The Foxes worked hard this winter to build indoor raised beds for the Green Classroom. The beds are finally finished and the students have begun growing plants inside. We're looking forward to finally putting the "green" in our Green Classroom!
The Green Classroom has been finished and we've already begun hosting garden classes inside. This outdoor learning space was fundraised for by Springwater students and supported by the school in the spring of 2016. It was built over the summer and fall with Dana Geister's generous volunteer work and is now in the process of being transformed into a classroom by the students.
Almost every class produced a brainstorm of what they would like the greenhouse to look like, contain, and what kinds of experiences they would like to have inside it. It's the first step in creating a student-inspired and built learning space!
Five years after beginning this garden program, who could imagine what garden class looks like now.
I have just come back from the garden amazed by Springwater students. I’m not surprised that they forgot my basic lesson on how deep to plant a seed or what a bulb is—these are yearly, even weekly, lessons I reiterate throughout their years as students and in more complex detail as they get older. What amazes me is that when my quick lesson and instruction are over and I send the students off to garden in their small groups, they perform their tasks with the grace and confidence of older, more experienced gardeners.
They may just now be learning how tulip bulbs become dormant and use gravitropism to grow in the spring—these new words perhaps a muddled bit of information now floating through their thoughts—but they take to their hand shovels comfortably, dig the right sized holes, think about design and placement, and carefully pack their bulbs in for the winter. They chatter quietly, keeping in mind that the garden is an ecosystem filled with many homes. They calmly explore the mole holes they dig into and discuss what else lives in them. They keep their eyes on the cherry tomatoes they long to munch on when the time is right. They go about their tasks as only seasoned gardeners do: looking for seasonal changes, acknowledging the egg sacks and insects sharing their space, focusing on doing slow, careful work—the mark of a good gardener.
This class, in particular, I have taught since they were in Kindergarten. They were the youngest students to remember the prickly thistle jungle our garden resembled. They have weeded, mulched, explored, and nibbled their way across every inch of the space. And five years later, they explore the garden as collaborators, scientists, and each—individually—a gardener.
What an incredible gift to say that they have gardened nearly their entire life. What will garden class be like three years from now, when they finish their last year at Springwater? What kinds of gardens will these children grow?
So much growth has happened since we started the Garden Program 4 years ago. Here's is a snapshot of this year's development.
With the 2015 school year well underway, our school garden is thriving alongside Springwater students. All grades are delving in their garden studies, learning about worms, seeds, soil ecosystems, and how to care for our garden.
Student efforts to grow a cold season garden have been very successful, with chard, lettuce, onions, arugula, and a variety of root vegetables feeding out students all the way to winter break.
The middle school students are expanding the garden program to now include an oaks savanna and a rain garden. Keep a look out for updates on these great projects!
The 2nd-3rd grade Salmon released some of their Painted Lady butterflies into the garden today. Immediately, the butterflies were able to pick out flowers and begin drinking and pollinating! The students raised these butterflies in the classroom from the beginning stages and were so excited to see their learning and work pay off.
Another new FFS event happened last Friday in the Springwater garden. As part of a large scale, 3-hour chemistry event, Kaci Rae hosted small groups of 7th-8th graders in the outdoor classroom to learn about pH testing and the chemistry behind garden soils. Students learned how organic and permaculture gardeners identify problems when the soils aren't productive to certain types of plants and how to solve these issues with on-hand and natural processes. After conducting soil and pH tests, students gave advice on how to amend the garden soils. We look forward to practicing these suggestions when gardening class begins again after Spring Break.
In a new collaborative experiment to create relevant and hands on math experiences, the 4th grade class and Kaci Rae teamed up for a FFS Math In The Garden event. In small groups, students rotated through sessions focused on the ratios of weed parts, the perimeter of garden beds, and solving measurement problems while planting potatoes. Overall, it was a beautiful day, the students had fun, and we were able to pilot a new math event!
The idea of student gardeners seems obvious; the whole school gardens every week! But some students want to do more on their own time. A few groups of mixed aged students devote their breaks to getting their hands dirty and growing a garden. The idea is that they can work a plot in the garden as they wish to, with advice from me, and will grow plants for Taste Test Tuesday, as well as for the school. It is admittedly hard to keep quiet when they want to do something I wouldn't do, but that is learning! For them and for me. And their ideas are wonderful in the end. Keep your eyes out in our garden for student run plots and watch them grow!
Tucked in the Gridley Annex next to Kaci Rae's office space, there is a three tiered black shelf filled with gardening advice books, seed catalogs, and a wealth of garden themed books for K-8th graders. While most of these books are used in garden classes with students, adult community members are able to access these books if they would like to explore gardening ideas, advice, or planning. Titles include: Gardening For Health and Nutrition, The Year I Ate My Yard, and The Natural Food Garden.
We are also looking for garden book donations to fill the library shelves. If you have some gardening themed books that you would like to find a new home for, feel free to contact Kaci Rae about donating them.
