Friday, December 8, 2017

Garden Related Activities when Kids are out of School

If your kids like to garden they might like some of the following activities that they can do at home.

1) Kids might like to plant some cool season veggies in pots or in the ground. Remember that everything takes longer to grow now that it's not so warm outside. For that reason, I plant seedlings as well as seeds so I'll have vegetables to eat sooner.  I recommend asking the kids what they'd like to plant-usually it'll be their favorite vegetables. Check the back of the seed packets to see how long until germination. That might also be a factor in what you choose to plant!
2) You or they might want to plant some bulbs. At Marquez we're planting some red tulips behind yellow pansies. They'll look good together.  I also like planting paper whites-they are easy to grow and smell great!
3) Kids can research what they'd like to plant in a spring garden and then order seed catalogs.
4) If they want to start seeds indoors using grow lights like we have at Marquez, check out the grow light gardens from Gardeners Supply.
5) Plant some wildflower seeds. California poppy seeds can be found at most nurseries. (Kids learn about poppies in our study of plants used by indigenous peoples). Theodore Payne has a large variety and you can check on-line and have seeds sent to you. 

Wind chimes:
1) Wind chimes can be made out of various materials. Some Marquez students are going to make some out of terracota pots for our sensory garden. I'm going to make some out of xylophone pieces. There are lots of good ideas on Pinterest.

Garden gifts for others:
1) Kids can paint a terracota pot with acrylic paint and then plant seeds or seedlings in it as a gift.  They could give someone a small herb garden or salad garden. They can also do this with paperwhite bulbs.

Other garden related activities:
1) Kids can help make raised beds. has some raised beds that are easy to put together. 2) Make a worm bin or purchase one and start composting with worms. The worms do best at temps from mid 50 to mid-70s so consider keeping the bin in the garage. Worm bins can be made out of large Rubbermaid containers. Just put holes in the top so the worms can breathe and some in bottom for drainage. Put another bin underneath to catch moisture. Directions for worm composting:

1) Kids might like to read books about gardening either factual or fiction. Kids Can Compost is an introductory book about composting, Planting a Rainbow, Compost Stew, Growing Vegetable Soup are also good books for young gardeners.
2) Garden project books: Roots, Shoots, Buckets and Boots has fun projects as does The Book of Gardening Projects for Kids.

Friday, December 1, 2017

What Marquez 4th graders Do and Learn in the Native American Garden?

The Native American Garden is an example of linking gardening to the curriculum as a way to make lasting memories for the students. In this case, we provide links to social studies and science and to our local flora of the Santa Monica mountain area.

The garden was installed in the 2014-15 school year based on a design by Ryan Drnek of Sodder Studios after approval by LAUSD personnel. Initial funding for the garden was from a grant from the Pacific Palisades Garden Club. Subsequent funding has come from Gibson International Realty.

We discuss how many of the plants in the garden can be found in the local mountains, just five minutes from school. Some of the students hike there and recognize the plants. Others use some of the plants at home, for example, white sage.

We discuss how native plants don't need much water, i.e. that they are drought tolerant and adapted to our climate. In the local mountains the plants self-seed and don't get extra water.

Many of the plants in the front garden are California native plants that were and are used by local indigenous peoples, the Chumash and Tongva, for food, medicine and other purposes.   The plants include deer grass, Cleveland sage, California poppy, black sage, purple sage, sticky monkey flower, island alum root, milkweed, white sage, hummingbird sage, sagebrush and yarrow.

In the fall, the students learn about California poppies, the state flower, as they plant the seeds in the garden. Later they can harvest and save the seeds.  We also discuss the role of mulch at this time and if necessary, add more mulch. Mulch keeps the soil underneath moist and reduces the need for watering. It also prevents weeds from growing.

In the winter, the students learn about other plants in the garden either as they plant them or as we observe them. Deer grass is an easy one to learn as it's the biggest plant in the garden. Students learn that the Chumash make baskets from this. They learn that there are several varieties of sages and that they smell good.

In the spring the California poppies, the state flower, explode with color!

California poppies in bloom

A smudge stick used for ceremonies is made from white sage

Students research and prepare reports on the different plants. During this process they learn how they are used by local pollinators as well as by indigenous peoples. During the spring annual garden celebration they tour the garden to the guests. The guests are given copies of the student's reports.

Identifying markers label the plants so community members can learn about them as well. This next year we will be purchasing identifying labels, similar to those in botanical gardens, that have QR codes that will link to explanations written by the children.

The attachments below show some pages from an iBook written by students in Ms. Chaides' class in spring of 2017. A printed copy was given to the attendees at the celebration.

