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.

The Academic Impact of School Gardens

Harvesting flowers Mieko PhotographyMaui Teachers’ Perspectives

It’s no secret that students, parents, and teachers love our school gardens! During garden visits, students spend hours discovering the wonder of growing their own food; the gardens bring beauty to our school campuses; students, families and members of the community enjoy the fresh fruits, vegetables and herbs they produce. As an organization, we take time at the end of each school year to reflect on how the gardens are fulfilling our goals of providing students with outdoor learning experiences that connect them to their food sources, inspire better nutrition choices, improve health, and teach them how to be better stewards of the land.

As we strive to grow, improve, and to “turnip the beet” in our programs, Grow Some Good conducts an annual Teacher Survey. We wanted to share with you some highlights from the 2015-16 school year.

Survey Results – School Gardens have a Positive Impact

According to the survey, a majority of teachers surveyed report that school gardens have a positive impact in students’ academic achievements in all core curriculum areas, and particularly in science, health, language arts and Hawaiian studies.

We know from more than eight years of managing these programs that hands-on, interactive lessons in the gardens improve retention and help reinforce classroom learning. Maui teachers surveyed agree:

  • 96 percent of teachers’ responses report that garden lessons were very or extremely beneficial in supporting the core curriculum area of science.
  • 72 percent said school gardens are very or extremely beneficial in language arts
  • 66 percent of teachers said school garden programs are very or extremely beneficial in supporting Hawaiian Studies.
  • Nearly all teachers, 97 percent, said school gardens are very or extremely beneficial in in supporting health and nutrition standards.

Teachers were also asked to indicate what attributes they have observed in their students who participate in school gardens:

  • 94 percent said they saw an increase in environmental awareness.
  • 73 percent said they noticed improvements in health and nutrition.
  • 44 percent also noted improved social skills and behaviors.
  • 48 percent witnessed an increase in community spirit and interest.

“We Love Mondays!”
Girls with Kale Wailuku El

Teachers shared their thoughts on the impact school gardens have on their students.

Leslie Farthing, sixth-grade Social Studies teacher at Lahaina Intermediate School, said, “This program has been incredible for my students. It is a great introduction to working in a garden. For most students, it is their first time working with plants. They really enjoy it and take pride in their work. [The garden coordinator] always ties it to what we are learning which is very helpful. I did not grow up gardening so as an educator I love the experience as well.”

Teachers also commented:

“The garden is a wonderful addition to our school and the kids love it! Thank you!!”

“My students are so excited to be a part of this program! They are planting gardens of their own and are so inspired by [the garden coordinator].”

“The garden brings out interests and curiosity that I have not seen in class.”

“We are very thankful to have the opportunity to teach our students gardening skills.  This is a life-long skill and our children are learning about how to be self-sustaining.”

girls hanging ipu to dry“We truly enjoy our garden time.  The students learn a lot and it is important to continue to educate our students about healthy eating habits. [The garden coordinator] does an exceptional job sharing her garden knowledge and skills with our students.”

“I truly appreciate the knowledge shared with our students.  This year, [the garden coordinator] had excellent lessons aligned to the Common Core State Standards.  Very impressive.”

“I enjoy watching my students investigating and taking notes.  It shows that they are really interested in the garden.”

“We love Mondays. We get to go to the garden!”

 

For more details, you may review the complete survey results here: Grow Some Good 2016 Teacher Survey Data

Sept. 22 Workshops: Youth Gardens as Classrooms

Home Gardening Support Network, Maui School Garden Network, Community Work Day and Grow Some Good are pleased to announce a Youth Gardening Workshop to make school garden information and experiences more accessible to teachers, volunteers and others who work with youth-oriented garden programs. Click on the link below for a workshop agenda:
These workshops will feature hands-on activities to help integrate school garden work within all disciplines and give advice on how to maintain and fund school gardens. The workshop day will run from 8:00 am – 1:30 pm with optional post workshop sessions from 2:00-3:00 pm and will include lunch and a food demonstration.
Register by emailing Anne Gachuhi at hgsn@gmail.com or calling (808) 446-2361.  The fee is $35.00.
Scholarships:  Kihei Elementary School and Lokelani Intermediate School teachers, staff and counselors can receive scholarships from Grow Some Good by sending an email with interest to info@GrowSomeGood.org. Please include your name, school, grade level and phone number for follow up in your email.
We hope you will take advantage of this opportunity to gain knowledge that will help advance your programs and create more real-life learning opportunities for your students.

Seaweed Lesson and Use in the Garden

The following is a synopsis of seaweed lessons and materials used for YMCA classes (mixed ages).

Goal: Give students a understanding of the value of seaweed and it’s importance in our Hawaiian economy and culture.
Time: 30 minutes

Basic Plan:

1) Gather students in circle.  Ask them to share what they know about seaweed or ask them to describe seaweed.  Describe/ask about the 3 words: Seaweed,  Limu (Hawaiian name for seaweed) and Algae (botanical name for seaweed).

2) Ask them when they last used a seaweed product? What if I told you that I bet that all of you put seaweed in your mouth this morning?   Seaweed is a key ingredient in toothpaste!

3) Go over the 3 names that you’ll find in common products  that are actually seaweed.   See this lesson for more information.   Kids will try to tell you that seaweed is not in their chocolate or Strawberry Ice Cream! Seaweeds are high in nutrients and minerals. They are used as a biofuel and have some amazing properties that are used in medicines and vitamins.

