So I couldn't resist adding a special note to this month's post because something really exciting has happened. A couple of months ago, a colleague suggested that we have someone make a short video about our garden. This was a revelation to me, as usually technology and I are like oil and water. So, I put the idea on the back burner so to speak, and there it continued to simmer. Then, I met a talented young filmmaker, who also happened to be one of our wonderful 6th graders- Adam Geiser. I mentioned to him in an off-hand way that I would love to see the story of our garden come to life. And he took my rough suggestions and created a beautiful short film about our garden. Thank you, Adam! I tip my big sun hat to you and a job well done. Your film is a tribute to how our garden inspires us all in different ways. Enjoy!
Poppies by Charlotte
Our garden is literally humming with life right now! We have flowers of every different hue, shape, and size blooming everywhere, and as a natural corollary our insect population has exploded as well. As anyone who has ever done any gardening can attest, spring is an exciting time to be a gardener. Hope is reborn, and the possibility of extraordinary things lies in every seed. If you haven't been by the garden recently and seen her in all of her spring finery, I invite you to come by and sit awhile.
Our garden is also humming with the activity of people. We held a wildly successful Farmers Market this month. Thanks to all of the farmers, teachers, and families who made that happen so smoothly. Now we have turned our sights to the next market (May 18th), as well as a possible school board tour at the end of the month, and a 2nd grade art installation at a local gallery. Finally we will close out the year by saying good-bye to the garden (for the school year) on the last day of school (June 7th.) From noon dismissal till 2pm, the garden will be open for our community to relax and enjoy the sights one last time. Then we take a collective sigh and collapse!
I'd like to leave you with a quote from one of my favorite farmers/ecologists/humanitarians, Wendell Berry. Sometimes I think we get overwhelmed by how difficult it seems to make positive change in the world. We forget that things as seemingly small as holding farmers markets at our school, or sharing a meal with family can have a huge impact.
Eaters must understand that eating takes place inescapably in the world, that it is inescapably an agricultural act, and that how we eat determines, to a considerable extent, how the world is used.
~ Wendell Berry
Produce from last year's garden CSA box (Another one is up for auction this year!)
Alice in Wonderland
Now some of you might be thinking that this is an odd photo- a white board with legs??? But for those of you who have ever been in our garden, you might have noticed that there is a lovely nook behind the white board where kids can hang out and feel somewhat hidden from the rest of the world. I took this photo during a 2nd grade drawing class a couple of weeks ago and it still makes me smile. This student had claimed the favored spot for herself, and probably thought that no one could see her. I love that our garden provides kids with these kinds of spaces- quiet, reflective places where for a few stolen moments, they can just be...kids. I get to see a lot of that in our garden- silly, poignant interactions that remind me that kids still want to play make-believe and tell corny jokes, and wonder about the profound significance of a ladybug's spots. I feel like we feed many different hungers in the garden- some kids come in and draw, others sit on benches and chat with friends, others try to get everything done on our lunch "to do" list and others just want to break apart things with a pick axe. Some students want to play house and sweep out the shed regularly as they pretend to live in different "rooms" in the garden, and others rig up complex solutions for overgrown plants. No matter what their inclination, we have room for everyone in the garden.
On a more pragmatic note, we had room for about 50 people to do huge amounts of labor at our last double day work party. Thanks so much to all of the families (mom's, dad's, grandma's and grandpa's), teachers, and students who showed up to prepare our garden for the spring. This was the best, most productive work party ever! Our last work party for the year will be on Sunday, June 2nd and for the most part it is just going to be an opportunity to come together and EAT in the garden. Check back in later in April and May for more information about that.
The Dad's Club hard at work at our last garden work party.
And finally, please make sure you find a way to support our garden in April- we have a lot going on:
For more information about our upcoming Farmers Market, click here. Madera Market Aprons and other awesome items are here. Hats, shirts, aprons, bags- buy something cute with our logo and design and some of the proceeds go back to our very own PTA.In conjunction with this Farmers Market, we are also doing a fundraiser with Barefoot Books. The PTA gets 15% of all books that you buy from them at our Market or from their online market place between April 15th and April 26th
. Check out their website here
. (Scroll down the page to find the Madera Market fundraiser link.)Finally, if you can help volunteer at our market or donate crops or goods (veggies, herbs, fruit, flowers, etc.) please contact me!
Our first Farmers Market of the year was a huge success!
