Stories from the Garden: from The Story Connective

This fall, garden coordinators, administrators, and board members from Grow Some Good met with the Story Connective to do a Story Bridge workshop. Participants were prompted to talk about a time they experienced in the garden that a child will never forget.

These stories provide a glimpse of the magic that happens in school gardens. Take a listen to these remarkable stories here.

Mahalo to the Story Connective for putting together this wonderful collection.

Composting in School Gardens

Tips on Composting from our ED & “Compost Queen” Kathy Becklin

This morning I was out at the Kihei Elementary school garden.  Since it was hot, I spent much time in my favorite (and shady) area…the composting area. Sadly our 6+ bins were all in pretty bad shape but I worked to turn our composting effort around!
The bin in the photo above is my home compost pile.  It is about the same size as the ones at Kihei El.  Some of our schools have a 3-bin system (on right) but personally I find those limiting unless you have a small garden as each bin is too small. I prefer a 5ʻ diameter wire bin any day! I can also move them around the garden easily.

My Favorite Tips for Successful Composting

  • Tend to your Compost every 1-2 weeks for best results. In a perfect world, you would turn the whole pile but that has never been feasible for me.  I “stir the pile.” I jab my spade fork in as deep as possible and stir. The whole pile should move. I have a hose and get moisture down into the pile. I move the spade fork 12” over and repeat until the pile is sufficiently “stirred”. I stir my pile before adding a lot of material. The piles at Kihei were very dry; compost should be damp but not dry. If you tend to them frequently, the fork goes in easy, sometimes steam comes up, the rodents stay away and it takes just a few minutes per pile.
  • Breaking the Structure of Material — You donʻt have to cut everything into tiny pieces to add to the pile. It will compost faster but it might not be practical to do each time.  What is encouraged is to break down the structure of the material.  We had lots of stacks of paper plates and stacked cups from our harvest parties.  Stacked they are not easy to break down; single items scrunched work much better. Stomp on dried leaves, fold up branches (I can take a big branch of a pigeon pea and fold it up, breaking the rigid structure to small size in a few seconds), and spread out the material.  I actually like leaving a few branches (< 1” diameter) long in the pile as they help the stirring to move everything around and let the air in.
  • Adding Layers — The classic composting advice is to add material in layers of 1 part green to 2 parts brown.  This is not precise science but do think in terms of browns and greens.  Greens are things that were recently living and growing — grass clippings, weeds, recent cut branches, kitchen scraps and live plant material.   Browns are branches, dried leaves, paper plates and shredded paper.  Yes, if you leave greens in the sun, they turn brown.  Do this if you have too many greens. Composting is much more effective with a nice mix.  The  top layer is usually browns to keep rodents and flies away.  You should not create any layer too thick that it will totally compact and be impermeable. I like thinking that the layer should cover the previous layer so it canʻt be seen –  about 3″ max unless you have dry fluffy leaves.  Be really careful with lawn clippings, thick vines and shredded paper as a thick layer can stop the composting process.  For example, there was some hay bale material in the Kihei Elementary bins but the chunks were not broken up enough…  it formed a thick mat that did not let air or water through.  Composters  (i.e. fungus, bacteria and invertebrates  – “FBI” ) do not work in an anaerobic  or dry environment!
  • Label your Bins: If you are fortunate enough to have multiple bins, label them! Otherwise you may have lots of bins but nothing is ready.  You must label your bins so everyone knows where to add material.  I recommend the following signs (maybe have 2 of each):  ADD LARGE MATTER HERE, ADD MATTER HERE,  RESTING and READY TO SIFT.  For Kihei Elementary Iʻm going to laminate 8×11 sheets, put in plastic sleeves with holes so  that they can be zip tied to each bin.  Painted signs work well too! The signs can be moved from bin to bin as the composting process evolves.

    I like keeping one bin for bigger items that take longer to break down.  Think palm branches, evil weeds, papaya or sugar cane stalks, branches > 1” diameter.  Please note that is is still good to include a good mix of greens and browns.  Also throw in an occasional layer of compost to really get it working.  If you donʻt have enough space or bins, then I recommend removing this material from the site.