In addition, reports from Ms. Chaides' and Ms. Palos' students from the garden dedication in spring of 2015 can be found on  Palisades Cares.

Ms. Conn's Class Plants in the Jefferson Garden

Yesterday Ms. Conn's 5th graders planted in the Jefferson Garden. They learned that Thomas Jefferson, the 3rd president, was also a horticulturist. His favorite vegetable was peas! The students planted heirloom seeds of Champion of England peas and Brown Dutch lettuce that we purchased from and that were harvested at Monticello.  The peas originated in England in 1843.  Brown Dutch lettuce was the most frequently planted lettuce variety by Thomas Jefferson in his garden at Monticello.  Thanks to Michele Wahlig for gardening with the children.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Planting in the Tops and Bottoms Garden

Today Ms. Fein's students planted in the Tops and Bottoms garden. We talked about what parts of the plants we eat at the beginning of school and this reinforces that discussion!

The students planted seeds and seedlings. We showed them the proper way to take a seedling out of the container which is squeezing it and pulling on the soil and not the stem.

They planted beet seeds, carrot seeds and lettuce seeds.  They planted cosmic purple carrot seeds that were donated by Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds as were the Chioggia beet seeds. In addition they planted Capitane lettuce seeds donated by Turtle Tree and lettuce merveille des quatre saisons also from Baker Creek.

They planted seedlings of carrots, lettuce, kale and broccoli.

I suggested that they see if the seeds that they planted outside grew as fast as the seeds that they planted inside earlier in the year.

Thanks to Mrs. Fein and Ms. Ashley for helping.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Ms. Bihari's Students Make Salsa

Ms. Bihari's 3rd grade students made yummy salsa! This cooking lesson is based upon the salsa garden that the children planted in the spring of 2nd grade. The gardens contains tomatoes, onion, peppers and cilantro.

The harvest from the garden was supplemented by tomatoes and onions donated by Frecker Farms, a vendor at the Palisades Farmers Market. Thanks to Marquez mom, Molly Sigworth for getting us the produce!

The children cut the tomatoes, onion and garlic and tore the cilantro in little pieces. They also measured olive oil and lime juice.  We used more tomatoes than the recipe called for, but that was fine with all of us!

The kids are good chefs!

Thanks to the parents who helped: Bernadette Westerberg, Shelli Schmalle, Alexys Buckner, Shah Bahador, Angie and Margarita Reyes.

Salsa Recipe

8 tomatoes
2 onions
2 garlic cloves
1/2 bunch of cilantro
3 T. olive oil
3 T. lime juice
salt and pepper to taste
2 jalapeno peppers (we didn't add these but you might want to at home-just wash hands immediately after cutting)

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Growing seedlings indoors and transplanting them

Here are some valuable tips for growing seedlings indoors and getting them ready to transplant. Note that if your seedlings are leggy, they aren't getting enough light and you need to put the light source closer to them.

The number of leaves, instead of how tall, determines when the plants are ready to start going outside. Basically, the seedlings will need 3-4 sets of true leaves before they are ready to be hardened off prior to planting. The first set of leaves are the cotyledons. They are a source of energy for the plant but not "true leaves".

The process of hardening off takes about a week. You gradually leave the seedlings outside longer and longer-first in shade and then in sun.

Read the following articles for details.


These cool season seedlings grown under a grow light aren't ready yet to transplant.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Gardening for Wildlife and Opportunities for Citizen Science

Gardening for Wildlife

Several areas at Marquez attract butterflies and birds including the Native American Garden, the butterfly garden, some plants planted by LAUSD in the re-landscaping and some areas on the upper yard.  The landscaped area by the auditorium seems to have the most birds and the fewest squirrels. A resource for involving your students in this topic is from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology  Bird Sleuth has some ideas for citizen science projects. Another resource is the National Wildlife Federation.   
The Habitat Network,, helps people to map their outdoor spaces and see how inviting they are for wildlife. This could be done at school or home.

Activities to make a school more welcoming can include bird feeders, water, more plants for food and shelter. What are you interested in doing? What birds do you see near you?

We are adjacent to the Santa Monica Mountains and should have more birds visiting our campus.

Resources for native plants include Theodore Payne, Audubon,  and Las Pilitas Nursery Some natives that we have at school include poppies, monkey flower, deer grass, yarrow, oak tree, white sage, black sage, purple sage, hummingbird sage. We'll be planting ceanothus, redbud and more in the coming months.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

It's Time to Plant California Poppy Seeds

The California poppy is our state flower. Poppy seeds, along with lupine seeds, have been planted in the Marquez School Native American Garden by Ms. Palo's and Ms. Chaides' classes.  They were lightly covered with mulch and are watered weekly.  They hopefully will join with the seeds shed by last spring's poppies to create a mass of orange blossoms at the front of the school.  The poppy self seeds.