Hello wonderful Madera community! By every measure possible our first market of the year was a success. The farmers learned a lot and had a great time, the garden made money, and all of our customers had a chance to buy healthy, local fruits and veggies.
Thanks to everyone who made it possible. First of all, hats off to the fabulous third great teachers who tolerate my market emails with great good humor. Next, thanks to all of the parents who donated items, fixed umbrellas, packaged up produce, and helped kids make change. This market would not happen without you. A big thanks to the 3rd grade family who helped us to buy our awesome new aprons and market sign. And finally thank you to all of the farmers who worked so hard and were so very excited about selling their crops at the market.
February was a month of many firsts. We planted our our very first apple trees near the top of our garden. We started these babies from tiny little sticks in pots last year, and we just recently made the determination that they were ready to move out into the garden. Keep your fingers crossed. We also have started our first seedlings in the greenhouse. We are going to be doing this more regularly now that we have cold frames because it is a much more economical way to grow crops than having to purchase seedlings from local nurseries. We also trapped our first gopher and unearthed our first mole. Both of which, as you might imagine, rocked the lunch time universe. Both events gave us a good opportunity to talk about the cycles of life and death in nature.Also, we have our first intern and her name is Mackenzie. She will be assisting in the garden on Thursdays and Fridays as she learns about gardening/farming, teaching, and ecology. Mackenzie is taking this year between high school and college to develop a better understanding of which direction she wants to head in the future. For more information about Mackenzie, please check-out our student-conducted interview with her on our The Farm Report page. [This will be posted after 3/6/13.]Thank you all again for your continued support of our garden program. Events like the market we had last Friday, really serve to underline how important this work is. We had 3rd grade farmers doing mental math, conducting market research, and helping their peers choose healthy food options. Not only does our garden grow food, it also grows wisdom and community. As our logo says, "We are growing every day!"
The behind the scenes crew working feverishly to get ready for the market!
Yes folks, it is almost here. To see what we need to make it happen, click on the beautiful poster.
Our New Logo!
Hello all!Wow, 2013 has gotten off to an exciting start in our garden. It feels like we have been planting the seeds for many years, and now we are enjoying an abundant harvest. Thank you all so much for making our garden such a great place. Here are some of the highlights:-We have completed a five year plan for all of the green spaces on our campus. Many people gave feedback on this plan, and it is really far-reaching. This document is going to guide our decisions and efforts for the foreseeable future. Grab a cup of coffee or tea, and take a look:The Madera Garden Five Year Plan-We received a development grant from The Center for Ecoliteracy in Berkeley. This money will go toward creating a landscape plan and a budget for our Market Garden. To see what The Center for Ecoliteracy is all about, click here.-The Dad's Club has started fixing some of our retaining walls. These walls have slowly eroded over time and present safety issues. This work happened at our January 25th work party where we also finished tearing out our sickly echium and we worked on the electrical component of our drip irrigation system. Thanks volunteers and thanks Dad's Club!-The family of Ayo and Zephyr donated two cold frames. See them here. These are now set up on the lower yard on one of the dirt patches that doesn't get used for much (hah, hah, yes, I am slowly annexing the rest of the unused green spaces.) These frames are going to allow us to grow more of our plants from seed which will ultimately save us money. Also, it will give our kids great experience propagating plants. We do need a few more supplies to make this happen, so click here to see what we need. -We are slowly adding more student contributions to our website. For awhile now we have included student photos, but in an effort to support the Common Core Standards focus on writing, we are also going to be including reports, interviews, poems, letters, etc- all generated by students who are passionate about the garden. Take a look!-And finally, I am starting new classes this month. I will be working with all 2nd graders, all 3rd graders, all 6th graders, and Ms. Best's 4th/5th class. Come out and spend some time in the garden with your child's class. To see the garden schedule, look here.
Photo by Jessica, student photographer
Happy New Year Madera Community!
May 2013 bring you and your family health and prosperity. I spent some time over the winter break thinking about the content of our first blog post of the year. Should I talk about the exciting projects we have coming up? Do people want to hear about garden schedules and what students are learning? What about lists of what is currently growing in our garden?
All of these ideas have their merit, but what has really been occupying my heart and mind lately (as is probably the case with many of you) is school culture and safety. The events in Connecticut before the winter break were devastating, and have prompted many discussions around dinner tables and in staff rooms about how we can make our schools safer. These are obviously important conversations to have, but I would like to take this opportunity to create a vision of our schools that is shaped by the hope of what they some day could be, rather than a fear of what they might become. To that end, I would like to share a story with you that comes from one of our own Madera moms. This story speaks to how we can build community and create spaces to have healing conversations right in our own school. Enjoy!
