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The Latest Dirt - March 2023

UC Master Gardeners Teach Plant Propagation to Students at John Muir Family Farm

By Kate Verhoef

UC Master Gardeners left to right:  Suzanne Miller, Jan Manns, Kathryn Wilson. Photo by CoCoMg.
UC Master Gardeners left to right: Suzanne Miller, Jan Manns, Kathryn Wilson. Photo by CoCoMg.

In December and January 2023, School Gardens collaborated with Community Gardens to give a series of propagation lessons at John Muir Family Harvest Farm. The attendees were 14 middle school students from Antioch Charter Academy (ACA). Also present were their teacher Allen Stahler, two-parent chaperones, and Family Harvest Farm manager Mary Cherry.

I caught up with UC Master Gardeners Suzanne Miller, Jan Manns, and Kathryn Wilson after their experience at the farm on January 12. Here is a summary:

The students’ outing began with farm work. They shoveled mulch into wheelbarrows and distributed the mulch onto the garden. They also harvested available crops such as red and green lettuce, radishes, bok choy and other leafy vegetables.

Meanwhile, Jan prepared seed and plants and displayed them on a table. Kathryn provided additional germinated seeds and dried flower seeds. Suzanne helped with set-up and assisted the students with the planting and labeling.

Next, students gathered around as lead speaker Jan discussed the different types of propagation methods. For example, she pointed out kiwi seeds vs. avocado seeds and russet potato eyes vs. sweet potato slips. Jan circulated the various fruits and plants, and the students inspected the propagation method. Kathryn showed how to find the seeds in dried zinnia flowers.

ACA teacher Stahler then explained a Venn diagram. He asked the students to pick two different foods or plants. They then recorded in their journal both what was unique for each plant and what attributes applied to both plants. Students then drew Venn diagrams for their chosen plants to show where their attributes were unique and where they overlapped.

Finally, the three UC Master Gardeners instructed the students to fill 4-cell packs with soil, insert fava beans into two cells and snow peas into the other two cells, and create labels for them.

The lesson was very well received, and the students enjoyed the hands-on experience.

Thank you Suzanne, Jan and Kathryn for sharing your knowledge with these middle schoolers and for sharing your experience with us!

If this is your idea of a few hours well spent, contact me at austinandkate@gmail.com and we’ll add you to our roster of School Garden volunteers.