In order for plants to grow, they need a little help! Just like humans, they require a healthy dose of nutrients and a good supply of water in order to reach their healthiest growth potential. 7th-graders got to experience both essential requirements for growth during their time in the patch. On a nice rainy day (water – check) they learned all about composting (nutrients – check). Led by Mark Hay, the 7th-graders were taught what it takes to make nutrient rich compost that is used to enhance the soil in the planting beds. They were joined by Cynthia Price, Eve Fein, and Ms. K. The rain did not deter the 7th-graders as they got their hands dirty while examining the different stages of composting. Enjoy the beautiful photos that captured the rainy day.
A lettuce wrap that is! With an abundance of lettuce growing in the patch lets take a look at fun facts about lettuce and gain some nutritional knowledge about the second most popular fresh vegetable consumed in America.
Did you know, California produces 75% of the head lettuce for the United States? What is head lettuce you may ask? Well, it is the lettuce that grows to form a head, such as Iceberg or Butterhead lettuce. Other types of lettuce are Loose-leaf lettuce such as red leaf or green leaf and Romaine lettuce.
Before lettuce was cultivated on farms it was a weed in the Mediterranean basin where it was collected and used in traditional dishes for over 4500 years. Lettuce images have also been found engraved on Egyptian tombs a fun fact for 6th graders who have just finished learning about Egyptians. Lettuce came to the United States via Europe and since its humble beginnings, it has had a successful history as the star ingredient in many a salad.
Iceberg, the lettuce consumed most frequently in the USA got its name right here in California. Farmers used to ship the lettuce by railroads covered in a mountain of ice to keep it fresh, and so the name stuck. Even though iceberg lettuce has the highest consumption it cannot boast about nutritional value seeing it has one of the lowest of the lettuce family. But not to be discouraged, of the 19 different lettuce varieties plenty offer a power punch of nutrition. An easy way to help identify what lettuce has the most nutrients is by the color of the leaves. The darker the lettuce leaves the higher the nutritional value. Generally, lettuce has some fiber, a high water content, and depending on the color of the leaves an assortment of Vitamin A, K, and C, a small amount of calcium, protein, and Omega-3s.
And the most surprising fact about lettuce is that it is a member of the daisy family. That makes it a distant cousin to the glorious sunflower.
In our little patch, the second-graders have been busy harvesting and tasting the lettuce they have grown. I have to say it looks very impressive what they accomplished. Well done second grade!
Miss Cho’s class harvested an abundance of lettuce
Miss Ohlig’s class sampling lettuce they just harvested
Miss Klivan’s class in action harvesting their crop of lettuce
Did someone say WORMS! How about hundreds of worms? Last week the 5th-grade students enjoyed their hands on garden experience learning about the benefits of worms in the garden beds. Mike and Mandy from Harvest To Home were our special guest volunteers and provided us with all the worms. www.harvesttohome.com Thank you also to all the parents that sent in eggshells and coffee grounds!
The students started off by crumbling and crunching eggshells with their gloved hands and sprinkling them into the corners of the beds. They then proceeded to take handfuls of coffee grinds and gently massaged these into the dirt. Next came the exciting part of handling the red squirmy earthworms! The students covered the garden, placing hundreds of them throughout the garden beds. We all learned that worms help to enrich the soil and that their excrement provides rich nutrients that support plant growth. Feeding on the eggshells and coffee grinds helps the worms grow, reproduce, and thrive in the garden which helps to make the garden thrive.
CRA is so fortunate to have had the guidance and mentorship of Mark Hay from the very beginning of the patch’s conception. Mark is a Nature Educator based at a school in Tustin. He has been generous in sharing his knowledge to help CRA formulate a plan and to see a dream become a reality. Last Spring he met several times with two wonderful pioneers of our beautiful garden Eve Fein and Cynthia Price. That time spent was in perpetration for the CRA garden initiative. And look how far we have come, in large part to Eve and Cynthia for having the vision and follow through to make it happen.
In mid-November CRA Garden Reps, along with Eve, Cynthia, and Ms. Ferguson met again with Mark to further their knowledge. Ms. Ferguson will be heading up the composting with her 8th-grade students and was able to gain a wealth of information from Mark on how to achieve this.
Mark was blown away by how far the garden has progressed in such a short amount of time. That is something all members of CRA should be extremely proud of! It has been a collaborative effort of all CRA students, faculty, friends, and community to make the vision Eve and Cynthia had back in Spring, a reality. Thank-you Mark for being a part of our community and passing on your wisdom so CRA’s garden can grow!
Each class has been working hard to create their own little patch to make up the tapestry of the larger CRA garden patch. Each patch is unique and tells a story of what that class is learning, how they have cared for and maintained the garden, and what they have produced. And like with any well-written story, there is a pride of ownership displayed with a cover to show who the story (aka patch) belongs to. Each class was able to do this by creating a one-of-a-kind garden sign to proudly show ownership. Two 4th-grade students, Tyler Davies and Lex Carney, worked hard to make the blank signs so each class could then decorate them. Please enjoy the colorful array of creations displayed in the photos, and better yet stop by the patch to see them up, close, and in person.
Tyler Davies and Lex Carney making the wooden garden signs
A colorful display of all the creative garden signs
Last week we had an abundance of posts highlighting all the students at CRA digging, planting, and sowing in the garden patch. It was wonderful to see the variety of plants being grown, and we owe Laura McDermott a huge thank-you for making that happen. Laura and her family generously donated all the plants and seeds to CRA, and we cannot thank them enough for showing such kindness and support. Laura is a Health Coach so understands the importance of enriching not only the mind but the person as a whole, and that healthy choices happen when we allow children to connect with how their food is grown. By donating such a variety of edible plants, students will get to experience that connection. Laura not only provided all the plants and seeds but has also been an active volunteer in the garden, helping with the clean up day, and gardening with the 5th graders last week. While gardening with the students she noted that the “fresh air was calming for all involved”. What a beautiful observation of how the garden impacts our students emotionally. So a big heartfelt thank-you to Laura, not only for your family’s kind donation but also for being an active member of the gardening team, and helping make the vision of CRA’s little patch a reality.
Middle School students are also getting to enjoy the garden. 6th-grade students are taking social studies out to the garden where they will continue learning about Ancient civilization. They are going to make the connection between foods grown during the Roman Empire, and what they can grow in California today. They have so far planted peas, onions, and leeks. 7th-grade students will be dividing and conquering with Miss Kadziauskas class using the garden in their restaurant project whereas Miss Mandell’s students are using succulents to study earth and human activity. 8th-graders are staying open to allow the garden to morph with their studies, but they got busy planting marigolds with radishes, as well as carrots and sage.