First grade Garlic Experts


By: Tara McNerney, Cooking and Gardening Teacher at Mundo Verde Public Charter School …..

When the weather turned cold in the nation’s capitol, and the garden was looking ready for a long sleep, the first graders at Mundo Verde Public Charter were getting ready to do the last planting of 2014. One brisk and cloudy day in late November, the first graders donned their coats and mittens and went out to the garden to plant….garlic!

In the garden…
Garlic, the students learned, is a bulb, and bulbs we plant just before winter is upon us.

“The dirt is cold!” two girls exclaimed as they used their fingers to dig small holes for their garlic cloves.

To our plate…
Next, students learned how to use garlic in the kitchen where it is frequently used in cooking frequently to enhance the flavor of food. And knowing how to peel and chop garlic like a chef is an important kitchen skill!

Students learned how to press, peel and mince the garlic – always safely using the “bear claw” technique of course!

Some sneaked a taste. “It tastes spicy!” they squealed.

“Some people eat raw garlic for their health – it can be used as a natural medicine,” I informed them. Then admitted: “but, it does taste better cooked!”

Luckily for the first graders, the next step was to work together as a team to concoct garlic bread!

Students worked with their tablemates to butter a baguette, mince the garlic and sprinkle some parsley leaves on the top.

When out of the oven it came, perfuming the classroom with a mouth-watering smell, I reminded the class: “We worked together to make this, so let’s do our cheer and eat the first bite together!”

We did our cheer (courtesy of City Blossoms!) “Arriba, Abajo, El Centro, Al dentro!” Crunch, was the sound as twenty-two little mouths all bit into the warm garlic bread.

Garden Education Doesn’t Take a Winter Break!

By: Willa Pohlman, Garden Educator at City Blossoms …..

Willa Blog Pic

Winter is upon us, but we’ve been keeping busy exploring edible plant parts, discovering firsthand what a plant needs to grow, conducting compost experiments, and investigating insects. In pre-k, students have been learning about plant parts and which roots, stems, leaves, flowers, fruits and seeds people eat. They created some edible masterpieces out of all six plant parts and after admiring their art, everyone got to eat. In Studio 4 science, students planted paper white bulbs, watered them, watched as they sprouted leaves near a sunny window and eventually bloomed. Students observed the plants as they grew watching as the roots, leaves, stem and flower developed. They created a mural illustrating what plants need and used it to record the growth of their bulbs. They’ve created soil with different insects and worms that create healthy soil. The sky features a rain cloud as the water source as well as some much needed sunshine. In the coming weeks they will be adding bees, butterflies, birds and other pollinators.

Studio 7 Science has been experimenting with compost bags to test out newfound knowledge on the scientific method. They decided to see which of their two favorite fruits would turn into soil first. After creating a bag of soil, leaves, water, fruit, and air, they’ve been checking on their compost every week for some hands-on experience on every step of the scientific method. They’re still forming their final conclusions, but it looks like it’s going to be a close race to soil.

Fifth grade science classes have focused on insect habitats and adaptations.  After observing insect habitats in the garden earlier in the fall, they moved inside and mapped out where specific pollinators could find what they needed for food and shelter in the garden. Students explored what kind of food insects eat and how they consume it by emulating a particular insect eating method (i.e. piercing, sucking, lapping, and chewing). The bees received half a straw and stood for insects who suck or pierce their food. Butterflies represented insects who suck nectar from a flower and used a whole straw to model this technique. Flies demonstrated how insects who lap to consume their food could only use their tongue to eat. Caterpillars, who chew their food, could only use their teeth. All of the students tried different types of insect food (juice in cups with lids, a small amount of juice in a soda bottle, crackers held up vertically on a paper plate with sun butter, and a plate with a small dab of honey). Students quickly realized which insect mouth part was most adept at gathering which type of food. With newfound realizations about how insects eat, students created insect masks that represented various insect heads and mouthparts. Everyone will be ready to get their hands dirty in the spring, but for now we’re excited to be learning and creating art and food surrounding many aspects of the garden. 

Guided Discoveries in Watkins Garden

By: Jane Hellewell, Foodprints at Watkins Elementary Garden …..

Vyfho2am36atwAyxe5ljCkR4pUx5V7ogBBH6EVbv63zuBf0GdvX21Mi20lmSYHOSdMdP4va5CUlkqjmg69QbbP-vl9A=w1165-h439As students started the 2014/2015 school year here at Watkins Elementary School on Capitol Hill, the garden was showing it’s healthy summer bounty.  Students arrived to discover various types of beans growing, Cherokee Trail of Tear beans and American Indian Haditsu War Shield beans to name a few. There was a plethora of cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, heirloom and yellow striped zebra tomatoes, basil, red and green peppers, banana peppers, a few token potatoes, and  many favorite cooking herb plants.

The first and second grade classes started their first Foodprints lessons immediately upon returning to school from summer vacation.  In first grade, we completed a guided discovery tour of the garden and generated a list of positive behaviors to follow while in the garden.  Each class “adopted” a mystery plant to take care of for the next month. As scientists, students collected data of their class plant as they 1. made observations and predictions, 2. asked questions, and 3. took measurements (height, width, and circumference) of their mystery plant.   We documented this information on a poster board chart. So far, we have collected data of the mystery plant twice and we will collect another round of data a third time before harvesting it.  Some observations that were made by the students included:  The leaves are dark green.  The stems are thick and light green. Our plant is happy.  Thoughtful questions were asked: Why do some leaves have holes in them? Can you eat the leaves?  Where is the mama plant?   Measurements of Observation 1 and 2 were made and compared: In each class the height, width, and circumference had just about doubled!  Finally, predictions were made:  I think this plant is a radish plant.  I think this plant is a cauliflower. It is a tomato plant.  It is going to grow bigger. It is going to stay the same.  Maybe it will grow flowers. Rain makes it grow.

