On Friday afternoon February 21, 2014, Room 410 at John Muir Elementary School, was abuzz with Mr. Stoddard’s third grade class. They were in the CommunityGrows Science Center learning about the world underneath a microscope. At the beginning of the class, Adrian Almquist, assisted by Naomi Tong and Angelica Tillman, both BEETS interns, set out the instructions and hands-on use of the microscopes. Each student got a microscope and a box of slides.
The youth explored a plant louse, fruit fly, shrimp egg, and silk worm larva, among others. They began by viewing the slides with 4x magnification and increase their views to 10 times. Then they drew pictures of what they saw and answered some questions about each organism. They also wrote down their observation about what they were seeing. They were able to count the legs of the louse, and identify the head, thorax and abdomen of the fruit fly, and see the shape of the shrimp eggs.
Mr. Almquist also talked about the silk worm. The slides showed very tiny larva that would grow to a more recognizable caterpillar. The larva (caterpillar) eat mostly mulberry leaves. When it spins its cocoon, it creates silk. Did you know that it depends on humans to reproduce? Sericulture, the practice of breeding silkworms for the production of raw silk, has been underway for at least 5,000 years in China, from where it spread to Korea and Japan, and later to India and the West.
The hour-long class was not enough time for the students. They wanted to keep exploring this magic world under the microscope.
On Thursday, November 14, 2013 John Muir Elementary School in San Francisco was a-buzz with activity as parents, teachers, principal Chris Rosenberg, CommunityGrows staff and the BEETS (Band of Environmentally Educated and Employable Teens) joined Markos Major, for a Pollinator Garden Project at the school. They planted California native and other climate-adapted plants, feed the garden’s Recology compost, sowed hundreds of cover crop seeds (fava beans and peas), and celebrate San Francisco’s biodiversity!
As coordinator of the “Climate Action Now!” teen environmental education program Markos makes it his mission to communicate the connections between climate change and consumption choices. With a focus on empowerment through action, Climate Action Now! examines how everyday choices like composting and eating locally grown seasonal (mostly vegetarian) foods can help reduce the effects of climate change.
One of the highlights of the afternoon came when the teens were planting in front of the school and Director of Programs, Nora Brereton discovered a tiny frog in one of the planter containers. It was a thrill rarely met with! After everyone had a chance to see the frog before Markos safely returned it to a pond in San Francisco.
On Wednesday, November 13, 2013 the afterschool Magic Zone youth came to Koshland Garden with Chaniel Williams, Program Lead for K-2 and Maurice Scott, Program Assistant, to make pine-cone bird feeders. Adrian Almquist, CommunityGrows Garden Educator lead the class, with assistance by volunteer, Janine Gee. They were also joined by another potential volunteer, Derek Richardson, an ER doctor at SF General. The kids had a great time slathering peanut butter on pine-cones and rolling them in seeds. Then the bird treats were strung up on the garden trellis for all to enjoy.
After the pine-cones were done, everyone filled buckets and watered the winter starts in the garden.
Summer in San Francisco is different from almost everywhere else. Cool and foggy, highs in the 60s, and patches of sun in-and-out of the day. A great air-conditioned City to balance the scorching heat of the north, south and east bay. Sometimes we don’t even know how lucky we are! And, when you’re out of school in the summer, everything is cool and fun. Take Friday, July 26th for instance. Another day to have fun in the garden with the YMCA Buchanan kids.
Today after reading the garden rule, the youth learned about recycling with the green, blue and black bins. Then they went on a scavenger hunt throughout the schoolyard finding trash and paper products to recycle. No matter how many times you recycle, you can always learn more about what can really go in the bins. Great to start at a young age!
The second activity of the day was gleaning Calendula flowers from a bed to prep for new growth. Everyone got to pick three flower each. Calendula (pot Marigold) species have been used traditionally as culinary and medicinal herbs. The petals are edible and can be used fresh in salads or dried and used to color cheese or as a replacement for saffron. A yellow dye can be extracted from the flowers. Calendula are considered by many gardening experts as among the easiest and most versatile flowers to grow in a garden, especially since they tolerate most soils. In temperate climates, seeds are sown in spring for blooms that last throughout the summer and well into the fall.
