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Second Grade Gardeners Plant Vegetables October 30, 2008

Filed under: 2008-2009 School Year — gardenexplorer1 @ 5:46 am

Second grade gardeners braved the garden in their fanciest duds on picture day! I never would have believed that forty eight-year-olds, many in pure white clothes, could stay clean while planting seeds in wet dirt — but they did, thanks to hours of help from Miranda Chavez’s father, Miguel!  Thanks, Miguel!

In groups of ten, students made a beeline for the garden, found the “planting line” on their fingers — the first knuckle — made holes just that deep, and popped in two seeds of plants that will take a long time to grow — brocolli, cauliflower, collard greens, bok choy, cabbage, some heading lettuces, and carrots. In a few weeks we will plant again — but this time we’ll plant plants that will mature more quickly such as non-heading lettuce, radishes, beets, turnips, parsley, etc.  We’re aiming for harvest not long after we return form winter vacation, and the “Cole” family plants (brocolli, etc.) take an extra long time to grow.


Third Grade Kumeyaay Garden

Filed under: 2008-2009 School Year — gardenexplorer1 @ 5:37 am

Each year, as part of their social studies focus on local history, geography and culture,  Explorer’s third grade students explore the world of the Kumeyaay Indians, San Diego’s Native Americans. Students plant a garden of plants the Kumeyaay used in their culture, and later focus in on a single plant to study and report on.

Last week, students in Mrs. Newman’s Ms. Cribbs’s and Mrs. Glover’s classes began to work in the garden by learning about what San Diego looked like when the Kumeyaay were the only people living in our region. Using their senses, they looked at our native soil — sandy, clay, rocks — and compared it to the rich brown woody soil of our vegetable gardens. They experimented to see what happens when water falls on native soil (it beads up and runs off before soaking in), as compared to what happens when water falls on our garden soil (soaks in). They looked at the native plants that live in our Kumeyaay Garden and noticed that they often have woody stems, leathery leaves, light colors, and strong smells. And they speculated as to how those qualities would help plants conserve water and survive in San Diego’s hot, dry climate. And they leaved about other, unseen qualities of the plants — such as their extensive root systems that help them collect water from far away.

Last week, third graders planted some extra native plants in our garden, bringing the total number of native plants up to 20. They planted:

Desert willow


Basket Bush

California Buckwheat

The plants already in the garden, planted by last year’s third graders, include two non-natives the Kumeyaay used — rosemary and horehound — as well as native plants such as sagebrush, white sage, black sage, lemonade berry, manzanita, hollyleaf cherry, yerba mansa, yerba buena, mountain mahogany, yarrow, laurel sumac, coyote bush, milkweed, california poppy, and more.

Students will continue their project by planting wildflower seeds, making seedballs for planting, learning to propagate plants from cuttings, and continuing their academic studies of the Kumeyaay uses of the plants in the garden.


Composting with Mrs. Kuhl’s Fourth Graders

Filed under: 2008-2009 School Year — gardenexplorer1 @ 5:03 am

Mrs. Kuhl’s fourth grade class has begun a composting project in conjuction with their math unit in graphing. They began the project by learning about, and recording, the process of decomposition. After examining a fossilized shell encased in sandstone from a local canyon, the students considered the question: With all of the billions of living things on earth over millions and billions of years, why don’t we find more fossils? The answer, of course, is that most living things decompose.

Decomposition, they learned is caused by three elements: the F.B.I., Fungus, Bacteria and Invertebrates.

For their first activity, students put small pieces of food in Petri dishes, covered with a small amount of dirt and some water. On a worksheet, they recorded what they observed in the dish. Over the next three weeks, the students continued to observe and draw the process of decomposition, as the food in the Petri dish began to decompose.

For their second activity, students made a “compost bag,” a hefty bag filled with soil, air, some water, and a variety of objects. Students predicted which objects would decompose, and which objects would remain the same after a month. Objects included: wet toilet tissue, a nail, a piece of aluminum foil, a styrofoam cup, some lettuce leaves, a corn chip, bread, and some grass clippings. Every week or so, students add some air to the bag to make sure it stays aerated. In a month, they will check to see which of their predictions were accurate — which objects decomposed, and which stayed in tact.

For their third activity, students created a large compost heap for the school garden. They learned that compost can be created from two main elements:

Green Waste, rich with nitrogen: grass clippings, coffee grounds, bread, veggies, fruits

Brown Waste, rich in Carbon: dry brown leaves, shredded paper, cardboard, wood chips and shavings

And they learned what NOT to put in a compost pile  (Dairy products, meat, plastic, oils)

  • Students first dug a hole about four inches deep in a square as big as our plastic composter.
  • They placed the plastic composter on top of the hole.
  • They filled it with a 4 – 6 inch layer of brown waste — dried leaves and shredded paper.
  • They piled on a 4 inch layer of greens — grass clippings and old food.
  • Then a layer of brown.
  • Then a layer of green.
  • In between layers they tossed in a bit of old compost from last year, so that the old bacteria could get to work making new compost in the pile;
  • They added layers until they ran out of materials.
  • Then they measured the size of the pile — how tall it was (about 20 inches)
  • Then they took the temperature of the pile with a long compost thermometer. (About 85 degrees)

In the coming weeks, the students will continue to measure and graph the size of the compost pile, and the temperature of the pile as the process of decomposition takes place.


