Hello all,We are trying something new and exciting this year, and we need your help. We want to inspire a little of that holiday spirit by decorating the school garden with solar-powered holiday lights. Here is everything you need to know:What?Purchase a strand of solar-powered holiday lights while you are doing your regular holiday shopping. These typically costs around $15-$30 a strand and will be used by the school for many years to come. We are trying to get 20 strands of lights donated. Why?The real reason why we are doing this is because the kids will love it. The lunch time kids have been pushing for holiday decorations in the garden for awhile now, and we have decided that it is time to get moving on this request. It will increase the garden's aesthetic value, the neighbors will enjoy it, and maybe it will help your family start a new tradition of walking, biking, or driving around the neighborhood to look at holiday lights.When?This needs to happen relatively quickly. We need all of the lights by Friday, December 2nd so that we can have them up by the 6th (the evening of the winter sing.) The lights will remain up through the winter break and then taken down and stored for the coming years.Where?Target has a couple different varieties of solar-powered lights
, both in the stores in Albany and Richmond, and online. To look at what they offer, click here.Home Depot has a couple different types. To look at what they offer, click here.Amazon.com has a couple different types. To look at what they offer, click here.Sears has some different types as well. Sears ships, or you can pick them up in the store (which means that you don't pay shipping but you are assured the item is in stock.) To look at what they offer, click here.If you purchase online, you can have your lights shipped to the school: 8500 Madera Drive El Cerrito Ca 94530. If you purchase them at the actual stores, you can can just drop them off in the office.
Please make sure you include some kind of note that lets us know what family the lights are from. We want to thank all of the families who help with this fun project!Please remember- these must be solar-powered lights. We have no way of plugging them in and even if we could, we like the idea of using the sun's energy to fuel our winter whimsy. Other types of winter holiday decorations are welcome also, as long as they don't need to be plugged in and they don't break easily (no glass ornaments please!)If you have any questions, please contact me via the contact page on the website, put a note in my box at school or email me directly.Thanks so much for helping to make our kid's dreams come true!
Greetings and happy November to everyone. As I sit at my desk and think back over the last month in the garden, I am amazed by how much we got done. And by we, I mostly mean students. Our kids hustled at lunch, after school and during class time to get our garden ready for winter. If you haven't been by the garden lately, you might not have noticed that all of our summer crops (tomatoes, squash, cucumbers, beans, etc.) have been removed. After getting all of these plants out of the ground, students added compost and mixed it into the soil. Next up we planted seedlings- lettuce, chard, kale, collards, bok choy, broccoli, cauliflower, onions, and spinach- whew! What a list! Starting this next week, we will be planting more onions, potatoes, and other seeds. Way to go student farmers!We also had our big pines removed this month, and I think everyone was unprepared for what a difference this was going to make in our garden. It is so much sunnier and open in the upper garden! Thanks to Jim, the acting grounds supervisor for the district and to the Fahy Tree Service for making this such a painless experience. Jim quickly responded to all of my phone calls (even on Saturdays) and the guys with the tree service made sure they protected all of our plants. They even cut a bunch of great stumps for us, left us with a pile of mulch, and they carved a cute, smiley face into a stump. Thank you. Take a look at the Seasonal Garden Photos page to see some of the gifts they left.I would also like to thank all of the folks who volunteer time or donate items to our garden. This last month we had hoses, birdseed, and soap donated. We also have a couple of Madera parents who are putting in some extra time trying to secure grants- thanks to Apple Szostak and Jen Loughrey for helping with this process.
Please look at our Help our Garden Grow
page if you'd like to help us out.Last, I would like to leave you with some thoughts around cultivating compassion. Over my years working with children, I have always been amazed with their capacity for care. They love things deeply whether the thing be a doll, dog, hobby, or parent. Over the past two and half years, I have had the pleasure of watching our students begin to care about our garden and I have determined that the first step is usually just becoming aware of all that surrounds them. This is why we spend so much time using our senses to experience the garden. We look, listen, smell, touch, and taste our way through the seasons so that students can develop a first-hand understanding of how things work in our plot of land. Once they have tasted mint, or spied on a spider making its web, or stuck their nose in the soil, it is much harder to ignore the wonder around them. And once they start really seeing and knowing, they easily become avid caretakers.
We have student farmers who routinely fill bird feeders and clean out the bird bath. Other students take care of our worm farm and even go to the trouble to "air-lift" worms from precarious situations (like being on the asphalt) to shady spots of soil. If I ever accidentally step on plant when I am showing kids around the garden, they are very quick to point it out. And when we review the rules, many classes could take all day to talk about all of the ways we need to be careful with the plants in the garden.
My favorite example of childhood compassion happened this month with a kindergarten class. A little boy came up to me and it was obvious he was quite distraught over something. He tugged on my sweatshirt and reported that he thought one of trees was quite ill. Impressed with his potential botanical knowledge, I looked at the tree in question and tried to figure out why he thought it was ill. Were the leaves browned? Was it wilted? I couldn't figure it out, so I asked him. He pointed next to the tree where there was a thermometer on the ground and gravely told me that the tree had a temperature. Obviously, he associated thermometers with being sick, and as a result was quite concerned for the health of our tree. I commended him on his eyes and his vocabulary and then I spent some time reassuring him that our blood orange tree was quite healthy.As a society we often talk about ignorance as being the root of much wrong such as hatred, evil, etc. But, we don't often consider the inverse of that statement- that knowing and understanding can be the root of much that is good and compassionate. Let's be thoughtful about what we teach our children, and about what knowledge we prize. What do we really want our kids to know and care about?