Art In the Garden

On a warm day in the garden the students learned about creating art with items found, while gaining ownership over their garden.


They were inspired by the Garden Educator explaining the art of Andy Goldsworthy.


As students were collecting items for their projects, questions came up around picking flowers and fruit.

The Garden Educator explained that if there are 10 or more of the specific flower, they could pick a few flowers.

They also learned to wait to pick the passion fruit until it is ripe.

Students identified plants in the garden…lavender, rosemary, succulents, lamb’s ear and more.

Then we had an art walk and students had the opportunity to explain their project, while other students listened and could make comments at the end.

Great day in the garden!

“Finished Projects”

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Garden Tacos

Usually when I introduce a lesson involving food the crowd goes wild.  Today the population was particularly demure.  I told a group of 1st graders that we would be making lettuce wraps.  They stared blankly.  I realized that I was not appealing to my target demographic.  I tried again “today we’re going to make garden tacos.”  Deafening enthusiasm ensued.  Silly Mrs. Kjessie, garden tacos are for kids.  Any self-respecting child raised in central CA knows how to get excited over a taco, not a “lettuce wrap.”  Point taken.  After doing 8 incarnations of the tacos and ranch, I noticed that sometimes they loved it and sometimes they just were not wild about it.  I observed a correlation between the lettuce variety and the higher approval ratings.  If we made the “tortillas” out of green leaf lettuce only about 1/3 of the kids liked them.  If we make them out of romaine, about 3/4 of the kids loved them and I even had one very adamant 6 year old say “Oh! Mrs. Kjessie, I just HAAAAAAAVE to get this recipe.”

So, here we are.

“The Salsa” aka

Garden Fresh Ranch Dressing

1/4 Cup Greek yogurt
1/4 Cup Buttermilk
1/2 Garlic clove
Fresh Herbs– We used a handful of Parsley, Thyme, Rosemary and Oregano
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp apple cider vinegar
Fresh ground black pepper to taste
1 tsp sugar or maple syrup or honey

Strip fresh herb leaves from their stems and place in the bottom of a deep measuring cup or jar.  Measure out the rest of the ingredients on top of the herbs. Blend with an immersion blender until smooth.  

“The Tortillas”

  • Preferably Romaine lettuce, washed and dried.  Salad spinners are super fun.

“The Meat”

  • Harvest Carrots and Snap peas.  Wash thoroughly and then cut into small pieces.
  • Roasted Sunflower seeds

To Assemble:

Have kids hold their lettuce tortilla and spread ranch on the bottom, let them fill their taco with carrot & snap pea bits and sprinkle roasted sunflower seeds to top. Voila!

Apples, Apples, Apples

The curriculum of a 2nd grade class seems to be perfectly geared towards learning in a garden setting.  So far they have studied seasons, consumers and producers, rocks & soil, and are now moving on to natural resources.  When learning about seasons the students created posters with cut out photographs and magazine clippings to demonstrate different associations with their chosen time of year.  A drawing of an apple tree was the center piece of each poster – In Winter the apple tree was bare of leaves and fruit, in Spring the apple tree was covered in tiny blossoms, in Summer tiny fruits were beginning to be visible, and in Fall a basket full of apples sat beside a tree covered in delicious ripe fruit.  What better way to reinforce the idea that certain crops have specific growing seasons,  to begin the discussion on consumer choices, and to demonstrate the necessity for soil as a natural resource than to talk about and EAT apples.

Off I went to Whole Foods.  Oh Whole Foods!  What a variety of apples you have!  Braeburn, Honeycrisp, Jonagold, Pink Lady!  My second graders couldn’t have imagined the variety of apples sitting before them.  We talked about how many varieties of apples exist – “Take a guess”, I asked.  “5”… “14”… “100!” There are 2,500 varieties of apples grown in the United States.  The kids looked shocked.  “How many do you think they usually offer at the grocery store?”  Four.

I led the students through the “Apple as the World” lesson.  I have to admit this was a little difficult for them to comprehend, fractions and water covering the earth, but once you come down to that tiny sliver of apple representing “tillable earth” it became clear that this soil is something we need to protect.  We talked about making educated consumer choices and where they might find a larger variety of apples.  And then we began the tasting.  I encouraged them to use their senses as they took each bite and think of adjectives to describe what they saw and tasted.  “What would you name this apple?”  “Yummy in my Tummy Apple”  “Crunchy Cookie Apple”.  They tasted a few varieties and always asked for more.  I had as much fun (if not more) tasting the apples as they did.  I gotta admit the lesson was a huge success, but I can’t take all the credit.  I mean, what child doesn’t like apples?  I haven’t met one yet.


Rainbow Chips

One of the very first lessons I lead with almost every grade level is a back-pocket activity I learned from the Life Lab Science Program on the UCSC Campus known as “Rainbow Chips”.  The lesson begins with a story (usually suitable to younger age groups…)…..