A Healing Garden
My son and a friend of his of previous school years were just not getting along this fall as school started up. They came back a bit more developed, a bit more mature from the summer, and were just pushing all the wrong buttons with one another. As I chalked it up to friendships shifting and boys transitioning, the events on the playground and in the classroom were coming to an unpleasant peak, with my son even changing his seat in the classroom to be farther away from the other boy.
But that didn't stop the annoyance with one another, and name-calling and pushing started happening. Not wanting to pick my son's friends, I decided to coach him from the sidelines rather than get into the "game." At one point, the other parents contacted me; they were getting worried about this coming to a more abusive head. We talked it over as parents and, then, we agreed that we would try and get the boys to talk it over together, with a little guidance from us. However, having this "talk" at either of our homes would be an unfair advantage for the visiting side.
I remembered the "Peace Garden" I had recently gotten familiar with at the new Cathedral on Lake Merritt in Oakland, which reminded me of the peaceful and reflective corner of the Madera Garden that Molly had so mindfully crafted for our kids. I remembered the Peace Tree in the Garden which was hung with Wishes for Peace from one of the fallen branches of our old faithful evergreen friends who were mercifully taken down this past year in the Garden. I remembered the bench that was put in with hopes that it might help some classmates to "talk it out" when they were feeling unappreciated.So, we agreed that this would be a good, neutral, and nurturing environment to bring our sons together.
With Molly's okay, we came to sit down on a non-school day and let the boys hear each other's feelings amongst the shelter of a place where they had built happy memories together when younger. My son had not been to the Garden for some time. Our sons had a productive discussion, and they felt encouraged and protected enough to speak their minds openly, but respectfully, of one another. We paused here and there to listen to a loud bird overhead or let the silence amongst the plants calm hurt feelings and anxiety.
After this meeting, upon returning back to school the next week, something had shifted. And by the second day back, my son had already declared the other boy his friend again. The acting-out was no longer going on, and their mutual friends were relieved to have them get along again.Now, surprisingly, the boys are going to the Garden every recess they can. They have come up with new ways to see the Garden as older students now. They are happily helping with moving soil, rocks, straw, and mulch, and they have come up with ideas for how to improve the Garden itself. It is profoundly moving to see how they have gained a new vision for themselves with a big hand from our Garden. I could have never anticipated our Madera Garden could give so much, in such an important and permanent way, to the inside of a young boy getting older. Even with all that I have already appreciated about the Garden, I am left speechless with how whatever it is we have invested into this little plot, has given back tremendously to two boys who were on the brink of going down a darker path. Thank you, Molly, Ms. Schooley, our past Principals, and all of you fellow parents and donors who have believed in the Madera Garden. This is our greatest reward.
Hello Madera Community,
I found this picture in the old PTA records. Pretty amazing, huh? This is what our garden looked like in 2007. Fast forward four years and this is what our garden looked like in 2011:
We have accomplished quite a lot- a barren hillside has become one of the most cherished aspects of our school. Every week during the school year, children swarm over the hillside, discovered earth's miracles a new.
So, what next? Where do we go from here? Rather than give you the usual garden summary for the month, I would like to inspire you to dream and plan along with me. There are lots of good conversations happening right now about our school and how we want to grow it. I have heard murmurs of market gardens, chickens, salad bars, hillsides of lavender, and outdoor amphitheaters. Are you as intrigued and excited as I am? I hope so. How can we make this happen?
1. Continue talking! Talk is a powerful way to share ideas and build momentum.
2. Attend PTA meetings and let folks know what you want to see happen at school.
3. Help us to build community partnerships. Do you know of local business folks who might be interested in what we do? Tell us!
4. Fundraising, fundraising, fundraising. Although we have been adding more trees to our garden, we have yet to plant a money tree. (I do keep trying though.) Help us find and apply for grants. Take part in the school auction. Donate money directly. Help find foundations, community organizations, and supportive relatives who would like to help grow our green vision for Madera.
Don't think it is possible? Take a look at the photos at the top of the page again. It is amazing what a committed community can accomplish. Let's do this together.
"I believe that every child in this world needs to have a relationship with the land...to know how to nourish themselves...and to know how to connect with the community around them."
Photo by Z.Chen, student-photographer
Greetings Madera Community,
I hope that the changing of the seasons finds you and your family well. We are quite busy in the garden right now, and there are a number of exciting developments underway.
