The Garden at Oswegatchie School is a sustainable organic garden where children get a hands on experience learning where their food comes from while developing an appreciation and respect for nature. The Garden will be a learning center to teach gardening as well as incorporating art, music, literature, math and science. It is a place where children are encouraged to join in and participate in the process of creating, developing and maintaining the garden!

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Worm Exploration

The primary reason we wanted to start a school garden is to teach children where their food should come from. In order for that food to be the healthiest it can be, the garden should be organic, that's why we are being careful about everything we put into our garden. To put things in simplest terms, if your soil isn't healthy, your plants will be susceptible to pest and disease. It has been our experience that if you have an abundant supply of worms in your dirt, it is a pretty good indicator that you have healthy soil. That is why we chose Worms as our first topic for  the Fun Friday  enrichment program.

Before we got our hands dirty, I started by asking the children what they knew about worms. I got answers like "they are slimy", "they are good for the garden" and "if you cut them in half they will grown into two worms." We then read Wonderful Worms by Linda Glaser. This charming book is wonderfully illustrated and the simple text perfectly describes the function of earthworms in language easily understood by even the youngest students. Then came the fun part.

We went outside and briefly discussed earthworm anatomy. I found a wonderful chart at Get Local At School - Growing Minds, a North Carolina based program that teaches children about gardening. We talked about worms being hermaphroditic, having both male and female reproductive parts. After the explanation one child commented "that must make it awkward on date night!"

The "date night". 
The children attempted to discern the head and tail ends of the worms. One child observed as the worm was inching along the dirt that the "front end is the one in the beginning of where it's moving." They got to feel the setae of the worm (the bristles on it's body that help it move) and noticed the very long blood vessel that is supplied by the worm's five hearts. The worms that were being explored by the children came from our compost pile and it wasn't until the children were exploring them that we realized we had worms depicting several stages of life. 

One of the tiniest worms the children found.
One of the "big juicy" ones.
After the children had fully explored the worms we put them into our garden beds. In the discussion we shared after the exploration children told me; "they are still slimy but it's because they are breathing through their skin" and "worm holes and tunnels make room for water and air to get to the plant roots" my favorite comment of the day had to be "they are still gross but that's okay I'm sure the mommy worms love them anyway."

There are many other helpful books on worms you can share with your children. I have included a list here of the ones Rob and I found especially helpful.

Busy exploring worms.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Planting Seedlings

Ms. Messina's tray of gorgeous seedlings! 

It has been a busy week in Oswegatchie's garden! Several classes were able to plant the seedlings that were started in their classrooms. The weather cooperated beautifully on Tueday. Mrs. Trott, Mrs. Haywood-Leal, Mrs. Quiles-Glover, and Ms. Flemings classes all got to put in their starts.Children were also able to put some annuals around our garden sign.

Mrs. Haywood Leal's class planting beans.

Ms. Fleming's class planting peppers.

Mrs. Trott's class planting tomatoes.

On Thursday, the weather wasn't so cooperative. We had to cancel the morning plantings because of the rain. While we were sad that those children didn't get to plant their seedlings, we were thrilled that Mother Nature was taking care of the watering for us. We got a break in the weather in the afternoon and Ms. Messina, Mrs. Concascia, Ms. Edwards, Mrs. Campbell, and Mrs. Guarraia's classes all got to put some plants in the dirt. 

Mrs. Campbell's class planting cucumbers.
Ms. Messina's class planting their beans.

Mrs.Guarraia's class planting beans.

Mrs. Concascia's class planting beans and squash.
Our garden is off to a fantastic start thanks to our dedicated teachers and super star students! So far our garden has tomatoes, beans, cucumbers, peppers, and squash. In the next couple of weeks we will direct sow corn, squash, greens, pumpkins, peas, and gourds. The school's enrichment programs has time allotted over the next 4 weeks for us to do more work in our garden. We still need to plant the center perennial bed as well. Check back often to see our progress!

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Filling The Garden Beds

Another awesome turnout to help fill the beds

Since this project has taken so long to come to fruition, and we were beginning to lose hope that it would happen, I am always humbled when we have an event and have such an amazing turnout. We were inundated with helpers on this glorious May afternoon. The flyer I put out asked people to "come play in the dirt". I guess my husband and I aren't the only ones who find this notion appealing because over 20 children and their grownups showed up to "play".

Armed with shovels and pitchforks and rakes we quickly organized teams of children to fill wheelbarrows. First we put recycled architectural prints on the bottom of the beds as a weed barrier then added the "black gold" from Beech Brook Farm Equine Rescue. Some of the older boys were very amused to realize they were shoveling poop into the garden. When each bed had a layer of compost, we added the dirt.

Spreading the compost in the beds

Filling wheelbarrows to be put in the beds

The children were quite happy shoveling dirt into the wheel barrows and dumping it into the beds. We had some toddler friends helping using their dump trucks.

Amid the squeals of delight at finding a worm and peals of laughter when a misguided wheelbarrow tipped over covering the children in what may or may not have been from "that big pile of poop" it hit me, we are bring a community together to grow a lot more than some organic vegetables. We are creating memories and friendships and lessons that will be remembered for a long time to come. Growing along with the vegetables are communal bonds. I am blessed to be a part of an amazing community of educators, parents, and children. Thank you for coming along with us as we build this garden that we have been planning for so long.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Many Hands Make Light Work!

We had a fantastic turnout on this beautiful day! Many hands make light work indeed, with all our wonderful volunteers we were done in one hour. I apologize to those families who showed up late and didn't get a chance to build a box or use a power tool. We didn't expect such a phenomenal turnout and finished sooner than expected.  Please know there are still PLENTY of opportunities to help in the garden.

Boxes laid out waiting for the children

We arrived bright and early to unload the lumber and place it where the children would be building the boxes. We wanted to set the children up for success so they would be encouraged to stick with the garden project.

After showing the children the instructions, they jumped right in and started building! I had a 1/3 scale model of the beds in the library for 2 weeks that the children used for practice. Once the first tier of all the beds was assembled we moved the beds into place and the children built the second tiers.

Our Principal and OSO President lend a hand!

 Next came the really fun part for the children, power tools! The children each got several opportunities to use the power drill and screw in the support pieces that hold the boxes securely together.

The first 8 beds waiting to be filled.

Rob and I are very grateful for such a wonderful turnout today. Special thanks go out to our outstanding staff members Mr. Shaedler, Ms. Roselund, Mrs. Houlihan, Mrs. Macione and Mr. Kamercia who gave up their precious Saturday to help the children in this endeavor. Thank you also to the DeMarco, Heenan, Tuckwood, Goldschneider, Feeney, Bergamo and Gardiner families for encouraging your children to connect with nature and help the community. Your children are stellar role models within our school. Thanks also go out to Mrs. Dyjak who provided snacks for our hard working students. We have volunteers to help get the compost. As soon as I can coordinate with Beach Brook Farm we will be able to start filling the beds and planting.

Remember, there's still time to help our school win a $10,000 or $25,000 grant. Click the Share the Good link above to vote daily until May 17. 

The Garden will soon have a website:  Here you will be able to find tips and tricks for planting, recipes and lesson plans to incorporate gardening into classroom curriculum. We are still under construction but check back often for new developments. We will very soon be on Pinterest so stay tuned for that as well. In the meantime you can "like" us on Facebook to get updates.

If you are interested in building raised garden beds like the ones the children built today click here to download the plans. You will also find many other useful garden project plans compliments of Bepa's Garden and rjt designs.

Shared at:
The Creative HomeAcre 
Deborah Jean's Dandelion House 
The Backyard Farming Connection 
From the Farm Blog Hop