I have lots to report this month, but before I wade into the garden news, I'd like to acknowledge the phenomenal Madera community. Our garden is not just a school garden, it is truly a community garden. Lots of times kids ask me if it is my garden, and I have to laugh because there is no way our garden would be quite so awesome if it weren't for the hard work and imagination of many people. So, to the following folks, you have my utmost gratitude. We wouldn't have a garden without you.
First of all, I'd like to give a "shout-out" to the newly formed Dad's Club. I think you guys are the next best thing to sliced bread. I said I needed mulch moved and the next thing I know I've got five guys hustling around on a beautiful Thursday after school. While I told the kids that it was the garden gnomes, the real credit goes to: Paul, Bill, Rodney, Jeff, and Scott. Thank you! Then, I said the garden needed some holiday illumination, and once again it was Dad's Club to the rescue. The Club donated 7 strands of lights!!!
As of 12/2, we had 19 strands of solar-powered lights that had been donated to the garden! Way to go, Madera! Thanks to: the Gager family; Stephanie, John, and Matthew McGovern; the Arechiga-Rubenaker family; Ms. McCormick's PM Kindergarten class; the Reed family; Otto and Jeannie from Room 6; Nerissa, Ayo, and Zephyr; the Dad's Club; Deborah, Lawrence, and George, and a few anonymous donors. These lights will be going up next week so that they will be up in time for the Madera Sing event. If you wanted to participate, but just haven't gotten around to it, please drop off your lights in the office this next week.
I'd also like to sincerely thank some of the folks who have willingly shared their expertise with the garden. Rodney Austin repaired our arched garden entrance. It has been hanging out at an odd-angle for over a year and a half and in one weekend he straightened it out. Now it looks like a proper entrance. Brian Whyte, a local landscaper, gave me wonderful advice on what to plant on the hillside next to the school wing, and he helped us to get a 20% discount with The Watershed Nursery. Kyle, a resident 4th grader and lunch time regular has helped immensely with assembling our garden signs. Thanks everyone!
So, what else has been happening with the garden? Well, we are not doing so well on grants- we didn't receive either the PG&E grant or the National PTA grant. We are sending out our Whole Foods Grant next week, so let's keep our fingers crossed. We are still managing to find ways to make great garden programming happen though. To that end, here are some of our November highlights:
~ We have started making signs for the garden. Our after school garden club meets on Thursdays and we bust out the paints. The kids are doing a great job, and slowly more and more of our plants are being identified.
~The kids just finished up planting natives on the hillside next to the newish school wing. We planted native strawberries, thimbleberries, coyote mint, currants, sticky cinquefoil, elderberry, and cow parnsip just to name a few. This was a tough job because the soil on this hillside can't really be called soil (especially after the big trench that was dug there this summer- it is really just more a collection of big rocks.) The students persevered and with the help of a pick axe and some shovels we got some holes dug. We planted species that like the shade, will stay small, and that provide food to either us or to our garden friends. Also, these plants will hopefully help to keep this hillside from eroding.
~We have also planted a huge amount of winter edibles such as garlic, onions, potatoes, lettuce, kale, chard, collard greens, bok choy, mustard, beets, turnips, peas, spinach, cauliflower, and broccoli.
~While there hasn't been quite as much to harvest at this time of year, students have been taking home kale, lemons, figs, and seed packets so that they can start their own gardens at home.
~We are starting to wrap-up the first semester of garden classes. All grades have been studying the senses, and have recently begun to explore how to use their ears to gather information about the world around them. Kindergarteners are learning how to listen the the garden by playing fun matching games. First graders are making sound poems for the garden and have learned about the great literary term, Onomatopoeia. Second graders have created great sound effects for a short story using items from the garden. These classes will end at Winter Break, and new classes will begin with me in February.
~Ms. Best and I still working out the details, but it looks like her 4th/5th combination class is going to be doing yoga with me in the garden twice a week during the month of January. I am so excited!!!! Does anyone have any ideas about what we might be able to use for cheap, durable, outdoor yoga mats?
The last thought I'd like to leave you with is the value of childhood whimsy. I get to experience this gift pretty regularly, and I feel soo lucky because it reminds me of all that is special and silly about our world. I often have kids tell me stories that my adult mind wants to discard as absolute rubbish such as the dragon that lives in some of our garden shrubbery, or the parrot that often hangs out in our trees. Or sometimes I have kids propose ideas that my adult mind says just won't work- like building teepees on a windy hillside. But I listen and let it all happen because that is what I think being a kid should be about. And sometimes we do really silly things in the garden just because it is a beautiful day and the wind is singing a certain song. It is this sense of promise and excitement that I wanted to nurture by lighting up our garden for the holidays. There is a bit of childhood magic in seeing colorful lights on a cold, dark, winter night. I hope our garden can always grow this kind of whimsy.....