Thursday, October 31, 2013

Conn's class and Ms. Keller's class learn about Thomas Jefferson the horticulturist

This week the 5th grade students in Ms. Conn's class and Ms. Keller's class began their study of Thomas Jefferson, the horticulturist. They learned that Jefferson, our third president, retired to Monticello, VA. where he had a 1,000 foot long garden that was taken care of by slaves.  Even as president, Jefferson was interested in horticulture. We discussed the concept of heirloom seeds and seed saving. The kids are currently studying Lewis and Clark and I told them that Jefferson asked them to bring back seeds from their explorations.

Ms. Conn's class has planted Marrowfat Pea seeds and Ms. Keller's class has planted China Rose Winter Radish seeds. These are heirloom seeds. Jefferson grew marrowfat peas during his retirement, 1809-1826. The radish is similar to what Jefferson planted.

Today Tyler, Exie and Jamie measured 1,000 feet on the lower yard. They determined that it is over twice the length of the distance from the garden fence to the end of the yard. This was similar to the results from Ms. Keller's measurers.

The kids enjoyed looking at the butterfly garden in the lower garden area. There are many herbs as well as other plants to attract butterflies.  Some kids saw a monarch butterfly caterpillar and others saw a lizard. They also enjoyed tasting from the garden. They ate strawberry guavas, mint and arugula.

We also reviewed the concept of composting.

Note: I purchased the seeds for this study from the Monticello website. It has lots of useful information.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Recess helpers in the garden

Today we had several helpers at recess. Third graders Sofi and Elula worked in the third grade plot and planted lettuce seeds.  Second graders Sophia, Jada, Isabel and Taylor watered the plants. Sophia showed some first graders the plants in the butterfly garden.

Lanto's 5th grade class starts Jefferson garden study

Today the 5th graders in Mr. Lantos' class began their study of Thomas Jefferson the horticulturist.
They learned that the 3rd president's garden at Monticello was 1,000 feet long and had over 250 varieties of vegetables.  We discussed heirloom seeds and compared them to family heirlooms as something that is handed down from generation to generation.

Children from each of the two groups assisted by volunteer Gretchen Arnold measured 1,000 feet with the tape measure to get an understanding of just how long Jefferson's garden was. Roger, Ollie and Kai measured in the first group and Archie, Zoe, Evelyn and Hudson measured in the second group. Mayla was the scribe for the first group.

The kids amended their bed with planting mix and Malibu Compost. I discussed the fact that we garden organically at Marquez and do not use chemical fertilizers or pesticides.

They then planted Brown Dutch Lettuce seeds. This is an actual variety that Jefferson himself planted 27 times back in the 19th century. (The second group from the class also discussed that the 1800s are in the 19th century).

Some of the children added material to the garden compost bin and others planted poppy seeds and watered.
Planting Brown Dutch Lettuce seeds

Monday, October 21, 2013

Mrs. Fein's class and Ms. Yoshida's class plant in the garden

Today children from Ms. Yoshida's class discussed their favorite vegetables, their favorite cool season vegetables, wrote in their garden journals, looked at the red wriggler worms in the compost, looked at the strawberry guava tree which has fruit on it and planted. Their garden journal contained the following: "Today in the garden I  (which they finished) and My favorite vegetable is ..."  They planted onion seeds, sugar snap pea seeds and sugar snap pea seedlings.  Thanks to Dana, a parent, and Ms. Ashley for helping.

After recess, Mrs. Fein's class also visited the garden. They discussed cool season vegetables, planted onion seeds, looked at at the fruit tree and harvested basil. I videoed them saying what they did in the garden and will send that to Mrs. Fein.

We also discussed other vegetables such as celery, swiss chard, kale, red and yellow beets, purple broccoli and arugula. Part of the fun of growing your own food or purchasing food at the farmers' market is the increased variety. We'll have some different varieties in our school garden.

Vocabulary presented today: harvest, sow, red wriggler worms, composting, all the names of the vegetables and fruit above plus other vegetables such as brussels sprouts and radish. Concepts discussed included: cool season and warm season vegetables, the fact that you don't plant small seeds very deeply, companion planting (onions, carrots and broccoli are good companions-you can plant them together).

Approximately 20 children visited the garden during the two recess periods. At lunch recess the third graders amended the third bed which they are in charge of planting. At lunch recess, the second graders planted johnny jump ups and sweet pea seedlings in the butterfly garden and California poppy seeds alongside the fence.

Planting onion seeds.

Harvesting basil.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Ms. Gardner's class harvests basil and makes basil pesto

Today students from Ms. Gardner's 4th grade class visited the garden. They harvested basil, tasted basil and helped prepare basil pesto which they then ate on top of a slice of baguette in the classroom.

