Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Ms. Gardner's class learns about uses of native plants, mulch and measurement in the garden

Today Ms. Gardner's class learned about some of the uses of California native plants by the Chumash. They studied hummingbird sage, white sage, black sage, Cleveland sage, monkey flower, miner's lettuce and California poppy. Children in the first group "taught" the children in the second group. Hummingbird sage seems to be the most popular in this class.

We then had a discussion of the importance of measurement in the garden and reviewed perimeter and area. Measurement is important in planning the distance between seeds and plants. It is also useful when deciding how much mulch is needed. This lead to a description of what constitutes mulch!

Finally, three students measured the perimeter and area of three potential native plant areas at the front of the school. A good application of math in the garden!

Monkey flowers were made into a paste and used to heal wounds.

Cleveland sage was used to make potpourri.

White sage was dried and used in ceremonies.

Measuring a potential planting area

Special Day Class plants in a wooly pocket

Today the children in the Special Day Class planted. We've installed a wooly pocket on the fence at waist height, perfect for wheelchair access. They planted nasturtiums which are colorful, edible and won't be eaten by squirrels! They'll get to water their plants every day since the planter tends to dry out. More fun for them!

Newly planted nasturtium plants in the wooly pocket

A nasturtium flower in the butterfly garden

Monday, March 24, 2014

Ms. Palo's class learns about Chumash plants, plants seeds and composts

In preparation for the design and installation of our Native American garden, the 4th graders learned about some plants used by the native Chumash and Tongva.  We discussed the uses and scents of white sage, butterfly sage and Cleveland sage.  They learned that the Chumash made potpourri from Cleveland sage and that the Chumash used dried white sage in ceremonies. All kids preferred the scent of butterfly sage, so we'll definitely need to have that plant in our garden! Volunteer Carolyn helped the kids plant various seeds, including sweet peas, scallions, basil, thyme, sage and sweet william. Several kids added greens, water and worms to the worm bin and some read information about composting. We finished with a tasting of sugar snap peas from the Palisades Farmers' Market.

White sage is used in ceremonies as smudge.

Adding greens to the worm bin.

Newly planted seeds

A red wriggler worm

One of our first sweet peas!

Reading about composting!

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Ms. Reeves' 3rd graders make potpourri

Today Ms. Reeve's students made potpourri from Cleveland sage. This is part of their study of plants used by the Chumash and Tongva. After reviewing what potpourri is and how we use it today, the children took off leaves and flowers from the sage branches. They each took home some to their families. They then had broccoli or tomatoes from the farmers' market as a snack.
Cleveland sage

Separating the flowers and the leaves of the sage.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Ms. Keller's students review Jefferson's favorite vegetables, plant and eat English pea pasta

Today Ms. Keller's students reviewed the names of the plants that we'd planted a few months ago as well as the length of his vegetable garden.  The 5th graders have planted Brown Dutch Lettuce, Marrowfat Peas, Siberian Kale and Prince Albert Peas. They learned that Jefferson's favorite vegetable was the English pea and that he'd have contests with his neighbors as to who harvested the first or best tasting pea. Today they planted tarragon since that is one of the herbs that Jefferson liked. It's so nice to have a squirrel-proofed bed so the plants don't get eaten!

They ate English peas fresh and in pasta. They judged the sugar snap peas their favorite, and noted that you can eat all of the sugar snap pea while the pod of the English pea is a bit thick.

Fettuccine with Peas and Mint  (from Bon Appetit)


  • Kosher salt
  • 6 oz. fettuccine or tagliatelle
  • 2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup shelled fresh or frozen English peas, thawed
  • 1 garlic clove, thinly sliced
  • 1 small shallot, minced
  • 1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
  • 2 oz. Parmesan, finely grated (about 1 cup)
  • 14 fresh mint leaves, thinly sliced
Bring 3 quarts water to a boil in a 5-qt. pot. Season with salt; add pasta and cook, stirring occasionally, until about 2 minutes before tender. Drain, reserving 1 1/4 cups pasta cooking water.
Meanwhile, heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add peas, garlic, shallot, and pepper and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add 1 cup of the reserved pasta water; bring to a boil.
Transfer pasta to skillet with peas and shallot. Cook, stirring and tossing often, until sauce thickens and begins to coat the pasta, about 1 minute. Add butter and then Parmesan and remove pan from heat; stir and toss until melted and pasta is al dente. (Add more pasta water if sauce seems dry.) Stir and toss in mint, and season to taste with salt. Serve.

More butterflies to come to Marquez

This week some parents and I met with Lisa Novick, Outreach director of Theodore Payne Foundation. We looked at some potential areas for a pollinator/butterfly garden and for a Native American garden. Both gardens would feature native plants. These native habitats will be educational for children, e.g. what plants which butterflies eat which plants, the importance of a habitat for insects and birds, and which plants were used by local Chumash and Tongva. Most of all insect species that eat leaves such as butterfly caterpillars eat only native plants and these pollinators are good for our edible gardens too! Also, the caterpillars are a basic food for baby birds.