    This is where the majority of items are added from the garden and kitchen.  This is a very active pile that goes up and down… process it and add, process and add.  Decomposition is happening! How do you know when to change the sign to “RESTING”?   If you are maintaining your piles and adding material in layers, you will reach a point where the bin is perpetually 3/4 to full.   You can add layers but it never goes below the 3/4 full mark.  That would be the time to let it rest.  In my home garden, where I only have 1 official bin, at this point I remove the wire that constitutes the “bin” and move it to a new place.  I let the pile rest a few months before I start to use. In the photo above, Iʻm almost ready to let it rest.

    During resting, continue to stir and water,  but quit adding new material.  You may need to stir less frequently.  When the bin is about 1/2 full (or half empty) and you can dig down about 6” and find beautiful compost then it is ready for sifting.  The outside may still show a lot of debris and dry material.  This is a great time for students to observe the composting process. Smell how beautiful it smells, observe the different types of bugs; they are part of the composting process.  The rest period should be no more than about 3 months.

    Sifting is a great workday activity. Make sure volunteers wear gloves and close-toed shoes. In my experience, centipedes are inevitable (Make a game out of counting them and carefully move them over to your add pile so they can keep working) and hope you donʻt see any rodents. Place a sifter over a wheelbarrow.  Start taking material from the compost pile and into the sifter.  Break up big chunks of compost and let the beautiful compost collect in the wheelbarrow.  Two people hold each end of the sifter and move back and forth (slow shake) is the most effective way to process quickly.  Ideally disperse composted material directly around the garden or create a “ READY TO USE” pile.  At first it seems like there is more being left in sifter than is composted but that changes fast.  Toss the unsifted material back into one of your ADD piles; the addition of compost will get those working even better.

If youʻve been filling all your bins for awhile like we have at Kihei El, there may be an enormous amount of good compost on the ground around the bins.  Get out your shovel and collect it for use in the garden beds.

Watch for future updates on vermi-composting and bokashi!
Please share your compost tips below.

Grow Some Good’s Strategic Focus

Growing Some Good for 10 Years

The 2018-19 school year marks the 10th year of Grow Some Good providing educational school gardens for Maui students. It’s hard to believe it’s been 10 years! As a strategic and visionary organization, we took a look at where we have been and where we should put our focus for the next five years and beyond.

 

 

 

Board Discussions

In June, the Board of Directors met to discuss the organization’s status and future strategic goals. As part of the process, we reviewed the strategic planning documents from our last session in 2015. A highlight of this review was recognizing all the great things we have accomplished since 2015!  It is also reassuring to see that we are still on our planned path toward our mission to “cultivate healthier communities by strengthening local agriculture and improving access to nutritious, affordable food.”

2018-19 Goals

Looking at the immediate future, Grow Some Good identified goals and activities for the 2018-19 School Year.

Strengthen School Relationships. Enhance our work in curriculum across grade levels, especially in the areas of science. Set expectations of schools and students and provide key curriculum, making it easy for teachers to utilize complementary lessons in the classroom. Demonstrate the true value of the garden as an effective learning tool.

Strategic Expansion. Focus on areas of maximum opportunity, such as adding a grade or class at an existing school or enhancing a specific project.  We see limited expansion into new schools during the upcoming school year.

Build and Solidify Partnerships. While we have an active and supportive network in the chef and restaurant community, we want to expand beyond this group.  Our goal is to reach more local farmers, businesses, community groups and educational resources.

Enhance our Outreach Programs. In our early years, GSG volunteers and staff actively participated in many community events. This has tapered off recently. Our goal for the coming year is to participate in relevant community activities to engage with new volunteers and supporters. Leveraging off a tagline we had for years, we are calling the Outreach Program “Grow Some Good in Your Neighborhood,” and will include participation in events, Work & Learn Days, and other activities.

Adaptation and Utilization of Specialists. We are reviewing various cost saving opportunities such as outsourcing some Human Resources activities, or utilizing an irrigation specialist. This allows GSG to leverage the expertise of people and groups in our community while focusing on what we do best.