Kindergarteners have planted peas, radishs, lettuce, and beet seeds as part of our plant unit. Next up we are tackling roots by pulling weeds and eating carrots (because we all need a good balance of work and play, right?)
1st graders are quickly becoming amateur meteorologists. They have all taken temperature readings on hot and cold water, and soil, as well as the ambient air temperatures in the sun and the shade. Now we are jumping into studying air flow with ribbons and bubbles as well as measuring rain fall. If we could just get the rain to fall a bit more.
3rd grade farmers are learning a lot about seasonal planting and team work. Over the past two weeks, our farmers were introduced to their teams and their land. They quickly had to figure out how to work together to decide their farm names and what to plant. There were some great conversations and debates about what to plant. I wish more of the adults in our community could be present during these moments because you hear some great things. Students worked out ways to collectively make decisions (voting, rock/paper/scissors, taking turns speaking, etc.) Others debated vociferously over what plants to plant based on their relative nutritional values. And still others wondered why we just couldn't keep it simple and plant a "pizza plant." Now, all of the farms have been named and the plant orders have been submitted. Next, we get to planting!
Our farmers from last year (the current 4th graders) are still actively gardening at recess with many wonderful entrepreneurial plans. How does the idea of selling small bags of student-made compost sound? How about cat toys made out of dried catnip we grow on site? They have some really good ideas.
The adults in our community have also been doing some wonderful things. Our own Matt Reed has jump-started our drip irrigation project. All of the valves are in and everything is housed in a beautiful redwood box/bench. He was assisted on this project by Rick Allatore of Allatore Garden Designs and Installation. Rick donated numerous hours of his time to help guide this project. Thanks guys!
Also, we had one of the best work parties ever at the beginning of this month. Over 30 people showed up and put in some serious labor. Almost all of our raised beds were emptied by the end of the work party! As a bonus, folks took home pumpkins, squash, tomatoes and seed.
And finally, on a slightly more political note- I (along with a number of other garden educators in the district) are making a presentation to the school board on November 28th. We are sharing data with them about the value of school gardens in reference to nutrition and health, academic achievement, life skills, etc. We are also asking them to find ways to support our work. Our students at Madera have assisted us in this effort by saving seeds and making seed packets that we will distribute to the school board members. Take a look at one of these packets below.
Thanks for understanding and appreciating all of the lovely things our garden grows!
Greetings Madera Community,I hope everyone had a good start to their school year. I have been very happy to get back into the garden with students. It seemed to me that the garden was missing its student care-takers. Not only do they do a great job of weeding, mulching, watering, and pruning, they also give something less tangible to the plants. Gratitude? Love? Wonder? Whatever you want to call it, the plants seem to drink it in like water. Directly above, I have a photo that was taken by one of our lunch time gardeners. This lovely flower with its flat, pancake-shaped leaves is known as a Nasturtium. I included this photo with this post because it highlights some of the interesting conversations we have had in the garden this month. Students have begun the on-going task of weeding, and one of the questions that inevitably comes up is, "What is a weed?" This is not an easy question to answer, and so we usually wind up having a rather philosophical conversation about the subjectivity of weeds. Many plants that are branded as weeds provide us with valuable food or medicine, whereas others serve an important function for the health of the soil and surrounding plants and insects. If you delve into weeds even more deeply, you can discover that they actually reveal much about your soil such as Ph, nutrient load, relative wetness, etc. Some folks shiver at the thought of having nasturtiums in their yard because once you have them, you pretty much always have them (they are great self-seeders.) But, from my perspective this "weed" is pretty great. You can eat it, some insects love it, it adds bright color, it is super-hardy, and you will never, ever have to buy seeds for it! I think that this lesson of hidden value is a useful one for students (and really all of us.) I wonder how many things we look at as being junk or weeds, we could actually see value in if we just shift our perspective a bit?On a more practical note, if you want to see some of our awesome weeds up close and personal, we are having a garden work day on October 5th from 3pm-5pm! Also, if you want to support the garden this year, but can't get our to our work days, please see our Help Our Garden Grow page to see what we need donated.
And finally, if you have honed the art of gopher trapping, please help us out!! Gophers have eaten many of our precious pumpkins and made short work of many of our other veggies and herbs. We really need help with this issue and I am not above bribery: f
ree-range, organic chicken eggs to whoever helps with this project!Thanks all and see you in the garden!Molly