I love this lesson for so many reasons.  While in the garden, the students have the opportunity to be real scientists and experience what scientists actually do and how they approach their work.  Through this hands-on activity,  students learn important language used by scientists: observation, data, prediction.   They also incorporate mathematical measuring skills while collecting and documenting the plant’s height, width, and circumference.  Generating questions and predictions amongst the class reveals each student’s own thought process, stimulating more questions and more predictions.  The sense of wonder and curiosity comes alive!  These questions and predictions are not answered immediately which allows the child to remain curious, ask even more questions, and find ways on their own to answer their questions. By taking data during three different observational times, students also become confident in the process.  Once we make our third observation, students will be able to answer most of their own questions. Throughout this lesson, students work together, gain hands-on scientific experiences, and cultivate inquisitive thinking while finding joy and excitement in their discoveries!  (Please notice the two pictures of one class’s mystery plant. One was taken during Observational 1 and the other during Observational 2. Can you predict what the mystery plant is?!)

As for the second grade lesson, we approached the important skill of observation through a different activity. In the garden, each student was given a tag inscribed with a vegetable from the garden.  Their job was to find that plant, sit in front of it, draw the entire plant, and label each part of the plant present: the stem, leaves, fruit, flower.  In preparation to this activity, we discussed the difference between an observational drawing and an artistic drawing.  While each drawing has a purpose, we decided that scientists use observational drawings as a tool for documentation and to learn more about what is being studied.  A student defined an observational drawing as a “drawing of only what you see.”  And that is what the second graders did.  Through this process of observation,  they slowed their bodies and minds down to make a connection with their plant.   I often ask students, “Can plants talk to us?”  (At this point, many students giggle.)  Then, I say that plants communicate in different ways through patterns, shapes, and colors. As we observe, draw, and document  this “language,”  students become curious and ask more in-depth questions about their plant?  Their scientific way of thinking is once again strengthen.  After they completed their drawings, they were allowed to harvest what was written on the tag.  ( I think next time, I will have them also write a question they have about the plant they drew.) Included below is a picture of a student completing an observational drawing of a plant.

In every  Foodprint lesson, we always prepare a snack using vegetables and herbs we harvested in the garden. At the end of the lesson, we enjoy the meal together in a thoughtful and positive manner.

Soil-less Experiments at Yu Ying

By: Amy Quinn, Washington Yu Ying Public Charter…..

yuyingDC has a thriving garden community, with school gardens both big and small found throughout the city. As the new school year has begun to develop, the school and community gardens around DC are planning for winter, thinking about the last planting of lettuces and radishes before the first freeze.

At Yu Ying, students are involved in gardening Grown in Gravel. One of our container beds is soil-less, a study in geological agriculture. Richard Campbell, a parent at Yu Ying, has been working with Soil Less gardens since 1994.   In 2009, he established To Soil Less, “to research the attributes of geological agriculture and share this approach to crop cultivation with the greater society.” Richard worked with students at Washington Yu Ying during the fall and spring of 2013-2014 to develop a gravel bed. The bed has been very productive, with cucumbers, squash and flowers, and a wonderful exploration for the students in the many ‘ways to grow’!

To learn more about Growing in Gravel, visit for Richard Campbell’s book and tips!

Growing Plans at WMST High School

By: Clare Parks, HealthCorps Coordinator at Washington Math Science & Technology Public Charter High School …..

WMST gardenTruth be told, we do not have an in-house garden at Washington Math Science and Technology (WMST) just yet. Our growing garden started as a set of 3 straw bales and seedlings (thanks to some tips from the DC Greens forum) in just about the only space we could find on our land—in the administrators’ parking lot behind our dumpster. I’m grateful to the stubbornness of the seedlings, or the lack of sunlight, or a combination of the two, because we didn’t see any action and were quickly forced to look to our neighbors across the street.

On Thursday, September 11th, we took six members of our school’s brand new Green Team to the Washington Youth Garden for our first club meeting. The Green Team was formed in partnership with local nonprofit Groundwork Anacostia River DC that works with public high schools to provide students in the city with outdoor recreation, education, and service learning at least once a week. Thanks to Charla Wanta and Noah Lee at WYG, our Green Team members were able to plant beets and radishes, pick ripe tomatoes, sweet peppers, and parsley, and make a tabbouleh with our veggies, feta cheese, and whole-wheat pitas—a health teacher’s dream come true. One senior boy tried a tomato he harvested and asked, “Who made this? They’re good at it!” The boys on the team also tried the “Chinese 5-color Pepper Challenge:” when they found out they picked some of the spiciest peppers on earth right from the garden, they obviously had to eat them. Thankfully, we were still invited back to WYG once more in October and November so that our Green Team members can see changes in the garden throughout the season, and harvest the beets and radishes they picked.

This amazing trip, even though it was just one day, exposed our students to a so many new activities at once, and inspired us to keep searching for potential land in which to build our own garden. Thanks to the kindness of more of our neighbors, we have now been assigned a couple of raised beds to help with in an after-school format at the Rec Center right across the street from us and plan to make gardening a large part of our Green Team student project! Let the growing begin! Many, many thanks to Jeff Wilkes for coming out to WMST to scope out our land and possibilities, Charla and Noah and all the folks at the Washington Youth Garden, the DPR Rec Center, and all of the amazing people and ideas at DC Greens—we couldn’t have gotten started without your support.