Give a Little Bit

By: Margi Fineran, Foodprints educator, School within a School @ Goding ….. 

photo“The most important thing in anyone’s life is to be giving something” – Ginger Rogers

December 2014, SWS Goding, our youngest of students were learning about Giving. With the talk of special holiday treats and surprises set aside for a little while, the 3 year old class learned how to give our red wiggler composting worms an appropriate environment in which to live and work. They were excited to cut up bits of old lettuce leaves and kale stems. Little fingers love tearing up bits of egg cartons and newspapers. They were concerned the worms not would be warm enough in the cold weather and so covered them up even more with their newspaper blankets. As we left the worms to settle in, students worried the worms would be lonely over the winter break.

One of my goals at SWS is to have a worm composting system in every classroom. The worm bins in some classrooms have become part of their center time activities. The student observe them, draw pictures and tell stories about the worms and all the decmposing action taking place. In the end, they learn what a treat the worms are giving back to the earth and our garden with their end product and a little help from us.

Protecting Our Pollinators

By: Laura Vogel, Adult Education Program Manager, Brookside Gardens ….. 

Montgomery Parks salutes RootingDC and its goal of bringing people together in the name of growing a healthier food system. Who can argue with that? It is obviously of critical importance, however what may not be as obvious are some of the factors that contribute to this cause and how human interaction may be interfering.

Pollinators play a big role in our ability to grow healthy food. In fact an astonishing 80% of the world’s plant species require a pollinator to reproduce: this includes plants that feed and shelter us as well as those essential to Earth’s ecosystems. The relationship between flora and fauna is being challenged on all sides by habitat loss, pesticides, invasive species, and more.

Montgomery Parks’ Brookside Gardens is delving deeper into this issue at our annual Green Matters Symposium, “Protecting Our Pollinators.” The all-day forum takes place February 27 at the Silver Spring Civic Center and will bring together a variety of experts on this topic.


Dr. Ari Novy, Executive Director from the U.S. Botanic Garden will open the conference with a session on the importance of pollinators.

Stanton Gill from the University of Maryland Extension will look at how to best protect and encourage pollinators in the landscape.

A panel discussion on bees will feature:
o Sam Droege, the head of the United States Geological Survey Bee Monitoring Lab
o Allison Gillespie, author of “Hives in the City: Keeping Honey Bees Alive in an Urban World
o Timothy McMahon, president of the Montgomery County Beekeepers Association
o Jim Fraser, Montgomery County Beekeeper
o David Heisler, Owner and Grower of Comus Market

Dr. Krissa Skogen, Conservation Scientist at the Chicago Botanic Garden will present on Hawkmoth pollination.

The conference fee is $99 and includes access to all sessions. For an additional $25, participants can attend a buffet lunch with pollinator experts from around the country. For more information please visit

It All Adds Up

By: Rebecca Helgerson, School Garden Coordinator at Tubman Elementary School …..

Screen Shot 2015-01-07 at 2.40.58 PMTubman students have opportunities to incorporate cooking into the classroom throughout the year, but the cold winter weather gives us an excuse to really focus it. Others than a couple of beds growing greens and roots, the garden is put to bed for the winter and all of our gardeners stay inside where it’s warm. We use this time to make garden art, plan for the next season, and learn more about healthy foods. With the help of our new cooking cart and supplies, it has never been easier to bring cooking into the classroom!

During December, Tubman’s kindergarten classes had their first cooking lessons with the cooking cart. Kindergarteners are busy learning addition, and since cooking is a wonderful and easy way to teach math concepts and make them meaningful, that’s just what we did. Using a recipe inspired from a City Blossoms recipe, the kindergarteners made Bird Seed Snacks. The recipe was for only half the number of students in each class, so they had to help double amounts in order to have enough for everyone.

The Bird Seed Snacks also give an opportunity to talk about what seeds are for and why they are good for us. Students learned that many seeds have lots of protein, vitamins, and healthy fats, in addition to being tasty. Each student tasted pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, and flax seeds. They then voted for their favorite seed and we made a graph to see which were the class favorite. Pumpkin seeds overwhelmingly won in almost every class!

Coming up in January, fifth graders will use cooking to reinforce what they have learned about fractions, and first graders will get their first cooking lessons. While our Gardeners can’t wait to get back outside we are keeping busy and healthy indoors for now!

Exploring Math and Language Through Seasonal Ingredients

By: Christy Przystawik, Early Childhood Teacher at FoodPrints …..

We’ve just completed a unit of study on pumpkins at Peabody through our FoodPrints program. For this particular unit our study was divided into four centers: observational drawings, playing with pumpkin pie moon sand, making pumpkin scones, and “geo pumpkins.” Borrowing from the concept of geoboards we hammered screws into small pumpkins and provided a huge pile of rubber bands. After demonstrating the method of stretching rubber bands onto the screws the students were allowed to explore on their own. As with a typical geoboard, this activity encouraged exploration of basic geometry, the development of language skills through discussion, and the use of fine motor skills. Not to mention they just look really cool!

The geo pumpkins were a big hit and were used with ages 3-6 at Peabody. Even students who usually have a short attention span stayed hyper-focused on the pumpkins. This was a really fun and engaging way to reinforce our study of local and seasonal pumpkins. Here is a link if you are interested in making your own geo pumpkin. Have fun!