Looking at the Future

With over 4,000 students participating in our programs at 11 Maui schools, Grow Some Good is one of the largest school garden program providers in the state. As the Farm to School movement in Hawaii gains traction, we recognize the opportunity to provide leadership, data, and activities to support the movement. Initiatives like the ‘Aina Pono Farm to School Program re-introduce local produce and agriculture products into select school cafeterias across the state. We anticipate this program will grow in popularity, creating a need and desire to provide more local and school-grown produce for school cafeterias, as well as opportunities to develop more growing spaces and food forests on campuses. Grow Some Good is preparing for this opportunity by reaching out to local partners and funders who might be interested in supporting this important change for our schools and students.

As we look to the next school year, we are excited about deploying some new projects, enhancing our gardens and working with our schools to increase the educational value of the garden programs.

Growing Food and Inspiring Healthy Eating

Annual School Garden Survey Results

As the 2017-18 school year came to a close, Grow Some Good conducted its annual School Garden Survey of teachers and principals. Results of both surveys showed that school garden programs make a significant impact with students and are changing the faces of our school campuses.

Teachers’ School Garden Survey Results

The following tables highlight some of the most significant results that came from about 120 teachers who participate in our program. Results come from grade K-8 and across 10 schools.


Teachers Share Observations Regarding Students’ Activities and Learning.

Teachers in Grow Some Good Programs Report Major Changes in Student Learning as shown in 2018 School Garden Survey

Garden Lessons Extend Beyond Planting & Harvesting

Garden teaching enhances key curriculum as shown in 2018 School Garden Survey

Teacher Comments

“I think Garden is something we ALL look forward to.  The students love being outside and learning in a hands-on environment about things they genuinely find interesting.”


There are some children who struggle with academic learning but excel with the hands-on experience of the garden – this is an important part of their education.


“Students really enjoyed going to the garden and learning about the plants, growing plants, harvesting, observing the cycles of nature, learning about insects, composting, taking care of the plants, and much more!  Such a positive experience!”


“The students love garden days!”

Principals’ School Garden Survey Results

Principals agreed that the gardens make a positive impact on their school campuses.

100% of principals agreed that Garden:

  • Provides additional educational resources for teachers
  • Has added to the beautification of the campus
  • Students have a sense of pride about their school garden.

Principals Also Said…

“The garden adds so much to our school culture and promotes a sense of pride on our campus.”

“Our garden coordinator is awesome, dedicated and makes things happen.”

“It was great this year!”

“Zero Waste” at Taste of School Gardens

Goals for the Environment

Grow Some Good cares deeply about our island environment, and it has long been a goal of ours to reduce the amount of waste generated at the annual Taste of School Gardens event. Through our partnership with the Maui Huliau Foundation Green Events program, and our event hosts at Maui Tropical Plantation, this year we hope to meet this goal and minimize the waste that goes to landfills.

What is “Zero-Waste?”

This year we’re excited to present a “zero-waste” event as part of our eco-plan for Taste of School Gardens. What does that mean? Can any event really be “zero-waste?”

Maybe not completely, but we can get close! Zero-waste stations throughout the event will have separate receptacles for food waste and recyclable material, diverting 65-86% of waste from landfills.  Each station has bins, educational signs and volunteers to ensure that items are disposed of properly. These waste stations become educational opportunities to share the importance of the tenants of reduce, reuse, and recycle, and demonstrate how simple it can be.

The use of compostable serving dishes, forks, and spoons, generously donated by Sustainable Island Products, will help reduce waste further. As gardeners, we know the value of composting and creating rich, vibrant soil, and we’re excited about using compostable materials.  We’re also encouraging guests to reuse their glassware, and providing rinse stations for glasses at the wine tents.

Mahalo to our partners in creating a zero-waste event at this year’s Taste of School Gardens.

 

Gnocchi in the Garden

Chef Geno Sarmiento of Nick’s Fishmarket recently visited the gardens to give students a hands-on cooking demonstration.  Together they prepared gnocchi with an herb tomato sauce and pan-seared shrimp. Garden Coordinator Jadda Miller, along with  Chef Geno, take questions from the class.

Chef Geno holds up a cherry tomato, one of the ingredients in making the herb tomato sauce. He showed the students how to roll and then cut the dough used to make gnocchi, an Italian dumpling.

