Tag Archives: summer science

2018 Recap: Summer in the Gardens


“I want to be kind and protect all of the creatures in the garden! I love creatures!” — a student who affectionately referred to all insects in the garden as “creatures” and who may, one day, be an entomologist.

Fun in the Sun

CommunityGrows had a wonderful summer! We enjoyed working with youth from partner programs including the Village Project, Up on Top, Magic Zone, Willie Mays, Western Addition Beacon, Crissy Field Center, Buchanan YMCA, and Hayward Rec. We look forward to  an eventful Fall!

“At the beginning of class I was afraid of bugs! I’m not afraid anymore” — one student’s personal highlight following a garden class.

In total, we worked with about 120 students, learning about the life-cycle of plants, how to create healthy snacks, and harvesting beet plants for our BEETS Red Velvet Cake ice cream flavor at Salt and Straw!


A special thank you to all of our partners, volunteers, and educators who made this summer a success!

Summer Fun with the Western Addition Beacon

6.26.17-KP-WABeacon_IMG_0755On Monday, June 26th the Western Addition Beacon Center youth came to Koshland Park for their fun time in the garden. Adrian Almquist, Garden Programs Manager led the class through the cycle of life—from seeds, to plants, to fruits and vegetables. 6.26.17-KP-WABeacon_IMG_07646.26.17-KP-WABeacon_IMG_0785They got to plant fava beans and starts of kale and then watered the garden. 6.26.17-KP-WABeacon_IMG_08016.26.17-KP-WABeacon_IMG_08146.26.17-KP-WABeacon_IMG_0816One of the highlights was looking at snails which Adrian passed around for the group to see. For more photos from the classes visit our Flickr Photostream here.

Bees are Buzzin’ this Summer!

IMG_1158On Thursday July 6, 2017 our third summer trip to Green Gulch Farm with two summer partners brought sunshine and adventures! The farm was a-buzz with discoveries about bees and how they help us in the world. In fact, the first stop for these youth from Hayward Rec Connect and Booker T. Washington Community Service Center was the Green Gulch kitchen and bakery to meet head baker Mick Sopko. Mick and his crew explained how honey is used to mix with yeast to make the bread. The kids got to sample freshly baked bread and it was yummy!
IMG_20170706_103006708Then walking outside, the youth came upon a tree where bees had made a hive. Sukey Parmelee, head grounds manager, shared with them a huge honey comb that was retrieved from the hive. It glistened in gold colors and had the group mesmerized with excitement and picture taking. IMG_0969She talked about bees and how Green Gulch is becoming a bee sanctuary by using more natural hives.
Walking down to the field the youth stopped to find a bird’s nest hidden under the eves of a cottage. IMG_0982They also got to eat edible flowers and berries in the kitchen garden, and stroke the lavender, and rose geraniums and smell their hands. Anything to get them touching nature brings them closer to nature.IMG_1021A great lesson in composting engaged the youth, as they learned the mnemonic for composting ingredients. It was Farm Goats (or Girls) Must Sing, which related to Food, Greens/or Weeds, Manure, and Straw). IMG_1004Not only did they get to put these ingredients together, but they saw the piles covered in the area that were cooking up compost-which gets turned for many days and becomes beautiful soil.
On a walk through the apple orchard youth learned how Green Gulch Farm is dealing with pests. IMG_1156The apples were protected with an elastic sheath to keep the bugs away from the skin as it grows. It looked like all the apples had pajamas on! IMG_1151The youth peeked into the greenhouses and saw vegetable starts. IMG_1042They learned about the care of roots, stems and leaves and planting. IMG_1037 Sometimes flats of these starts come to San Francisco to be used in CommunityGrows gardens. One of the plants they are growing is called White Buffalo Calf Woman Tobacco. For tribes throughout North America, the use of traditional tobacco for spiritual, ceremonial, and medicinal purposes goes back thousands of years. It is also used as a bug repellent.IMG_1059Another fun activity was checking out the bees in an outer field. After seeing the bees under glass, youth got to eat sorrel leaves with honey on them-a sharp and sweet taste. Most of them enjoying this tasting adventure!IMG_1114Youth also got to visit the Green Gulch creek and watershed that flows to Muir Beach. The restoration of this creek is helping the revival of coho salmon in the area. After lunch in the quiet circular garden, all youth and their leaders walked through the fields following the watershed and creek down to Muir Beach for fun in the surf. IMG_20170706_134151681Nearly everyone got soaked and went home happy! Great day to be out of the City enjoying the Farm! Thank you everyone! IMG_1173IMG_1166For more photos, check out our CommunityGrows Flickr Photostream.