Beginning this spring and summer, Springwater students and families will see the front entrance of the school begin to change. Insect hotels will be erected, the ground will be mulched and composted, pathways will be shaped, and pollinator habitat structures will be built. Over the course of the year, the landscape will alter into a beautiful pollinator garden and learning center.
Springwater is partnering with the Clackamas County Soil and Water Conservation District to develop this area into a refuge and home for native pollinators. With their generous support of $10,000 and the aid of planner Erik Carr, the Springwater garden program will be incorporating this project into the springtime pollinator lessons for the K-1st grade classes. Students will study the plants, colors, shapes, and habitat for local pollinators and, come fall, will participate in the planting aspect of the project.
This idea began from a concern by myself, Kaci Rae, in noticing the need for native pollinator habitat to help the newly developed Springwater garden. I reached out to Erik Carr at the CCSWCD, and began to meet with him to discuss the potential for developing a pollinator space at the school, in order to provide habitat and to create an education space for the students and families. I am positive that this new space will fit in perfectly with the goals of Springwater. It will provide new environmental and science lessons for all the classes, it will beautify the school grounds, and it will be a refuge for the struggling populations of certain native pollinators.
The area is to the left of the school entrance, surrounding the existing Springwater sign. There will be an informational sign that students will help design, and a variety of habitat structures: bee/bird boxes, log rounds for habitat structure, insect hotels, basalt water basins, and more.
While CCSWCD is providing the funding and planning support of this project, Springwater has been asked to provide the maintenance and care of the new space. If you are interested in gardening with flowers or would like to know more about pollinators and habitat building, please contact me firstname.lastname@example.org. Any and all support of this project would be wonderful!
We have seen immense change come to our garden over the past few months. The snow and freezing weather have made it somewhat difficult to develop the garden space. But despite these challenges, we have jumpstarted our compost, vermicomposting, and mulching projects with Springwater students.
Last Friday, the River Otters and Blue Herons participated in a great day of mulching new areas of the garden, getting one step closer to finishing our garden development. The Blue Herons have been learning all about red wiggler worms and have made a home for our new worms in three bins near the shed. They learned how to layer the necessary ingredients to provide a good habitat for these helpful creatures.
Springwater students and garden classes are looking forward to planting and imagining the beautiful and bountiful possibilities of the garden. Both Fox classes are designing, developing, and acquiring the necessary materials and plants to build an orchard in the west end of the garden. We can’t wait to see what it will look like!
We want to thank the community partners and donors who have supported our garden program over the past few months. Food Waves is a non-profit who has supported our garden by providing us with raised beds, seeds, plant starts, and greenhouse tables. We are happy to partner with them again this year to provide food for Springwater students and to finish our orchard project in the garden. Pistils Nurserygenerously provided the first of the worms for the vermicomposting project. Home Depot and Boyd’s Coffee have also provided mulching materials for our many garden projects.
A final thank you for all the parents and volunteers who have provided leaves, straw, and work time out in the garden, supporting the garden program and the development of this space for Springwater students and families.
I am happy to say that this year every student has been engaged in our garden program, whether through the weekly garden classes, the gardening Enrichment course, or everyday exploration during breaks and recesses. Over the past few months, students have helped harvest the bountiful food, save seeds, and plant garlic, carrots, and kale for winter.
Putting our garden beds to sleep with straw, manure, and leavesWendy and Loren’s Salmon classes helped mulch some of our garden beds using donated leafs and straw, learning how we put nutrients back into the soil, create healthy soil, and prevent erosion. In garden classes, we have been discussing how some plants are dying and others are thriving in the winter cold. This has raised great conversations about healthy soils, animal habitat, and plant life cycles.
We have started Taste Test Tuesday this year, where students can come out to the garden and taste raw plants from the garden. So far, students have sampled butternut squash, chard, kale, celery stalk and leaf, kohlrabi, turnips, beets, and fennel. They also loved the Brussels sprouts we grew and the massive Jerusalem artichokes (sunchokes) we dug from the soil. So far, every sample plate has been cleared by the end of the taste test!
The best of our brussels sprouts An impressive sun choke the size of a water bottleFinally, we are looking forward to developing the final garden space into an orchard and social place to encourage social permaculture and community interaction in the garden. The Foxes are working during garden class to develop benches, a covered area, and plants for the space. Each group will be gathering materials, writing donation letters, and lead as project managers during the assembly or building of their project. We also look forward to having parents and Springwater community supporters aiding us as “experts” and volunteers in the building of these projects.
Our garden is changing as the rain and cool weather come. Some plants are dying, others are thriving, and the Springwater students are learning about the natural processes of plant lives. We are sad to see our flowers droop and fall, but we know that they provided so much food for the resident pollinators this year. We watch our natural birdfeeders, sunflowers, be devoured by hungry redwing blackbirds working hard to prepare for winter. We even allowed our lettuces and radishes to go to seed, watching how the finches forage in them! In the Springwater garden, we understand that brown, like red, yellow, purple, green, and white, is another beneficial and natural color in the garden.