Second Annual Garden Work Day, October 4, 2008 October 6, 2008

Filed under: 2008-2009 School Year — gardenexplorer1 @ 4:30 am

What beautiful families we are growing at Explorer! And what a beautiful community is springing up in our garden!

Nine families — twenty-four people! — came to the garden Saturday to work and grow together.  Lisa Ferguson, the entire Saucedo clan, the Layton family, the Sweeney family, Shane Wundrow and his mom, Medi, Steve Hymer and his dad, David, Esme Puzio and her dad, Chris, Kyan Glover, his little sister Amanita, and his mom, Michelle. Everyone worked hard, and everyone had fun.

Here’s what we got done:

Every garden bed — except the overgrown herb garden — is now covered with protective bird netting. There’s nothing as disappointing as going to all the work of preparing soil, planting and weeding, only to have your produce eaten by squirrels. The squirrels will have a really hard time eating the children’s veggies now!

Every raised bed has been weeded and raked smooth.

Four or five adults and three children wrestled for three hours with the monster mint! We managed to dig out a foot of tangled roots and another foot of leafy growth before discovering the mint had grown through and destroyed the chicken wire bottom of the raised bed. Since the mint’s roots had already pulled apart our watering system, Joth Layton, father of third-grade twins Garrett and Rachel, lent a hand in repairing the watering system. When the mint rears its minty head again, as highly invasive plants will do, we may have to take more drastic measures. Lesson learned: beware of invasive plants! Never plant mint outside of a container. And even then, make sure the container is on concrete, well away from any other plants.

The garden beds are now all ready for planting and growing and learning.

We are truly blessed by our community. When we work together, we grow together! Thank you!


Second Grade Gardeners Update October 2, 2008

Filed under: 2008-2009 School Year — gardenexplorer1 @ 5:02 am

Second Grade gardeners took a look at dirt this week. Inside they sang Dirt Made My Lunch. Outside, in groups of ten, they began to think how exactly dirt did that fine deed. How can dirt make our lunch? Their answers: by providing us with plants and by providing the animals we eat with plants to eat.

In small groups out in the garden, second graders looked at four different kinds of dirt using their sense of touch, and an enhanced sense of sight using magnifying glasses. Here’s what they found:

Garden soil is moist and dark brown and contains: dead plants, glittering sand, clay, insects, worms, bits of bark, It holds together when you squeeze it, but breaks apart easily.

Sand is made of tiny rocks; It does not hold together well, but slides through your fingers. It does not hold water.

Clay is hard when it’s dry, and slippery when it’s wet. It holds water too well, and does not drain.

San Diego’s native soil is dry and light brown. It runs through your fingers. It has clay in it and rocks and sand. It does not hold water like garden soil, but is more like clay when it is wet.

Students also tried breaking up rocks and mixing things to make dirt. They learned it is not easy to make it. In fact, the top layer of soil on our planet takes a long time to form — up to 100 years — and is therefore a precious resource.



Mrs. Kuhl’s Fourth Graders and Ms. Stevenson’s Kindergarden Buddies Plant Radishes

Filed under: 2008-2009 School Year — gardenexplorer1 @ 4:51 am

Mrs. Kuhl’s fourth grade class has buddied up with Ms. Stevenson’s kindergardeners for a community building project in the garden. The partner classes began their year by reading about gardening and working together on an indoor project about their garden books. Outside, they went outside in small groups for a guided exploration of the garden, to help them get oriented to using their senses outdoors. This week the classes planted seeds for three different kinds of radishes — long white, red and white, and small red radishes. Inside, they painted rocks to decorate their garden bed. Now the waiting begins! When will the seedlings pop up?


Butterfly Garden Update — Mrs. Rothschild’s First Graders and Ms. Lim’s Fifth Grade Buddies

Filed under: 2008-2009 School Year — gardenexplorer1 @ 4:44 am

The buddy classes in first and fifth grade are a cheerful lot. Hauling the small rocks they painted up to the garden, someone started tapping a rhythm on their rocks, and pretty soon, they’d formed their own “rock band” to make the labor light. The buddies continued to create a butterfly garden this week, planting wildflower seeds in pots and planting  pink and magenta verbena plants to attract more butterflies. They worked together to dig holes to plant the plants, learning how to use a shovel safely and effectively, how much room plants’ roots need, how to loosen their roots before planting. Everyone had a turn digging and planting. Then everyone place the rocks they painted around each plant. In fact, It seems to be working, as this week a new species of swallowtail butterfly found its way to the garden — an anise swallowtail.