dirt and scattering their seeds like master gardeners — all this before running off to work on their kinetic challenge!

It’s all in a day’s work for these kids.  And just look at their progress!  

The “Brownie” beans are flourishing.  These were planted first and are really doing well.

The tomatoes are thriving.

The carrots are poking free.

Why, it’s beginning to look like a real garden out there —  thanks, gardeners! 

Until next time…

Spearhead YOUR School Garden!

Our school has started a garden (with a little help from willing parents and teachers).  How about starting one where you live?  If not school, maybe your local community center?  Gardens are easy when you have an assortment of hands involved.  Literally.  And it’s fun! 

The garden we decided on is a good size, about 20 feet by 30 feet.  We chose a nice sunny spot with a brief wave of shade in the afternoon — a good thing under the Central Florida sun.  People aren’t the only ones who benefit from a break in the heat!  First there was the big job of weed removal.  Our middle schoolers began the chore, breaking up a large part of the grassy area, followed by the little ones.

We decided on a variety of vegetables and herbs;  beans and peas, corn and broccoli, tomatoes and peppers to name a few, accompanied by some fragrant basil and rosemary and a solid staple of parsley!   Once the temperatures get a bit cooler, we’ll indulge in some broccoli and cabbage, potatoes come December.  

Actually, our upper elementary students will begin the broccoli and spinach indoors and watch them grow before making the transplant to the garden.  They’re studying leaves and roots and seedlings make for a fine project.

Of course when you have this many kids in nature at one time, you never know what exciting things you’ll discover.  “Look there!”

“What is it?”

Nobody knew, exactly.  I think there were a few bugs I saw for the first time, actually.  Leave it to the youth to teach you a thing or two about the wild!

Within days, our weeds were pulled and our rows outlined, using weed-preventer paper.  We do like to keep the maintenance manageable.   I learned THAT from my children! 

Awe, Mom.  Weeding again?  Why were weeds even invented?”

Can’t answer that one for you, except maybe oxygen?   They’re green, they must help the environment, right?  Either way, it’s amazing what a group of energetic kids can accomplish!

To keep things simple, we’ll use the current fence line for our pole beans and peas to climb at will.  We’ll also garden in “sections” and ease into a good crop rotation for the future.   We are organic, you know. 

As part of the process, we’ve designated an area nearby for a compost pile.  Now all those scraps from lunch and snack time won’t go to waste!  Well, technically they’ll still be waste, but now it will be “waste not want not” —  we’re making compost here,  not garbage!

And in the middle of it all, we have children learning the meaning of hard work (trust me, weeding and tilling is NOT for the weak), the camaraderie of working together, the basics of botany, the value of recycling, and the wonderous thing we call life as they watch plants sprout, grow, produce — amaze and delight!  Not to mention an excuse to get OUT of the classroom.  Does it get any better?

So  consider the same for you and your school and share the adventure of gardening!  Stay tuned as these kids explore and discover their own world of gardening.