At Ground Education, we love it when students slow down and observe nature at work. At first glance, this common milkweed at Herrera Elementary seemed to be quietly blooming. But when we looked closer, there were Monarch larva (i.e., caterpillars) of all sizes munching happily on nearly every leaf. There were bees busily pollinating, and aphids cleverly camouflaged as yellow buds on the stems. And there were droves of ladybugs enjoying the feast! We also spotted large milkweed bugs, which dine on the spongy seedpods, but apparently have been known to eat dead caterpillars if given the opportunity. The students were fascinated by this ecosystem at work and had lots of big ideas and questions about what they saw. It was a bountiful, emergent day in the learning garden.
The Boys and Girls Club members are making it happen! Every week we move closer to creating a productive urban farm where kids will enjoy seasonal meals, practice citizen science, and take pride in the tasty results of their sweat equity. Last week we tested the soil for contaminates, a critical step in the process. Kids scrubbed tools and sample jars, used a huge hand auger, and cleared away weeds to expose some really hard, dry soil. And the news was good - the soil is safe for planting! The next step is to add a 6" layer of compost as a base for our row crops. Hopefully by Spring, we'll be enjoying our first harvest.
At IVA charter middle school, we've been exploring the natural world and our deep connection to (and dependence on) plants through poetry, field trips, and tastings. Together, we've been inspired to create a local habitat at the school, with plants native to coastal Southern California. This week we planted nearly 180 specimens - California Buckwheat, Hummingbird Sage, Coyote Bush, Toyon, Coffeeberry, Sisyrinchium and others - in a 3,000sf garden. This native learning garden will be a place for reflection, exploration, observation, and fun. Thank you to the California Native Plant Society for your generous contribution to the project.
We love celebrating seasonal food, and in Southern California it's pomegranate time. These magical ruby gems, which originated in Ancient Persia, and have long been celebrated in mythology, folk tales, and art. These days we understand them as an antioxidant powerhouse and a shirt-staining indulgence. We had a great week celebrating and tasting this fruit in 3rd grade classrooms all over Long Beach!
Using Design Thinking principles, Westerly Middle School students have been exploring ways to rethink lunch practices at school. After weeks of data collection, interviews, and inspiration research, this week we brainstormed dozens of way to nudge student behavior towards recycling. We can't wait to see what models the students dream up. Great job Eco-Leaders!
This week students at Lowell Elementary had many sensory experiences with our pumpkins. They counted seeds, made a pumpkin yogurt, went squash bowling, and dug around in the gooey gourds. Although it's 90 degrees, these Southern California students had great Fall spirit.
We are excited to leverage the expertise of Chelle Wingeleth, Cathy Procopio, and Cynthia Perez Gerhart as we grow into more schools and community sites in Long Beach. This year we will reach more than 3,000 students with our unique, award-winning, experiential garden program. That's more than 22,000 student hours spent working with heads and hands to understand, connect with, and explore our natural world.
Last week we celebrated our new Board of Directors in true Ground Education style - attending a farm-to-table fundraiser for The Growing Experience, another local, like-minded non-profit that maintains healthy gardens for and alongside North Long Beach residents. It was a beautiful evening on the farm, with local chefs like Primal Alchemy's Chef Paul treating us to a seasonal feast.
Over the next few weeks, all 940 students at Herrera Elementary will have their first formal garden lesson. Third graders led the way with a scientific analysis of the garden soil...looking for signs that this important resource would support our ambitious planting plan. Students tested pH, phosphorus, potassium, and nitrogen and did a physical inspection (i.e., digging in the soil) looking for signs of beneficial garden critters like earthworms and pill bugs. Then we planted our first crops of the season, a rainbow of chard, carrots, lettuces, and herbs. Third grade students will cultivate these first crops, connecting their efforts in the garden to the concept of economics and citizenship. Our culminating activity will be a Giving Garden Day, where students will harvest and prepare the foods for tasting and donating. It is one of our favorite lesson arcs at Ground Education and we are honored to be a new part of the Herrera team.
Ground Education is pleased to announce our partnership with Webster Elementary in Long Beach. This year we will work with all 600+ students to cultivate garden goodness - learning about nutrition, plant biology, cultural/historical influences, ecosystems, food chains, and even hatching chickens along the way. We are looking forward to a great year with the Webster Wildcats and we'd like to thank the American Heart Association and CampFire/WRAP for their support.
Rain can be an abstract concept to Southern California preschoolers, like the ones at Precious Lamb in Long Beach. But with some creative reuse of household items, we can be the rain our little seeds need. Looking forward to a robust Winter veggie wonderland. Thanks for the help kids!