Mastodons at Green Gulch Farm

IMG_0609On Thursday, June 15, 2017 CommunityGrows arranged to take 40 kids and their mentors to Green Gulch Farm in Marin. IMG_0605It was a beautiful day of learning about meditation and walking through the fields exploring different areas of the farm. Sukey Parmelee, Garden Program Manager, even had her team share a mastodon tooth. IMG_0643Here’s a little information about the mastodons, that roamed the fields of Green Gulch Farm: 94699-004-B64D78ECThe mastodon first appeared in the early Miocene and continued in various forms through the Pleistocene Epoch (from 2.6 million to 11,700 years ago). In North America, mastodons probably persisted into post-Pleistocene time and were thus contemporaneous with historic North American Indian groups. Mastodons had a worldwide distribution; their remains are quite common and are often very well preserved.A characteristic feature of the mastodons, which appear to have fed upon leaves, is the distinctive nature of the grinding teeth, which in many respects are relatively primitive. They are low-crowned, large, and strongly rooted, with as many as four prominent ridges separated by deep troughs; the teeth are much smaller and less complex, however, than those in the true elephants. The prominent upper tusks were long and grew parallel to each other with an upward curvature. Short lower tusks were present in males but absent in females.
Mastodons were shorter than modern elephants but were heavily built. Although the skull was lower and flatter and of generally simpler construction than that of the modern elephants, it was similar in appearance. The ears were smaller and not as prominent as those of elephants. The body was relatively long, and the legs were short, massive, and pillar-like. Mastodons were covered with long, reddish brown hair. The reasons for their extinction are not certain, but, in North America at least, human hunting may have played a role. IMG_0726
Sharing the teeth of the mastodon was just one of the many adventures at Green Gulch Farm. Everyone also got to learn about bees, IMG_0653composting, IMG_0661planting and harvesting. IMG_0729After lunch in the lower garden everyone packed up and walked through the fields to Muir Beach. IMG_0744Lots of fun had by all! For more photos, check out our Flickr Photostream here.IMG_0706

Green Gulch Farm-An Intentional Community

IMG_6978On Thursday, July 21, 2016 CommunityGrows invited three groups-Up on Top, Prince Hall Learning Center and our BEETS-for a final visit to Green Gulch Farm in Marin County this summer. Nestled in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area’s (GGNRA) Muir Beach watershed, Green Gulch is the perfect adventure for our City kids to explore. Green Gulch is recognized as a place where organic farmers can come to learn the tools of their trade. One of the original architects of the gardens at Green Gulch was the renowned late horticulturist Alan Chadwick—who had introduced the biodynamic farming techniques influenced by Rudolf Steiner on the farm. Green Gulch operates a 7-8 acre organic vegetable farm and a 1 to 1.5-acre fruit, herb and flower garden. The fruit, herb and flower garden is, “arranged in a series of ‘rooms’ in the formal English style. In the bowl of the valley is the core of the gardens: an herbal circle of shrubs, roses and perennials, enclosed by a yew hedge with rose arbors and paths out to the larger garden.IMG_7023What makes Green Gulch unique is that it is an intentional community, a planned residential community designed from the start to have a high degree of social cohesion and teamwork. Green Gulch Farm is also a Zen Center, known as Green Dragon Temple (Soryu-ji), a Buddhist practice center in the Japanese Soto Zen tradition offering training in Zen meditation and ordinary work. It is one of three centers that make up San Francisco Zen Center, which was founded by Shunryu Suzuki Roshi. Students live on the farm, meditate daily, work in the fields and at various jobs to support their lives together. The Green Gulch Farm community is a steward for the watershed that travels through to Muir Beach and is part of the GGNRA. CommunityGrows is fortunate to have a strong relationship with Green Gulch Farm, which provides docents who led our groups of youth through the fields, and point out interesting areas, engaging them in many learning experiences. IMG_7039IMG_7046Sukey Parmelee, Green Gulch Farm’s Land Advocate, particularly organizes the visits with four or five volunteer docents. On this visit, Sukey joined Dahlia Kamesar, Donn DeAngelo, Dianna and Elizabeth to take different groups on adventures. IMG_6970IMG_6986The BEETS (Band of Environmentally Educated and Employable Teens) had a rare visit with the Green Gulch Baker, Mick Sopko who talked to them about the breads that are made and where they are sold and served every day. The BEETS got to try three kinds of bread, which was one of the highlights of the day. One of their other highlights was meditating in the meditation hall. IMG_7011Through their walk into the fields, Sukey talked to the BEETS about the restoration of the watershed. The restoration provides vital spawning and rearing habitat for salmonids and other species, as well as restores the flood plain and diversifies riparian species. Green Gulch has connected a side creek stem in an above ground channel, which delivers much needed water, sediment, and gravel to the lower creek, providing critical habitat for protected coho, steelhead and California red-legged frogs, as well as many other wild creatures.IMG_7087IMG_7048The youth also got to eat some apples, tomatoes and herbs, and walk through the rows of lettuce, chard, squash. IMG_7050IMG_7060IMG_7065The BEETS watched garden apprentices pack up produce for shipment. After lunch everyone walked down the path to Muir Beach and frolicked in the ocean. One of our BEETS was very impressed with how Green Gulch was such an amazing and supported community.IMG_7069 For more photos from the day, see our Flickr Photostream here.IMG_7088

