The Latest Dirt - Sept 2022
Rewarding Fun at an Antioch Elementary School Garden
By Kate Verhoef
I recently had the pleasure of participating in a teacher exploration seminar at Jack London Elementary in Antioch. We gathered in a classroom and divided the teachers into three groups. Each group was given a brown paper bag full of items to remove, examine and share. One group’s items were related to vermi-culture: a clear container of compostable items, a literal can of worms, a paper plate, chopsticks, and a jar of worm tea. The second group explored a rainbow of fresh foods, including roots, stems, leaves, flowers, fruits and seeds. The third group had a see-through container of live ladybugs feasting on aphids, along with magnifying loops for viewing the insects in action.
The teachers were encouraged to “think like their students” in their initial reactions to the items, then to brainstorm ways to relate the items to both curricular and social-emotional learning. I acted as scribe on the whiteboard while the teachers shared their far-ranging and creative ideas for using these garden-related items and experiences with their students. A few of the key words that emerged were: decomposers, soil health, empathy, eating the rainbow, plant parts, garden heroes, life cycles, predators, ecological balance, and mindfulness.
Speaking of mindfulness: Mary, the garden champion, led everyone through the brief meditation she likes to employ before taking kids out into the garden. Then we all went into the garden for a tour of the learning circle, the raised beds, and the resource closet. Mary showed all the assembled teachers the garden-related books, organized by grade level, as well as the tools, many laminated resource pages and lesson plans, and the compost bin.
We urged all the teachers, especially the most recent hires, to feel confident using the garden as a true outdoor classroom, and we gave the more experienced teachers an opportunity to share their success stories. We hope their enthusiasm for the garden will be infectious in this new school year.
I’ll be returning to Jack London Elementary in a couple of weeks for our first Garden Committee meeting. I’d be so happy if a UC Master Gardener who lives in or near Antioch would join me. We really need someone to step up and take on this role. It’s a fun and rewarding volunteer experience. Please consider it. Email me at email@example.com to find out more.