          

Students had fun!

“I like rolling the dough.”  “I like cutting the dough.”  “I like eating the gnocchi!”

        

Chef Geno and Tri-Star Restaurant Group

This garden cooking demonstration was put on by Chef Geno Sarmiento, Executive Chef, and the team at Tri-Star Restaurant Group, which manages Nick’s Fishmarket inside Fairmont Kea Lani, Sarento’s on the Beach on Keawakapu Beach, Manoli’s Pizza Company in Wailea, and Son’z Steakhouse inside Hyatt Regency Maui Resort and Spa in Kaanapali.  Mahalo to the entire team for supporting this fun cooking demonstration event for our students.

A Special Mahalo to our  Photographer

Bjarne Salen, of Endless Flow Films, spent two days in the gardens with the students, Garden Coordinator Jadda Miller, and Chef Geno and his team, documenting the cooking demonstrations. Mahalo Bjarne, for donating your time and talent to create wonderful photos of this fun and memorable experience for our students.

How to Make Gnocchi?

Chef Geno generously shared his recipe with us:

Cheese gnocchi (dumplings):  Mix 1 pound of goat cheese and 1 pound of ricotta cheese until evenly combined. Then mix-in 1 cup of flour until the dough is soft. On a floured surface, divide dough into 4 even pieces and roll into 1/2 inch-thick “ropes”. Cut into 1-inch pieces. Cook dumplings in salted boiling water until they float to the surface, about 1 to 2 minutes, blanch cooked gnocchi into ice water, then drain.
Tomato Pesto Sauce: In a food processor, puree garden tomatoes and a handful of garden basil with parmesan cheese (and toasted pine nuts if preferred). The amount of tomatoes, basil and cheese is up to your liking. If you prefer more tomatoes, add more tomatoes or vice versa. Put into a saucepan and bring to a simmer mixing often so as not to burn the sauce. Add gnocchi until heated thoroughly.
Adding protein: Feel free to add protein (shrimp, chicken, etc) or any other vegetables (mushrooms, asparagus, etc) in your dish. Simply sautée in a separate pan and once cooked, add to the sauce and serve with cheese gnocchi topped with grated parmesan cheese.

 

Lesson from the Garden: How Do Seeds Grow?

What is a seed?

Most plants grow from seeds, which come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and textures.  Within this compact package, seeds contain everything a plant needs to grow and reproduce. Some seeds, such as grass, begin life with one leaf. These kinds of seeds are monocots. Other seeds, such as beans, begin life with two leaves. These kinds of seeds are dicots.

The outside covering of seeds is called the seed coat. It protects the baby plant, or embryo, inside the seed. The seed also contains endosperm, or a food supply, that the embryo uses to grow until the plant can manufacture its own food. In order for seeds to grow into plants, they need soil containing nutrients, water, sunlight, the right temperature, room to grow, and time. In this lesson, students will have the opportunity to observe this process for themselves.

What do living things need?

Discuss what living things need to live and thrive. They will begin with a discussion of what people need. They will compile a list that includes the following: food, water, a place to live, ways to stay warm when it is cold and cool when it is hot, and someone to care for them. They will then go through the same exercise for animals and plants. They will discover that all living organisms have similar needs. At this point, students will probably realize that seeds, which contain a baby plant, also have these same basic needs. Throughout the lesson, they will form a better understanding of this as they look inside a seed and then plant seeds and watch them grow.

Next, students will work in pairs to dissect lima bean seeds that have been soaked overnight. Using a hand lens, they observe the embryo and food supply. Then they complete a “What Are the Parts of a Seed?” worksheet, which asks them to label a diagram of a seed and write down what each part does. This section of the lesson will conclude with a review of what plants need to grow.

Now, the fun part!

Students should place one or two seeds in the hole and cover them with soil. Students are instructed to water the soil when it looks dry. They can tell when the growing plants need water by sticking their fingers one inch into the soil. If it feels dry, then watering is necessary.

Students will write down their observations on the observation sheet.

After the plants have started to sprout, go over the different parts that are emerging. Make sure that students can name these parts and describe their functions:

  • Root: Anchors the plant and takes in water and nutrients from the soil.
  • Stem: Helps support the plant.
  • Leaves: Take in light, which the plant will use to make its own food.

