Tag Archives: John Muir

Goodbye to Adrian and Melissa

Adrian and Melissa at a BEETS Orientation

After many years with CommunityGrows, we are saying goodbye to two of our wonderful staff members, Adrian and Melissa. 

While we are sad to see them go, we are so grateful to them both for all of their hard work and dedication! Read on to learn about their time at CG.

The Many Hats of Adrian

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Adrian wore many hats at CommunityGrows: first as a garden educator, then as a cooking instructor for our Seed to Mouth program, and ultimately overseeing our sites and environmental education programming as Garden Programs Manager.

He took an active and sincere interest in the well-being of his students and encouraged them throughout each session, making him well liked by both the students and staff at John Muir. He shared with us the following story from one of his lessons:

Once, at a Magic Zone class, we harvested fingerling potatoes from the garden. Mwane, a second grader, told me that he was going to go home and cook them with his mother and that they would be the best potatoes in the world.  I told him that he had done a great job helping to grow them and that maybe one day he would be a gardener, which I intended to be a career suggestion.  He looked at me very seriously and replied confidently,  “I already am.”

It is moments like these that demonstrate the confidence that our program is instilling in our youth. These moments are hard to quantify in terms of metrics but are truly priceless in their measurement of the impact we are making.

— Adrian Almquist

His presence at Koshland Garden as both educator and gardener will be missed!

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In addition to their roles at CommunityGrows, both Melissa and Adrian were mentors at John Muir Elementary, kept active with the Koshland community gardeners, and often worked with volunteers at weekend events, making Koshland Park and Learning Garden a beautiful and relaxing place for everyone to enjoy.

Melissa in Action

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BEETS Pie Ranch 2016
Melissa BEETS Ropes Course

Melissa was also deeply involved at both CommunityGrows and John Muir Elementary, having led our BEETS teen program for four years before becoming Director of Programs in 2017.

Her dedication and leadership of the BEETS program inspired students to set and meet personal and professional goals. At the end of each session, Melissa asked the teens to reflect on their experience participating in the program. 

To me, the garden represents a place for growth and new beginnings. It’s a place where someone can go to learn something new and meet new people. What I enjoyed most was watching things change. I liked seeing how much progress plants make even if we don’t usually see them growing in reality. Like garden, our lives are constantly changing. We don’t recognize change in ourselves but it’s there. We just need to look back to see how much we’ve grown. I think I’ve really improved on my ability to express my opinions. I’ve learned that being part of a group requires a lot of listening and observing, which I’ve improved on greatly. Ultimately, I’ve learned that working doesn’t necessarily need to be just “working” if you find the balance of friendship and responsibility.

— Gene, 2016-2017 BEETS Participant

Garden reflections from Melissa’s students showed steady growth and a shift of perspective when compared to their responses from the start of the program. Her guidance and support made a huge impact during Melissa’s time with CommunityGrows.

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Summer 2013 graduation
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Thank you, Adrian and Melissa! We wish you both the best!

Salad Days Are Back!

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September is a month of beginnings – the beginning of the school year, the beginning of fall – and at John Muir Elementary School, it marked the beginning of our monthly Salad Days.

For those not familiar with Salad Days, the tradition began in 2015 as an initiative to give students access to fresh produce and to get them excited about eating healthy. Since John Muir students also participate in our Environmental Education classes, Salad Days allow them to be fully engaged in all the steps of the garden process: planting, cultivating, harvesting, and most importantly, eating!

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Our founder Barbara Wenger says her earliest memories of Salad Day are of seeing CommunityGrows Garden Educators work to prepare the salads and then walk through the cafeteria during each grade’s shift. “The kids loved our Garden Educators and would always raise their hands for more salad!” In particular, students seem to really enjoy the apples and cucumbers mixed in the salads. The Italian dressing is also a crowd favorite with the kids and the teachers!

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Adrian Almquist, Garden Programs Manager and Educator at John Muir, says that his favorite part about salad days are when kids come up to ask him for seconds.

Salad Days happen just once a month, but the youth we support are all about it. “It’s exciting when they get excited about salad,” says Melissa Tang, Director of Programs at CommunityGrows. “In the beginning of the school year, they aren’t always interested when you offer them salad. But then, towards the end of the school year, they are all in line with their trays.” It’s a great experience for both staff and students!