Since poppies like poor soil conditions, we will plant them in other areas around school as well and hope for winter rains.

Once the poppies bloom, we can cut them back and they will re bloom.  We can also save the seeds: when the petals drop off you see a long seed pod. Let the pod turn brown and cut it off or wait for it to open. The seeds will be inside.

Check out these articles:

The Davis Enterprise :;

Theodore Payne:

US Forest Service:

The poppy leaves are used by indigenous peoples for several things including  to relieve toothaches and headaches. Some also use the plant for food.

Friday, September 15, 2017


On September 14 Ms. Palo's students made succotash. The main ingredients for this vegetable dish are corn, beans and squash. These are also the Three Sisters, the plants that the many Native Americans throughout North American planted and that most of these students planted when they were in 3rd grade. (The corn stalks are still visible in the edible garden).

We reviewed the names of the tribes that the students had studied that planted the Three Sisters. The Iroquois is one. There were many varieties of corn, beans and squash used. The squash kept the ground cool, the beans provide nitrogen to the soil and the corn provides the stalk that the beans grow on.

Children worked at their seats preparing the corn, zucchini, beans and other ingredients cutting them into small pieces. The ingredients were then cooked in an electric skillet.

Thanks to Gelson's market for donating the ingredients!


1/4 c. olive oil
3 T. unsalted butter
1 onion
2 garlic cloves
1 yellow pepper
1 red pepper
4 ears of corn
3 zucchini
1 c. green beans
1 package lima beans thawed
salt and pepper to taste
1 T. thyme (not used in class)

The olive oil and butter were first heated in the skilled, next the garlic. Everything else was added together.  Cook approximately 10 minutes. Can be served al dente or more fully cooked.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Ms. Connor's Class Studies Parts of a Plant

Today Ms. Connor's 2nd graders reviewed parts of a plant- roots, stem, leaves, flowers, seeds and fruit. They then matched the part of a plant to selected vegetables and herbs after identifying them.

Leaves: arugula, lettuce, beet, basil,cilantro, kale
Stem: broccoli, green onion, beet celery, asparagus
Flower: broccoli
Fruit: tomato, cucumber
Seeds: corn, peas
Roots: onion, beet potato (really a tuber)

They also wrote in their journals before having a snack of carrots.

Yay Salsa!

Today Ms. Farrell's 3rd graders made salsa. Many of the students had planted the ingredients last year as 2nd graders. Two of the children harvested tomatoes from plants in the edible garden though the majority of the tomatoes, as well as the other ingredients, came from Gelson's. (Gelson's has donated a gift card to be used for purchasing food for our cooking projects).

Each child cut a tomato into small pieces and then helped get the cilantro, onions, garlic, olive oil or lime juice ready for the salsa. We used heirloom tomatoes to make the salsa colorful.

The recipe below has jalapeno pepper but we didn't use it today.

Thanks to Alyssa Gallagher, Jenny Lee, Carla Davidson and Joyce Wong Kup for helping!

Monday, September 11, 2017

The Parts of a Plant that We Eat

Today Ms. Gardner's 2nd graders reviewed the parts of a plant, naming them on an illustration on the white board.

They then matched vegetables to the categories: roots, stem, leaves, fruit, flower and seed.
Roots: onion, carrot, beets, radish
Stem: celery, asparagus
Leaves: lettuce, kale, chard, spinach, arugula
Fruit: tomato, cucumber, zucchini
Flower: broccoli, cauliflower
Seeds: corn, peas, beans

They wrote in their garden journals and had a snack of carrots-they all like this veggie!

Eating Vegetables

Today Ms. Yoshida's 2nd grade students reviewed the parts of a plant and discussed what parts of a plant some vegetables came from-roots, stem, leaves, flower, fruit or seed. Ms. Marie drew a plant on the white board and labeled it.

We organized the vegetable names under the parts.
Roots: onions, carrots, beets, radish
Stem: celery, asparagus, beets
Leaves: lettuce, arugula, chard, kale, beets
Flower: broccoli, cauliflower
Fruit: tomato, cucumber, zucchini
Seed: corn, beans, peas

The students wrote in their garden journals and then had a snack of baby carrots.

Thanks to Gelson's for donating the vegetables!