” A long time ago in a place not too far from here there was a big storm…  Huge grey clouds rushed in over the mountains and covered the land in darkness… all of the colors were sucked up into the clouds and the whole land turned into different shades of grey… The clouds swelled bigger, and became so full that they looked as if they would burst! Which is exactly what they did, the clouds burst open and it began to rain harder than it had ever rained before.  As it rained the clouds began to part and the sun started to peak through.  And you know what happens when it rains and is sunny at the same time…. (kids: a Rainbow!!) That’s right- the biggest Rainbow anyone had ever seen.  It stretched across the sky and as it stretched and stretched the colors got longer and tighter until SMASH – the rainbow cracked and all of the pieces fell down to the ground!  I was lucky enough to pick up some of the pieces and I brought them here for you all today”

The amazing “Rainbow Chips” are paint chips that you can get for free from any hardware store and the students begin their search around the garden- trying to match the colors they find in nature as perfectly as possible.  If the students find a color on a plant that has 10 or more of the same thing (leaves, flowers, etc…) or if it is already off the plant (fallen tomatoes, pumpkins, etc…) they can bring their item with them and create a rainbow as a class.

I have done this activity with preschool and I have done this activity with fourth grade but the kindergarten class I recently had in the garden amazed me with their color-matching abilities!  It was as if the paint chips from Ace Hardware had been created by taking pictures of our garden!

This lesson is a great way to introduce children to the garden and to allow them to explore freely.  I have had students find the most vibrant yellow on a crab spider, or the stripes of a monarch caterpillar.  Hundreds of Harding Students have explored the garden using their eyesight and the beautiful colors found everywhere in nature!

A great book to introduce this lesson (better for older children than the rainbow chips story) is “Living Color” by Steve Jenkins.

Even on Miss Emma's sweater!

Holy Tomatoes!

We are celebrating the wonderful abundance of tomatoes this month at Open Alternative School. The warm summer and warmer fall have led to a most appreciated big harvest. The above board is in a central location where students, teachers and parents regularly check for information. After putting up the bare bones ‘harvest of the month’, the middle school students created artwork highlighting salsa inspired by

To further celebrate the tomato, we made salsa and bruschetta with grades 3-8. Everyone picked some ingredients; mostly tomatoes but also cilantro, onions, peppers and basil. The only thing we didn’t have was limes for squeezing on the salsa.

We talked about recipes, ratios, personal preference, local food and, of course, knife skills. No one got hurt and everyone ate a lot of salsa and bruschetta!

I look forward to making and eating more of both in the coming months.

Here’s a fun fact: The lycopene in tomatoes helps make our skin less sensitive to UV light damage.

Great news for us gardeners!

Fairy Tales Come True at Carpinteria Family School

The entire school participated in the Wheel Barrow Garden contest at the 2012 SB County Fair. The theme this year was Fairy Tales come true. Students used their creativity and team work to create beautiful mini fairy gardens. Students worked hard on their gardens starting in February planting flowers from seed. During “installation” days students were divided into committees of their choice, including architects, landscape designers, road builders, sign makers, and decorators, in order to get the job done. Lori Collins 4/5th grade class actually won first place and students were given free tickets to the fair.Image

There’s nothi…

There’s nothing like 35 happy, little wiggly people. Bouncing through the garden, legs and hands up in the air figuring out what a downward-facing-dog looks like and then flipping their 5 year old energy back up into a tree or mountain pose.

Last week, at Cleveland School Garden, the kindergarten class came into the garden to learn something about plants and their bodies and got to do their first Yoga lesson. What an experience! Hands up in the air, fingers swinging and bodies dancing around on the bamboo-lined patch of grass we use in the far back of our garden for more interactive lessons.

Kindergarten is a blast to teach and an activity like Yoga is very appropriate. We started the lesson with a whole body-pat down. Meaning we started tapping our toes, and moved all the way up our bodies, patting our hips, bellies and shoulders, ending up at the head and ears. We would repeat this until they could remember the names of all their body parts. Because… as I was surprised to find out, very few knew where their shin or hips are located. One little boy was incredibly cute by holding his arm up in the air and repeatedly pointing to his elbow, calling it a knee. But with a few repetitions, these kids learned their own anatomy.

After the body pat-down, we moved on into a series of other poses. Such as curling into a ball, called ‘strawberry’. Reaching for the sky with arms in the air like a ‘tree’. Standing tall like a ‘carrot’, bouncing like a ‘bunny’, and learning to really listen to how our bodies feel.

This was a successful and enjoyable lesson. The kids stayed focused for 25 minutes on moving their bodies, how they felt inside their own skin and learning new positions to stretch their muscles and joints. With the lesson ending by getting to wiggle and twist it all out again across the green grass behind Cleveland School Garden.