Ceanothus, California Lilac, is an example of a native plant that is also deer resistant. There are hundreds of different species, hybrids and cultivars. They can be used as ground covers, shrubs or small trees.

Stay tuned for an update on when we'll start preparing the gardens.

If you want information on making a native garden, planting wildflowers, a butterfly garden or hummingbird garden, check out the following resources: and also "Bringing Nature Home". I have a copy of the book if you'd like to borrow it. Theodore Payne also has a garden tour on April 5 if you wish to see some examples.

Meanwhile, I've seen two monarch butterflies at Marquez this week!

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Ms. Smith's class reviews Jefferson's favorite plants and eats

Today Ms. Smith's 5th graders reviewed some favorite vegetables of Thomas Jefferson and sampled some organic food. Focus of the review was: definition of heirloom, type of lettuce we'd planted (brown Dutch lettuce), type of pea ( Prince Albert and Marrowfat), kale (Siberian Kale). Jefferson loved English peas and used to have pea tastings with his neighbors. The kids tasted English peas that were purchased at the Santa Monica Farmers' Market as well as a some broccoli pasta. We discussed that nasturtiums are edible flowers and that Jefferson grew them. The 5th graders will be planting them.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Garden meeting and update with Marquez, Canyon and Pali Elementary Schools

On Monday garden teachers from Marquez, Canyon and Pali Elementary met at Marquez. We also had an email from Carrie, the agriculture teacher at Paul Revere and from Lisa Taylor at Pali Elementary. It's always good to share ideas and support each other.

Attendees: Canyon:Susan Hamilburg- kindergarten teacher; Sean Mickey and Tony Guma, first grade parents. Palisades Elementary: Jill Nichols; Marquez: Marie Steckmest.

Canyon representatives' report:
- Teaching:Volunteer parent, Carmen, teaches Kindergarten classes (how often);  She has recently planted herbs with the kindergarteners. Sean and Tony teach the three 1st grade classes weekly. They started teaching together last year when their kids were in 1st grade. Most of their expenses are self-funded. A recent lesson focused on making pesto. They have just planted zucchini and ?.
- The planting areas include three troughs in kindergarten and 12 raised beds in the rest of the school. They have no dedicated garden area.
- Canyon gets annual grant from Pacific Palisades Garden Club for maintenance of their native plant garden. Susan showed the new identification sign for one plant, California Lilac, that has english and botanical name as well as a qr code that links to the description of the plant.
- Canyon just received a large grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation for habitat restoration. They'll be putting in some more native plants that connect to their canyon habitat.
- Canyon received a Whole Foods Foundation grant this year for a garden storage unit.

Palisades Elementary
- Jill Nichols is a parent who is shadowing Tracy Judah and Lisa Taylor, the current garden teachers with an eye to maintain a garden program at Pali when they move on to Revere.
- Teaching and Curriculum: Lisa and Tracy are volunteer parents who have developed a curriculum over a period of several years. Grades K-4 get garden instruction monthly. Each class comes to the garden area with a teacher and one or two parents for a lesson. Lessons are tied to the curriculum-often science as Pali does not have science enrichment. 5th grade has garden club.
- Recent lessons include flower pressing in second grade, making strawberry popcorn in third grade, spinach pesto in kindergarten. They have also made bread from wheat that they grew.
- Pali has composting.
- How they get classroom volunteers: They request two garden parents per class at Back To School Night. In addition, Discovery Garden is a class volunteer position they try to get filled in every class at the beginning of the year. Lisa and Tracy have a morning meeting at the beginning of the year with garden parents. Responsibility of volunteers can include the following: watering, weeding, garden club, special garden sales. The Discovery Garden volunteer is separate from the parents who help during class garden time.
- Recent grants include: $2,000 Whole Foods grant in support of their K-4 Curriculum and 5th grade Garden Club to allow them to continue to expand on the science and social studies curriculum.

- Marquez has six raised vegetable beds in the enclosed lower garden as well as a "butterfly garden" with some native plants and herbs. These beds are on a drip watering system. There are also seven raised beds on the upper yard that are hand-watered.
- Teaching and Curriculum: Marie, a UCCE master gardener volunteer, teaches grades 2-5 classes that wish gardening approximately once a month. There are four classes per grade level at Marquez.  Two fourth grade classes do not have gardening.  Some assistance is provided by community volunteers and garden parents from some, but not all, classes.  Recent lessons have included: second grade-harvesting arugula and making arugula salad, planting marigold seeds that the kids saved last fall; third grade-learning about California native plants used by the Chumash (smelling and touching), fifth grade unit on Jeffersonian garden with heirloom seeds from Monticello and of course, composting. Children usually get to eat during their lesson-sometimes herbs or strawberry guava or sometimes they cook, eg. arugula salad.
Open garden time: at least once a week the garden is open during recess. Typically 15-20 children will help in the garden between all of the different recess times.
- Recent grants: Pacific Palisades Garden Club grant for a Native American plant garden that will include sages, monkey flowers, etc.; donation from a former parent, Scott Gibson of Gibson International Realty; grant for seeds from Agroecology.
- Pr for garden program: A blogpost ( is written after each garden lesson. This is sent to the teacher, the room parents for that class, the parent volunteer, the principal, and the booster club. In addition, the booster club communications parent includes a weekly write-up about the garden and a link to the blog in the school e-newsletter. There is a link on the school website to both the edible garden and the edible garden teacher (listed under enrichment). Periodically food from the garden, e.g. strawberry guavas is available at the end of the day when parents pick up the kids.
Other: one garden workday and also a fall gardening workshop for parents have been held. A spring garden workshop and another workday are planned.