Saturday, September 9, 2017

What Parts of the Plant Do We Eat?

Recently Ms. Fein's students reviewed the parts of a plant.  They then looked at several vegetables and organized them by what part of the plant they ate: roots, stem, leaves, seeds, fruit and flowers. Afterwards they ate samples of the vegetables, some with ranch dressing.

The vegetables and the parts:

Roots: carrots, beets, radish, onion
Stem: celery, broccoli, stems
Leaves: lettuce, arugula, basil, swiss chard, kale, beets (also spinach)
Fruit: apples, tomato, cucumber, zucchini
Flowers: broccoli
Seeds: beans, corn

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Fall Marquez Parent Garden Workshop

What to do in the garden now?

- Harvest early in the day. Plants have more water content and are sweeter

-Water in the morning

- If warm season plants are finished, pull them out, compost them and prepare soil for planting.

- Preparing soil- add layer (about an inch) of coffee grounds (for nitrogen), compost and manure (if desired).  Add a bit of either Dr. Earth fertilizer or other general purpose fertilizer. Dig in with top inch of soil. Do this 2-3 weeks before planting.

- Start cool season seeds in trays-lettuce and radish germinate quickly.

-Replant tomato seedlings. Plant cherry tomatoes or others that have shorter period to fruit- approximately 60 days.

Cool season vegetables to plant: Sow beets, bok choy, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, celery, chard, chervil, chives, collards, endive, garlic, kale, kohlrabi, leeks, lettuce , green onions, short-day bulb onions, parsnips, peas, white potatoes, radishes, spinach, and turnips.

Benefit of planting seeds: greater variety than from nursery. More fun for the kids.

What kind of help do we need in the garden:
- watering in edible garden (Monday is open)
- watering the Native American Garden
- adding soil to beds
- assisting in children's classrooms
- cooking assistance
- grant writing assistance

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

3rd Annual Marquez Garden Celebration

The 3rd annual Marquez Garden Celebration on June 6 was a huge success! Over 20 students from grades 2-5 shared what they'd learned during the year and toured guests around the edible garden. 2nd graders talked about the salsa garden, 3rd graders talked about the Three Sisters Garden, 4th graders gave reports on native plants and Ms. Chaides' class gave tours of the Native American Garden and 5th graders acted as tour guides.  Ms. Chaides handed out an iBook with reports on native plants that were done by her students. Students also planted seeds in reusable pots. 2nd and 5th grade students prepared salsa, salad and kale smoothies for the refreshments which were served by the 5th graders. These are some of the favorite foods that we prepare as part of our seed to table program. Music was provided by three members of the Marquez jazz band who played "Watermelon Man".

Ms. Marie thanked honored guests and other donors for supporting the garden program. Honored guests included Erick Hansen, Instructional Director Elementary of the West Region for LAUSD, Diane Goldberg of the Pacific Palisades Garden Club, Carolyn Haselkorn-community volunteer, Susan Pasco Editor of the Palisades News and Ben Meritt, Principal of Marquez School. Donors not present included Kellogg's Garden Products, Gibson International Realty and Gelson's. We also thanked the 3rd grade Girl Scouts and 7th grade Girl Scouts who decorated pots in the garden and 5th grade Girl Scouts who planted geraniums around school.

Parent participation is an essential part of a successful school garden program. A special thanks goes to Laurie Vander Veen who taught gardening to many 3rd graders this year and helped coordinate the program and to Sharon Agabra who taught two of the 2nd grade classes. Many thanks to all of the parents who have watered the beds this school year.

Last, but not least, thanks to the teachers, staff and Friends of Marquez for supporting the garden program. Five years ago, just the four 2nd grade participated in the garden program. This year, 13 classes from grades 2-5 participated in the program.

A Three Sisters Garden

Making kale/banana/mango smoothies

Making Salsa

Salsa (with heirloom tomatoes)

Marquez Native American Garden
Making salad

Thursday, June 1, 2017

3rd Graders Plant Three Sisters Gardens

Third graders in Ms. Schwartz's class, Ms. Farrell's class and Ms. Bihari's class have been planting corn, beans and squash in their Three Sister's Gardens. Today Ms. Schwartz's students added corn seedlings and pumpkin and bean seeds to their bed. The bean seedlings were donated by Seed Saver's Exchange earlier in the year. They are heirloom seeds. We soaked them before planting. In addition, the students planted some sunflowers. Hopefully the plants will do well over the summer vacation1

Friday, April 7, 2017

Ms. Chaides' 4th Graders Learn More about Native Plants and Drought Tolerant Planting

This week, Ms. Chaides' 4th graders learned more about native plants. They identified deer grass, white sage, monkey flower, California Poppy and California Sagebrush. They liked the smell of California Sagebrush.  We discussed that these plants, used by the Chumash, are also adapted to our climate and need little water once established.  These plants and others in the Native American Garden attract our local pollinators.  The Margarita BOP Penstemon and red salvia are also attractive to butterflies and hummingbirds.