BEETS work the Hayward Rec Carnival

On Friday, July 15, 2016 CommunityGrows BEETS (Band of Environmentally Educated and Employable Teens) joined other neighborhood partners to celebrate the Hayward Rec Connect Carnival, sponsored by the Buchanan YMCA. 7.15.16-Hayward-Carnival_IMG_68657.15.16-Hayward-Carnival_IMG_6857Kids got to enjoy being outdoors, dancing, hanging out with friends and also learn about water conservation. 7.15.16-Hayward-Carnival_IMG_6873They played a game answering questions about why water is important and got to throw balloons into a board with buckets. The reward was either delicious watermelons or wash-on tattoos.7.15.16-Hayward-Carnival_IMG_68647.15.16-Hayward-Carnival_IMG_6868 Lot of fun all day!

Adrian Williams and some of her charges with the Village Project!
Adrian Williams and some of her charges with the Village Project!

Trips to Green Gulch Farm

7.7.16-GGF_image1On June 23rd and July 7th CommunityGrows took their summer partners and youth to Green Gulch Farm. On June 23rd the Village Project and the Buchanan YMCA and on July 7th Hayward Rec Connect and Booker T. Washington youth got to go to Green Gulch thanks to CommunityGrows. Some of the highlights were eating Sorrel leaves with honey, looking at the bees, eating plums from the trees, and raspberries from the bushes, smelling lavender, mint and lemon verbena.

Anitra Baker and Dayanit Lima from Hayward Rec Connect.
Anitra Baker and Dayanit Lima from Hayward Rec Connect.
They got to see a blue heron standing just ten feet away from them before it flew off. They got to pet a horse grazing in the field too. 7.7.16-GGF_131814_1468004768996A highlight was putting their feet in the ocean at Muir Beach. 7.7.16-GGF-HRec_134907_1468004728392Two great trips and one more this summer.7.7.16-GGF-HRec_135053_1468004727432

Hayward Rec Carnival with the BEETS

7.10.15-BEETS-HaywardCarnival_IMG_20150710_143724288On Friday July 10, 2015 the BEETS (Band of Environmentally Educated and Employable Teens) took their water conservation summer theme to the Hayward Rec Carnival in San Francisco. Thanks to a grant from the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, the BEET have been studying water conservation, especially in the Bay Area where there is a drought. The BEET created a few displays to test the younger youth participants about different bits of knowledge on water conservation. One poster allowed people to write up different ideas of how to save water. 7.10.15-BEETS-HaywardCarnival_IMG_2275Another poster was a jeopardy board where youth were asked questions and answers were revealed. 7.10.15-BEETS-HaywardCarnival_IMG_2235Succulent plants were also available for the taking. 7.10.15-BEETS-HaywardCarnival_IMG_2258Many officers from the Police Academy joined the BEETS and met Adrian Castano-Romero and Ivan Galdamez who are interested in a career in law enforcement. 7.10.15-BEETS-HaywardCarnival_IMG_2271When the participants passed the challenges, they received a delicious piece of watermelon. Here are three of our fabulous staff members, Melissa Tang, Adrian Almquist and Serena Padilla.7.10.15-BEETS-HaywardCarnival_IMG_2233For more photos, see our CommunityGrows Flickr Photostream here.

Buchanan Y and Prince Hall Summer Fun

7.9.15-RP-BYMCA_IMG_2154On Thursday, July 9th the Buchanan YMCA classes was busy in the Rosa Parks Upper Garden with Ms. Serena Squash. After taking roll, the class talked about what plants need to survive. They talked about how sunlight is absorbed through the plants leaves, and water is taken into the plant by being absorbed by its roots. They learned that plants need good soil which contains minerals for nutrients. These minerals dissolve into the water in the ground. This is the same water that is taken in by the roots. Finally they learned that air is taken in through the plants leaves.whatdoesplantneedgrow After more discussion about what animals need to survive, they talked about insects and why they are important. Everyone went around the garden looking for insects: rolly-pollys, worms, beetles, butterflies, ladybugs, praying mantis, and others.7.9.15-RP-BYMCA_IMG_2135



7.9.15-RP-BYMCA_IMG_2106 A highlight of the morning was checking out the chicken coop and seeing how many eggs were there.7.9.15-RP-BYMCA_IMG_2163Later that day, a class from Prince Hall Learning Center harvested some giant leeks and carrots from the garden. What a treat!20150707_104137
20150707_104018for more photos, see our Flickr Photostream here.