Common issues among the schools
- Need for additional volunteers to teach, not just to assist but assistance is great to have;
- Additional funding. Suggestions include local nurseries, Malibu Compost, Agroecology gives $50 grants for seeds to school and community gardens, Kellogg and also Googling "school garden grants'.
- Increasing awareness among the parents and community
- Pest control, e.g. squirrels and birds
- Curriculum and other school garden resources: lifelab,, Edibleschoolyard, USDA Farm to School E-letter, University of California Extension Master Gardeners of LA County:

Other items
- Students from both Marquez and Palisades Elementary will make food from their gardens and serve to teachers at their respective schools during Teacher Appreciation Week. If extra food is needed, Gelson's will donate some produce. They are participating as part of Palisades Cares' Farm to Table Palisades, a program in April and March in the Palisades.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Ms. Yoshida's class and Mrs. Fein's class harvest, eat and plant

Today the children harvested all of the arugula in their class beds in preparation for future planting. They then combined the arugula with nasturtium flowers and parmesan cheese to make salad. Mrs. Fein's class also added broccoli. They made the lemon juice and olive oil dressing that we made last month.  The children wrote about "Making Arugula Salad" in their journals. They volunteered the steps necessary to make the salad, starting with harvesting the arugula.

Thanks to our parent volunteers! Parent volunteer Dana helped some of Ms. Yoshida's children plant marigold seeds.  Parent volunteer Sherri helped Mrs. Fein's children plant marigold seeds as well.  These were seeds that they'd saved last fall from marigold flowers.Parent volunteer Myra helped them make the salad.

Children in Mrs. Fein's class helped save the seed pods of the arugula plant. When we have enough seeds for all of the 2nd grade each student will get one. Arugula is very easy to grow in either a pot or the ground!

Children from Ms. Yoshida's class plant marigold seeds.

Sorting the marigold seeds.

Harvesting the arugula
Arugula salad with nasturtium flowers as garnish

Girls from Mrs. Fein's class plant marigold seeds.

Upper beds have been moved!

Six upper beds were relocated this weekend and children will start planting in them this week! We will squirrel-proof the covers and add compost and soil prior to planting. Soon they will be filled with veggies and flowers!

Thanks to LAUSD for moving them!

Sunday, March 9, 2014

5th graders plant their Jeffersonian garden

The 5th grade Jeffersonian garden has now been planted with seedlings of marrowfat peas, brown Dutch lettuce, China rose radishes and Siberian kale. The bed, outside of Ms. Conn's room was recently squirrel-proofed during the garden workday by Heather and Jack Haggenmiller and Beverly Jacobs' handyman. Red geraniums and sweet peas will be planted soon in a nearby bed to hopefully attract hummingbirds.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Third graders study Chumash plants

This week Ms. Schwartz's class and Ms. Bihari's class continued their study of the native plants used by the Chumash and Tongva Native Americans. The kids smelled these sages and learned about their uses by our local tribes: hummingbird sage (made into tea), black sage (sun tea then rubbed on sore area or to soak feet), white sage (dried leaves were burned as smudge and passed over body in ceremonies)  and cleveland sage (dried flowers made into potpourri). They also looked at miner's lettuce (the seeds were eaten by Chumash), monkey flower (leaves were ground in mortar and pestle and then put on wounds) and California poppy (roots were used to cure stomach aches). The kids liked the smell of the hummingbird sage best!

Mrs. Bihari's class has started to plant the poppies and monkey flowers near their room.

Dried white sage is used in Chumash ceremonies.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Mr. Jacobs' and Ms. Connor's Class in the Garden

Today's activities centered on harvesting, transplanting and planting. The kids should know the definitions for harvest (pick) and transplant (move a plant) and be able to use them in sentences!

Mr. Jacob's class harvested beets and strawberry guavas. Ms. Connor's students harvested tomatoes and composted the old tomato plant.

Some children transplanted kale while others transplanted johnny jump-ups.

Other children planted seeds of warm season veggies.  Warm season veggies thrive when the air and soil are warm. The children will transplant these when they grow into seedlings with three sets of leaves. The children in each group voted on their favorite warm season vegetables and then planted the seeds. Corn seemed the most popular.

We can still plant seeds of some cool season veggies, especially fast growing ones like lettuce. Please check the prior post for things to plant in the garden in March.

At the end of the school day 2nd and 3rd graders shared strawberry guavas with parents and other students. We have a lot of fruit!

Transplanting johnny jump-ups.

Planting seeds

Harvesting strawberry guavas