Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Red wriggler worms and some planting

Today we investigated the red wriggler worms that we're putting in our worm bin by looking at them under magnifying glasses.  The kids enjoyed the worms--many held them!  The worm eggs are small and yellowish. You can see them in the second photo below.  We discussed that the worms are voracious eaters and that means that that eat a lot. The kids could see the worms digesting food as it moved through their bodies. Some kids also planted tomatoes and beets. Other kids harvested the stalks and leaves of the broccoli plants and put them in the compost bin.

Thanks to the parents, students and teachers who contributed vegetables and fruit to our compost bins and the cafeteria manager who saved coffee grounds! We will be adding to our bins every Wednesday, so please bring the worms some food next week!

Here is what they did, in the words of one second grader (written on my laptop):

We saw red wrigglers digesting food.
We saw pill bugs.
We saw worm eggs.
We saw red wrigglers.
We looked at the red wrigglers with magnifying glasses.

"E"    Room 11

Vocabulary for today included: red wrigglers, microscope, decomposers, digesting, voracious eaters.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Eating kale chips, measuring and composting

February 6 and 13

This month we've focused on eating, measuring and composting. After our earlier success with broccoli, parent Sara Houghton prepared kale chips using some of our school-grown kale and some purchased kale. They were a big hit with the kids!

Kale chip recipe

Wash leaves well, pat, spin or air dry well. Remove most of center ribs and stems. Chop into bite-sized (1") pieces and place in a bowl. Toss with 2 T. olive oil, throw on sea salt.  Lay evenly on cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes until they are dark green and crunchy.

Sara also did some measuring activities with one of the beds eg. 1/2, 1/3, 1/4. We're trying to reinforce some concepts that the kids will be tested on, using a"real world" situations.

February 20

This week we did whole class lessons on composting inside the classrooms. I read "Garbage Helps Your Garden Grow" and excerpts from "Compost Critters". (Another good book is "Composting, Nature's Recyclers"). I also brought some compost from my home compost bin.  The kids enjoyed looking at the organic material in different stages of composition and also seeing the pill bugs and earthworms.  These are just two of the decomposers that help the greens and browns in the bin decay. When the compost is decomposed it becomes dark-brown humus. It is then ready to put around plants. The kids wrote in their garden journals after the lesson.

decomposers: creatures that break down organic matter and eat them,
decompose: to rot or break down,
humus: the decomposed compost,
pill bugs
worm castings: the waste from the earthworms, the basis of humus and very high in minerals. (You can purchase bags of worm castings at nurseries to use as soil amendment).

The kids will probably remember that rot and decompose are synonyms.

At school we have both compost bins and worm composting bins which we will start using in earnest.
earthworms at work

Note: If you wish to start composting at home, you can try vermiculture or use a compost bin. Vermiculture involves feeding kitchen waste (what the kids know as greens) to red wriggler worms. The waste from the worms, worm castings, are a high-quality soil amendment. Worm bins can be made or purchased. The LA City Dept of Sanitation sells worm bins and composting bins at Griffith Park. In addition, you can make them yourself. A later blog will describe this.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

More Broccoli!

The lesson on January 30 focused on the broccoli bed and the worm bin.  The kids also amended one of the beds for future planting and planted nasturtium seeds.

As we did the week before with the other half of each class, some kids measured the perimeter of the bed and the height of the plants and we all looked at the broccoli plants. Some plants still had green florets or buds, others had yellow flowers and some flowers had fallen off. We picked some green florets from a couple of plants to extend the production. This week several happy bees were visiting the flowers. The kids learned that they can eat all parts of the plant-the stem, leaves, florets and flowers. Today we served them parts of stems, flowers and florets. The flowers were very popular!

I had brought some worms from my compost bin to add to our worm bin. Several kids enjoyed counting them and naming them! Other kids added greens and browns to the bin and tore them into small pieces. At the end of the morning, the kids added the worms and water to the bin. The bin needs to be kept moist, like a damp sponge, so things decompose and so the worms don't dry out.

If you want your own worm bin, you can make one from a plastic Rubbermaid-type container, or purchase one from LA City Department of Sanitation at their compost sales events held in Griffith Park. There are two in February. Composting is an easy way to recycle your kitchen waste and a good learning opportunity for the kids. In addition, you can add compost to the garden to improve your soil.

We amended an empty bed with compost from Whole Foods. Raised beds need to have the soil amended annually to add nutrients to the soil. The kids have taken out most of the grubs that were in the bed. As the kids should be able to tell you, grubs eat the roots of plants.

Today's journal activity: the kids copied a drawing of a broccoli plant and labeled the parts, they wrote the word broccoli and at least one sentence about what we did in the garden.

The kids had several opportunities to taste broccoli today thanks to my shopping trip to Vons. The kids act like broccoli is candy! They love it! Note to parents: serve broccoli as a snack, with or without ranch dressing, depending on your child's taste. Even better, buy a plant or two at the local nursery and grow your own. Then you can eat the yellow flowers as well as the green flowerets! You can use the flowers in salads just like you can use nasturtiums and pansies.  Also, steam or saute all of the parts of the broccoli.

Please let me know if any of you would wish to help purchase some vegetables for next month's tasting. One goal is to have the kids sample every type of vegetable that we are growing and we don't have enough of our own to do this.

Thanks again to our parent volunteers, the teachers for sharing their kids and of course, the kids! They are enthusiastic workers!


"Ms. Marie"