On their observation sheets, students should draw pictures of the growing plant, labeling each part as it emerges.

 

 

Lesson from the Garden: Phototropism

What is Phototropism?

Tropism is a growth response between a plant and an external stimulus. The stimulus could be weather, touch, time, gravity or light. A positive response is indicated by growth toward a stimulus and a negative response is indicated by growth away from the stimulus. Light is a stimulus that plants respond to. This is called phototropism (photo= light).

Plants and Light

Plants usually display a positive phototropic response to light, which means they grow toward a light source. Plant hormones called auxins play a part in phototropism. Auxin is a plant growth hormone. When light is shined on one side of a plant the auxins move to the dark side of the plant. The hormones stimulate the cells on the dark side of the plant to elongate, while the cells on the light side of the plant remain the same. This elongation on one side and staying the same on the other causes the plant to bend in the direction of the light. This bending allows more light to reach more cells on the plant that are responsible for conducting photosynthesis. Wow!

Bend a Plant

You can create an experiment to see phototropism in action!

To see the effects of phototropism on a plant, make your own shoe-box maze.  You will need: a shoebox, extra cardboard, scissors, tape, and a small potted plan. Bean plants work well. Students should have an adult help with the following cutting and box building steps.

  1. Cut a large hole at one end of the shoebox. Hold the box up to the light and be sure to tape up any other spaces where light shines through.
  2. Cut two pieces of cardboard in the following sizes:
  3. First make both pieces half the width of the shoebox.
  4. Then make both pieces the same height of the shoebox.
  5. Now divide the box in thirds and tape one cut cardboard piece on the left side of the box at the one-third mark. Next, tape the other cardboard piece on the right side of the box at the two-thirds mark.

The box should look like the box shown below.

 

Place the small potted plant in the shoebox opposite the hole, make sure that it is well watered. (We started a bean in a plastic cup.)

 

 

 

Close the box, tape it, and place it in a sunny window.

 

In about 4 or 5 days open the box and notice how the plant grows in the direction of the light coming from the hole!!!

Lesson from the Garden: Can plants move?

Can plants move? Yes!

Plants have evolved adaptations that allow them to ‘move’.  Not in the sense that they uproot and walk away, but in other ways.  Plants can move toward or away from water, the sun, and in response to gravity! This is called tropism.

What is Tropism?

Definitions:

Tropism: the means by which a plant grows towards or away from stimuli

Stimuli: a thing or event that evokes/influences a functional reaction

Garden Class Activity

During class, students split up into groups and  search for examples of tropism in the garden. These include:

  • Thigmotropism: growth or movement in response to touch
  • Hydrotropism: growth or movement in response to water (towards or away from moisture)
  • Heliotropism: “sun tracking” – growth or movement in response to the sun’s location
  • Gravitropism: growth or movement in response to gravity

Once all groups have found their example, each group will share what they found and how it is a type of tropism. These might include plants growing up trellises, toward sunshine, or toward a water source. We have many vining plants in our gardens include green beans, peas, watermelon, ipu, and lilikoi, which make great examples of tropism.

Lesson from the Garden: How Plants Breathe 

See How Plants Breathe    

Fill a glass jar with water. Select a large leaf from a plant or tree nearby, drop it into the jar and screw the lid on.  Place the jar in a sunny spot. After an hour, ask students to look in the jar and report what they see inside.

What Do You See?

What would happen if we held our breath, underwater, at the pool and then let out air?

Bubbles!

As oxygen is released by the leaf in the sun, many tiny bubbles form showing photosynthesis in action. The process of photosynthesis is what allows us to see the bubbles — as the leaf releases its extra oxygen while submerged, the oxygen can be seen as bubbles in the water. As a leaf creates that energy, it needs to get rid of the items it no longer needs so it will expel both the extra oxygen during photosynthesis along with water, called transpiration.

And since oxygen is lighter than water, the bubbles will eventually rise to the surface.

Are We the Same?

Does a tree or plant breathe the same as we (humans) do? No. A plant, tree or leaf doesn’t have any lungs or respiratory system; but it is a living organism just like we are.