Springwater students have also devoured the garden’s produce, but not to store up for winter! Students are welcome in the garden at any time and have grazed through the tomatoes, mints, sorrel, kale, lettuces, and beets. Students are expected to ask if they can pick or should eat a plant and then find someone to share it with—in this way, we can make sure they are eating edible plants and only taking what they need. Students are then shown the garden’s many compost systems if they wish to depose of their waste and are taught how nutrients are recycled into our soil.
The Springwater garden curriculum is being integrated into every grade through weekly garden classes. Each class has committed to a focus in the garden and will be balancing research, projects, and garden work throughout the year. We will be exploring seeds, pollinators, soil, vermicomposting, composting, rain catchment, and garden maintenance and building.
Volunteers are always welcome in the garden, either for garden work or working with students during class time. If you are interested in spending time or donating materials for our garden, please contact Kaci Rae at email@example.com.
Our Growing Garden
Come visit the Springwater garden and see the wonderful changes that are happening. Our permaculture, edible, no-till garden is becoming well established after the hard work of Springwater students over the past few months. Thank you also to those students who were diligent garden volunteers during their breaks.
Make some summer plans! Please consider volunteering this summer with your children, family, and friends for a day of garden work, harvesting, and picnicking with our delicious foods. Contact Kaci about times and dates that will work for you.
We are especially looking for volunteers for the month of August when Kaci Rae will not be tending the garden. Please consider volunteering with your friends and family!
This week we welcome springtime into our school garden as pollinators begin to emerge and our vegetable starts continue to grow. With the arrival of students, energized from Spring Break, I am looking forward to their help and ideas in building up the soil and making our garden a healthy, thriving space for plants, beneficial insects, and birds.
We’ve already learned a few lessons in our experimental garden:
* The resident thistle and dock populations are going to be stubborn about giving their space over for our plants.
* Birds and slugs abound in the garden and are particularly inclined to munch on the seed starts that we plant in the raised beds.
These are simple, but impactful lessons for any gardener—especially one that is just founding—and remind me everyday of the long-term care that is needed to help this garden thrive.
Please consider volunteering your time this Spring during our garden classes or during volunteer work parties—see VolunteerSpot for signing up—to help me and our students build an educational garden (rather than a weed garden). As I tell the student gardeners, the work will put in now means twice the enjoyment and half the work in the future.
This trimester is flying by in the garden and spring is well on its way. The signs can be seen all over campus from tulip shoots emerging to the garden’s garlic growing higher.
Springwater students have been busy as they delve into their compost, worm, and rain garden projects, as well as learn about “Plant Parts We Eat.”
K-3rd grades have been exploring their roots, stems, flowers, and fruits through taste-testing of raw vegetables during garden class.
Preparation for Spring is coming on quick as I search for seed donations and develop plans for the Springwater garden, with the help of its staff and students. Other than actually planting and tending to the starts, this time of year is great to imagine the bounty Spring and Summer will bring, as well as the possibilities for fun and education in the garden. I have been so welcomed at Springwater by the staff, students, and parents and have been amazed at the kindness and interest expressed by all. I hope that many of you and your families will seriously consider volunteering and spending time out at the Springwater garden this summer, honing your garden skills and harvesting food with your children.
Spring is also a time to look at the steps it will take to grow a thriving garden/school relationship. My goals are to get each student engaged in planting a part of the garden so that they can each connect and be in ownership of the space, individually and as a community. I hope that this will become a communal space, growing together through positive experiences, hard work, and a fulfilling yield. I want students to return net year to a space that is ripe for inspiration, eating, and learning.
Personally, I am hoping to engage more with families, students, and staff through the garden during my remaining time here and see eager and helpful hands working alongside me. I also hope to compile a portfolio of the projects, curriculum, successful and working ideas, and future plans around the garden space so that this program can continue and grow in strength each year at Springwater. I am continually excited about the endless growth that this space provides for the ideas and inspiration of the staff and students.
Thank you again to the staff, students, and parents who have made me feel a part of the Springwater community. I look forward to seeing you out in the garden! Thank you also for the parents who have donated time and materials for garden class, Naomi’s Organic Farm Supply for their seed donations, and for Food Waves, which has provided the greenhouse structures, raised beds, and supplies for our endeavors!
We have plants in the ground! This week, both Salmon classes put in the first plants we can expect in the springtime: garlic bulbs! We hope to continue planting garlic and flower bulbs in the next few weeks, as well as finish our mulching process in the garden before Christmas Break. Keep your eyes out for notice about the big mulching day in a few weeks.
On Friday, the Foxes and Otters spent their field studies day putting in the last of the raised beds that were donated by Food Waves. Each class began the process of building healthy soil and eliminating weeds in the raised beds, by layering cardboard, manure, shavings, leaves, and soil–all which were donated by parents and community partners. These are the first steps towards building a healthy garden. To all the parents who have volunteered their time and resources, thank you for your support and efforts!