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:
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.