Ms. Marie made a bundle of white sage which we'll make into a smudge stick once the leaves are dry. The Chumash use such a stick in ceremonies. We reviewed that deer grass is woven into baskets.

The students also learned about scientific or botanical names, which come from Latin.  These names can be understood by people all over the world. Here are some examples: the botanical name for White Sage is Salvia apiana, Black Sage is Salvia mellifera, California Sagebrush is Artemisia Californica and Cleveland Sage is Salvia clevelandii.

The students helped weed the garden again. They are very industrious! We will be putting down cardboard and  Kellogg's Xerimulch to keep the weeds from growing back.

Deer Grass

White Sage being dried 

Native plants require less water and attract wildlife. Many of the plants in our garden were and are used by Chumash and Tongva.

Hummingbirds like this penstemon and it's tubular flowers.

Ms. Schwartz's 3rd Graders Plant a Three Sisters Garden

This week Ms. Schwartz's 3rd graders planted a Three Sisters Garden in the edible garden. The three sisters are corn, beans and squash. The have been planted for generations by indigenous peoples in America. By the time Europeans came to America in the 1600s, Iroquois had been growing the “three sisters” for more than 300 years!  This is a good example of companion planting.

The three plants help each other. The corn is the support for the beans which climb up the stalk. Beans provide provide nitrogen for the soil. The squash keeps the ground cool during the warm summer.  We planted heirloom Brinker Beans which we got from Turtle Tree Seed Initiative. We also planted Hjerleid Blue Corn, an heirloom corn which was donated by Seed Savers Exchange.

Different tribes plant different types of beans or corn or squash depending upon where they live.

Here is a link to an Iroquois Three Sisters legend:

Thursday, March 30, 2017

An Early Earth Day Lesson for Ms. Yoshida's 2nd Graders

This week Ms. Yoshida's 2nd graders learned about planting in reusable containers in preparation for Earth Day. Egg cartons, paper pots, milk cartons, toilet paper rolls and plastic tomato containers can be reused for starting seeds. The Scrapkins website as well as Life Lab has information regarding this.

Here is the link for the project if you want to share:

Today the children planted seeds in cardboard egg cartons. The egg cartons will decompose once they are planted in the soil. The children can either keep the seeds growing inside until they sprout and have three sets of leaves or they could immediately plant them in the ground.  In either case, the soil needs to be kept moist to aid germination.  If inside, the carton can be put on a small tray or plate. When the carton goes outside, make a hole at the bottoms so the roots can grow down and cover all of the cardboard with soil.

Today the children planted lettuce and carrot seeds. They planted two seeds in each section. During our lesson time we counted by 2s to determine the number of seeds each child would plant. The lettuce seeds were donated to the school from Turtle Tree Seed. They are open pollinated seeds.

After planting, the children wrote in their garden journals, watered in the garden and checked out the worm bin before eating a salad.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Ms. Chaides' Class and Ms. Palo's Class Weed in the Native Garden

Last week both Ms. Chaides' and Ms. Palo's 4th grade classes weeded in the Native American Garden. The weeds like the recent rains.  This garden contains plants that are native to our local area, many of which were used by the Chumash and Tongva, our local indigenous peoples.

They were careful to avoid the California Poppy seedlings, the top of which looks something like carrots, while the weeds look like grass! The California Poppies are starting to bloom and we are eager to see more of our state flower.

We've applied mulch (small pieces of wood chips) to the area to keep the soil moist underneath and suppress the weeds. It will also eventually decompose and improve the soil.  Finally, it gives a nice clean look to the area. We'll finish mulching this week.

Ms. Chaides' class enjoyed touching the California Sagebrush and then smelling their hands. One student said that it smelled like mint.

We had to replant the garden last year after moving locations and still need to add more plants. Over the next few weeks we'll try to add more plants including white sage, ceanothus and more monkey flowers.   Here are some of the current ones which will hopefully bloom this spring:

Sticky Monkey Flower
A Monkey Flower in bloom at another location at school

California Sagebrush

Deer Weed

Cleveland Sage

California Poppy

Pink Flowering Current

Narrow Leaf Milkweed

Black Sage