CommunityGrows is fortunate to have sponsors who generously donate to our monthly Salad Days. While students help grow produce through our Environmental Education classes, our Seed to Mouth programs create a bigger demand than our gardens can supply! This Fall, we want to give a shout out and say thank you to our partners at Heart of the City Farmer’s Market and our local Safeway on Webster Street for donating to our salad days. We deeply appreciate your help!

John Muir Students in Koshland Garden

IMG_0273On Thursday, May 11, 2017 Koshland Garden was buzzing with Ms. Martin’s first graders from John Muir Elementary School. IMG_0318CommunityGrows Garden Programs Supervisor Paul Bergkamp led them on a lesson about spring, flowers and pollinators. After their discussion, they went off through the garden with paper and pens to draw flowers. IMG_0294IMG_0320IMG_0280IMG_0309It was an opportunity to create gifts for Mother’s Day the upcoming Sunday. Back in the circle the students shared their drawings and learned about the stages of the bees life and how important bees are to make flowers, fruits and vegetables grow.IMG_0330IMG_0345IMG_0335IMG_0357
For more photos from the day, check out our CommunityGrows Flickr Photostream.

Thanksgiving at John Muir Elementary

11-19-16-jmes-thanksgiving_img_8753On a rainy Saturday, November 19th, 2016 many organizations in the Western Addition came together to offer Thanksgiving to residents and families. 11-19-16-jmes-thanksgiving_img_8909The lunch included a program with youth from Handful Players, the Western Addition Beacon, Booker T. Washington Community Center, Hayward Reconnect, and the Buchanan YMCA, as well as the SGI Chorus. 11-19-16-jmes-thanksgiving_img_8859
11-19-16-jmes-thanksgiving_img_872611-19-16-jmes-thanksgiving_img_874511-19-16-jmes-thanksgiving_img_8896Safeway, Bi-Rite Market, Santa Clara Natural Organic and Mo’Magic also provided delicious turkey, sweet potatoes, macaroni and cheese, salad and cornbread, as well as pumpkin pie and chocolate cake. CommunityGrows BEETS helped out serving food and greeted folks at the door. 11-19-16-jmes-thanksgiving_img_881311-19-16-jmes-thanksgiving_img_877811-19-16-jmes-thanksgiving_img_8931 At the end of lunch 30 turkeys were raffled off to lucky residents. Here is Ms. Jeanette Dupas-Walker, an active grandmother of youth at John Muir.11-19-16-jmes-thanksgiving_img_8935It was a very homey day with many long time friends and partners. Happy Thanksgiving everyone! For more photos, check out our Flickr Photostream here.

Salad Days at John Muir

img_20160915_114649382_topThanks to a grant from Kaiser-Permanente Community Benefit Program, CommunityGrows is able to continue offering Salad Days at John Muir School. With a great donation of organic greens, carrots and cucumbers from Veritable Vegetable. Salad is prepped in the Parents’ Room of the school and taken to the cafeteria at lunch time. We make three huge bowl of salad and everyone in the school gets to enjoy it. We are proud to be able to be cultivating healthy youth, especially at John Muir Elementary School!img_20160915_114513644img_20160915_114328066

End of School BBQ

On Friday afternoon May 13, 2016 from 4-6 PM students and CommunityGrows partners came out for a great BBQ in Koshland Garden. 5.13.16-KP-BBQ_IMG_6723Teachers from John Muir Elementary School joined parents from Rosa Parks Elementary School, along with Magic Zone and Western Addition Beacon kids for hot dogs, salads, chips, watermelon and cookies to celebrate the end of the school year. 5.13.16-KP-BBQ_IMG_6718It was great seeing the kids hang out in the garden were they had their classes all year. 5.13.16-KP-BBQ_IMG_6764Their favorite activity was picking raspberries and hanging out with their friends. 5.13.16-KP-BBQ_IMG_67555.13.16-KP-BBQ_IMG_67335.13.16-KP-BBQ_IMG_6746Everyone had a good time. Mr Adrian Almquist, CommunityGrows Gardens Program Manager, cooked the hots and kept the conversations going with the kids. 5.13.16-KP-BBQ_IMG_6749He said this was his favorite event of the year. For more photos check out our Flickr Photostream here.5.13.16-KP-BBQ_IMG_6728