Terms that we discussed:
- Propagate- to grow a new plant from the seeds of the plant.  We will be saving seeds of basil, cilantro and strawberry guava to see if we can grow new plants. The cilantro in the butterfly garden is self-propagating already.
- Harvesting - to pick the crop. They harvested the basil.
- Composting- recycling green (veggie, fruit and herb) and brown (from trees-e.g. paper, leaves) waste that will become nutritious material for our soil. We will deal more with the details of composting soon. The children added the basil stems to the compost bin.

In addition, the children observed ladybugs, aphids and a monarch caterpillar in the butterfly garden. Some of the children learned about the different varieties of herbs in the garden. We have lemon verbena, mint, chives, rosemary, thyme and cilantro.

Here's the pesto recipe. I mentioned to the kids that they could make it for dinner with pasta.

Basil Pesto

3 c. basil
1/2 c. olive oil (we discussed that liquids are measured in clear containers)
2 cloves garlic minced (we also discussed what minced means)
1/4 c. grated parmesan cheese (we added a bit more today)
pinch of salt and pepper
drop or two of lemon juice

In a food processor or blender, mince the garlic. Add basil, cheese, lemon juice, salt and pepper, and olive oil. Blend.

Basil is a warm season herb but it can also be grown inside.

Thanks to volunteers Paul, Corey and Gigi for assisting today!

Thanks to Gibson International Realty's Scott Gibson

Thanks to Scott Gibson of Gibson International Realty for his recent generous donation to the edible garden. Scott and his wife Suzy were active parents when their three daughters attended Marquez in the 1990s. They helped to build the garden. Scott said, " I am so very appreciative to have such a fine school in our community!"

Monday, October 14, 2013

Ms. Connors' class and Mr. Jacob's class plant in the garden

Today Ms. Connor's class and Mr. Jacobs' class visited the garden. We had four sessions. Half of each class came for 45 minutes each. This allows small group instruction time for the rest of the class.

Today we discussed their favorite vegetables and the concept of cool season and warm season vegetables. Cool season vegetables are grown in the fall and winter when the temperature of the air and soil are cooler than in the summer. Some of their favorite cool season vegetables included broccoli, peas and carrots. I showed them some props of cool season vegetables that we'll be growing: broccoli, lettuce, carrots and beets.  Ms. Connor's class planted carrot seeds on the border of the broccoli bed. Mr. Jacobs' students sowed both carrot seeds and beet seeds.

One benefit of growing your own food is the increased variety. Today the children planted seeds of two different types of carrots-one is reddish purple (cosmic purple) and the other is orange. They also planted two types of beets-red and golden.

I wrote down the crops planted and the dates so we can see how long it takes for the seeds to germinate.

The children also saw three types of animals in the garden-a lizard, some ladybugs, some aphids and two monarch butterfly caterpillars. I introduced the word chrysalis to them. Hopefully the caterpillars will survive to this stage.

Thanks to Heather H. for volunteering with Mr. Jacobs' class. Please let me know if you'd like to also volunteer. My email is

Here are some photos:

Planting carrot seeds.

Planting carrot and beet seeds.

Cosmic Purple Carrots

Why We Need School Gardens

Dear Friends,

Please click on this link to read Amelia Saltsman's article on "Why We Need School Gardens". Amelia is a local chef and the author of The Santa Monica Farmers' Market Cookbook. She has been an inspiration to me and many others. Those of you who garden or whose children have gardened know that gardening is not just playing in the soil.  It teaches cooperation, appreciation of nature, knowledge of where food comes from, openness to new foods, enjoyment of healthy eating, science, math, vocabulary, social studies and more. I hope that your children and you will have the same memories of gardening that Amelia and her mom had.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

The new chrysalis at Marquez

Yesterday the caterpillar in Ms. Yoshida's class became a chrysalis. The kids are watching to see how many days it takes to emerge!

Monday, October 7, 2013

Ms. Palo's 4th grade class harvests basil

Today Ms. Palo's 4th graders visited the edible garden, harvested basil, tomatoes and peppers and observed the butterfly garden. They also learned about mint, cilantro and thyme. The children also visited the class hummingbird/butterfly garden area where they planted two California fuchsias near a loquat tree.

I promised them a pesto recipe. Here's one without nuts.

Basil Pesto Recipe

3 cups basil leaves
2 or 3 cloves of garlic (minced)
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/2 cup olive oil
very small amount of salt
very small amount of pepper
(a splash of lemon juice-didn't add that today)

Note: this pesto would be great with pasta! Let your kids help you make it!