For their reward and with time to spare, the youth got to find and eat one ripe strawberry a piece, a class ending tradition while supplies last!
Two lucky groups of youth from CommunityGrows partners, Booker T. Washington Community Service Center, and the Village Project, got to take a bus out of the City to the fog shrouded hills and watershed of Green Gulch Farm last Tuesday, July 24, 2013.
It was a day all about discovery and exploration, with great lessons in science and ecology. Five docents, under the direction of Sukey Parmelee, Green Gulch Farms Garden outreach coordinator, divided the youth into small groups and went on a tour of the farm. The youth got to uncover the secrets of compost and soil composition, learn about bees and visit a beehive, and taste lots of flowers! Walking through the rows of lettuce and kale that stretched into the distance, seeing how seeds become “starts” in a green-house, and feasting on summer flowers and fruit trees of all variety, was a riot for the senses.
Situated on the coast of Marin, on an inholding (a tract of land under private ownership within a national park) of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, Green Gulch includes seven acres of certified organic mixed vegetable fields, fruit trees, and flower gardens, and has been on the leading edge of organic farming and land stewardship since 1972, dedicated to cultivating future stewards of the earth. It is also a practice place of the San Francisco Zen Center where students come to learn about meditation and mindful living. There is also a farm apprentice program.
The Magic Zone kids (from our partner Mo’Magic’s summer program) came to get a lesson offered by CommunityGrows in bug identification on Monday, July 22, 2013 in Koshland Garden. They started out by listing all the bugs they’ve seen in Koshland Garden—those that fly, those that crawl and those that wiggle. Then the fun began. Turning over tree-stump seats and hidden away spots, the youth discovered pill bugs, ants, spiders, centipedes, milipedes, earwigs, worms, snails and slugs. Reminded to be slow and careful, they made every effort to pick the bugs up gently and put them in the large white bucket for all to see.
There were lots of questions and curiosity prevailed. What’s the difference between a centipede and a millipede? [Millipede means “thousands of feet”. Has two pairs or four legs on most body segments. Centipede means “hundreds of feet”. Has one pair or two legs on each body segment. Although neither has anywhere near “hundreds of feet” the centipede generally has fewer legs than a millipede. Millipedes are non-toxic, but centipedes do contain some venom that can cause irritation].
It was a great class with such engaged students. They hardly knew they were learning. And they had loads of fun!
On Friday, July 19,2013 Ezekiel McCarter, our Rosa Parks Assistant Gardener, led the YMCA Buchanan kids in a lesson on preparing soil and planting radishes. Attendance is always a great way to start the day. Everyone has a garden name, using their first name and a garden animal or plant that begins with the first letter of their name. Great names are born, like Jamel Jalapeno, or Sophia Sunflower, Latrice Ladybug, or Denelle Dragonfly. It’s always fun to listen as everyone gets acknowledged.
Then down to serious business of troweling the bed to prepare it for new compost, sifting through the final compost to load soil into wheelbarrows, and then mixing the compost into the soil for the final planting of the radish seeds. The kids like radishes because they sprout from seeds very fast. We’ll have radishes to eat in 3-4 weeks!
Finding a few bugs in the mix is always exciting. As a reward for good work for the morning, everyone got to pick strawberries and eat them. Yumm! Thank you Ezekiel for a great lesson.
CommunityGrows BEETS (Band of Environmentally Educated and Employable Teens) devised a great game for the 2013 Hayward Rec Carnival held on July 12th. Placing different herbs in cloth bags—lavendar, rosemary, basil, lemon verbena, mint and lamb’s ear, the BEETS allowed the kids to reach in, touch and smell the mystery herbs and guess which ones they were.
The winners got a slice of watermelon. The BEETS made it easy for everyone, and watermelon was a great hit.
The Hayward Carnival is a yearly event for all the youth in the Western Addition to come together and have fun. Lots of music, face painting and games rounded out the day. All of our CommunityGrows Mo’Magic partners were in attendance. A great time had by all!