Salad Day at John Muir Elementary School

4.29.16-JMES-SaladDay_IMG_6666Friday, April 29, 2016 was Salad Day at John Muir Elementary School. Thanks to a grant from Kaiser-Permanente, CommunityGrows is able to provide delicious salad for all the students at John Muir. 4.29.16-JMES-SaladDay_IMG_6657The students and teachers love to partake and come back for seconds. 4.29.16-JMES-SaladDay_IMG_6660We were very fortunate to have a huge donation from Gus’s Community Market on 17th Street and Harrison. 4.29.16-JMES-SaladDay_IMG_6670Produce included organic salad greens, red, yellow and green peppers, carrots, cucumbers, tangelos and oranges. Three huge bowls disappeared in no time. Everyone loves Salad Day!4.29.16-JMES-SaladDay_IMG_6655

Kindergartners Learn about Water

Steve Herraiz (Mr. Steve) had his class of enthusiastic kindergartners at John Muir Elementary School, walk down to the Koshland Park Community Learning Garden for their morning lesson on Wednesday, April 13, 2016. CommunityGrows Garden Programs Manager Adrian Almquist was excited for the day to talk about water and where it comes from. (Hetch Hetchy! Thanks SF PUC!)4.13.16-JMES-MrSteve_IMG_6159“Where does our drinking water come from?” “From the ocean!” “What does ocean water taste like?” “Why can’t we drink salt water?” “What is Hetch Hetchy?” “How does it get here?” “What happens to water if we leave it in a glass for a long time?” “Why is water good for you and the plants?” “What happens to water when we water the plants?” 4.13.16-JMES-MrSteve_IMG_61764.13.16-JMES-MrSteve_IMG_6180All these questions captivated the students until it was time to divvy out water cans. Kelly Bohan, a CommunityGrows volunteer, filled everyone’s buckets as they lined up. 4.13.16-JMES-MrSteve_IMG_6184Then off through the garden to gently water plants and bushes. 4.13.16-JMES-MrSteve_IMG_6192A great day to be outside and care for the earth. Thank you Mr. Steve! For more photos from the class, check out our Flickr Photostream here.

John Muir Students Origami and Photsynthesis

On Wednesday, February 17, 2016 Mr. Tamsky’s 4th grade bi-lingual Spanish class at John Muir Elementary School came to Koshland Park for their afternoon lesson. IMG_5600Adrian Almquist, CommunityGrows’ Garden Programs Manager began to cover two difficult lessons—tackling photosynthesis and learning how to make origami cranes.

In an effort to understand photosynthesis, Adrian reminded the youth that photosynthesis is how plants eat and make their own food. Since the plants don’t have to move around to find food and they stay in one place, plants can make their food as long as they have three things. The three things are Carbon Dioxide, Water, and Light. Here’s what photosynthesis looks like: Carbon Dioxide + Water + Light —-> Sugar + Oxygen. IMG_5632An easy way to remember this is Cows Eat Wet Grass Outside…so CO2 + Energy + water –> Glucose + Oxygen.

Here’s how it works: Plants breathe, just like us.  They even have little openings that can look like mouths, but they are too small for us to see without a microscope.  When we breathe in, we want to breath in oxygen.  Plants want to breathe in Carbon Dioxide.  Plants also drink.  This is why you need to water plants or they will die.  They use their roots to suck water up into their bodies, and their little mouths to breath in the carbon dioxide.  Once they have both of these things, all they need is light.  Leaves are made up of a bunch of tiny cells, where this happens.  Inside the cells are tiny little things called chloroplasts.  Chloroplasts are what makes leaves green, and they are also what takes the carbon dioxide, the water, and the light, and turns them into sugar and oxygen. The sugar is then used by the plants for food, and the oxygen is breathed out into the atmosphere.  This process as a whole is “photosynthesis.”. Here is a great website that explains this for kids. IMG_5606If doing a short lesson on photosynthesis was not challenging enough, everyone also got a chance to make origami cranes. Adrian was very patient in leading the students through the various steps. IMG_5615It was impressive to see all of them working hard and trying to pay attention. Miraculously, by the end of class, all had finished their cranes and proudly displayed them as they left the garden. IMG_5630Here is a demonstration of how to make an origami crane.IMG_5624