4) Talk about how seaweed is different from other plants.   What does it need to grow (sunlight, nutrients, water)?  Talk about how it doesn’t get nutrients from the rocks, sand but some seaweeds establish a “holdfast” to keep them from floating away.  But some seaweeds do just float in the water.   Show examples of how some seaweed has “bladder balls” (THEY POP REALLY LOUD!)  that provides buoyancy so the plant grows up toward the surface.

5) Describe the 3 basic colors of seaweed – Green, Brown and Red.  Describe the different sizes and shapes.  Some seaweed is too small to see and some grows over 100 feet tall.  Seaweeds in Hawaii can grow up to 12 inches per week although that is not normal.  The large kelp beds of California can grow up to 2 feet a day!  They cut it weekly to make fertilizers.


6) Show the students how we are going to rinse the seaweed that was collected from the beach.  Remind them that there may be small snails in the seaweed.  We rinse the seaweed to remove the salt before we will put in the garden. Have students take a handful and rinse it,  dunk it again to rinse and put on a screen.

7) Have the kids sort through the seaweed on the screen identifying as many different forms of seaweed as they can. Put the excess seaweed in the buckets for the last step.

8) As they find a new seaweed, have them place it in a container on the table. Observe how the seaweed changes as it it placed in water. Some look like slime but become beautiful underwater. Kids will stuff the bottles if you let them so encourage them to put in just enough to clearly see and identify.

9) If you have older kids and/or more time, have the kids go through the additional resources and identify the different seaweeds. Is it alien, endemic or unknown. Is it edible?

10) Have the students take the buckets of seaweed and toss them around the garden adding great minerals and fertilizer!

Answers to Tough Questions: (Beware)

  • Can I take this seaweed home?  No – Your mom won’t want stinky seaweed!  or   Sure, after we spread it on the garden soil, you can come back with your mom or dad and take home whatever you want.
  • Can I eat this seaweed?  No – even if it is edible, we do not have the correct cleaning facilities for seaweed.
  • Is this a piece of coral? Yes, dead coral is often used by seaweed as a holdfast.  When waves are strong it gets washed up to the beach.  Did you know that coral is actually a colony of small animals (polyps) and has a symbiotic relationship with a special algae (seaweed) called zooxanthellae.  If the algae dies, so does the coral.  This is often referred to as coral bleaching because the coral will turn white.
  • Is this a new seaweed? There is always at least one child who will keep bringing the same type of seaweed up and asking this.  Ask them to describe the color, size and texture of the leaves and make them conclude that it is the same as the last one they brought up.
  • Do fish eat seaweed?  Yes, but not all fish.  Many fish hide in seaweed.  Some even change colors so they are very hard to see when in their favorite seaweed.  Turtles also eat seaweed as well as many crabs, star fish,  and other sea animals.

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES:

Id of Hawaii Seaweeds: http://www.hawaii.edu/reefalgae/natives/sgfieldguide.htm

Id of Edible Limu in Hawaii: http://www.hawaii.edu/reefalgae/publications/ediblelimu/

5 Senses and Cover Crop Turning

Warning: A non-numeric value encountered in /wordpress/wp-includes/SimplePie/Parse/Date.php on line 694 Warning: A non-numeric value encountered in /wordpress/wp-includes/SimplePie/Parse/Date.php on line 694 Warning: A non-numeric value encountered in /wordpress/wp-includes/SimplePie/Parse/Date.php on line 694 Warning: A non-numeric value encountered in /wordpress/wp-includes/SimplePie/Parse/Date.php on line 694 Warning: A non-numeric value encountered in /wordpress/wp-includes/SimplePie/Parse/Date.php on line 694 Warning: A non-numeric value encountered in /wordpress/wp-includes/SimplePie/Parse/Date.php on line 694 Warning: A non-numeric value encountered in /wordpress/wp-includes/SimplePie/Parse/Date.php on line 694 Warning: A non-numeric value encountered in /wordpress/wp-includes/SimplePie/Parse/Date.php on line 694 Warning: A non-numeric value encountered in /wordpress/wp-includes/SimplePie/Parse/Date.php on line 694 Warning: A non-numeric value encountered in /wordpress/wp-includes/SimplePie/Parse/Date.php on line 694 Warning: A non-numeric value encountered in /wordpress/wp-includes/SimplePie/Parse/Date.php on line 694 Warning: A non-numeric value encountered in /wordpress/wp-includes/SimplePie/Parse/Date.php on line 694 Warning: A non-numeric value encountered in /wordpress/wp-includes/SimplePie/Parse/Date.php on line 694 Warning: A non-numeric value encountered in /wordpress/wp-includes/SimplePie/Parse/Date.php on line 694 Warning: A non-numeric value encountered in /wordpress/wp-includes/SimplePie/Parse/Date.php on line 694 Warning: A non-numeric value encountered in /wordpress/wp-includes/SimplePie/Parse/Date.php on line 694 Warning: A non-numeric value encountered in /wordpress/wp-includes/SimplePie/Parse/Date.php on line 694 Warning: A non-numeric value encountered in /wordpress/wp-includes/SimplePie/Parse/Date.php on line 694 Warning: A non-numeric value encountered in /wordpress/wp-includes/SimplePie/Parse/Date.php on line 694

Today we explored the 5 Senses in the Garden with Kihei Elementary School kindergarteners and turned nitrogen-fixing and phosphorous-rich cover crops into the soil for a final round with all grades before planting new fruits and vegetables for the year.

To start the adventures, Chef Kristin Etheredge gave each student gardener a taste of fresh apple bananas from her home and juicy strawberry papayas, then collected compost scraps to feed the soil. As we sampled the harvest, students talked with Kathy and Kris about similarities between soil health and human health, plant parts, decomposers in the compost, then discovered a bright red ladybug on a tour with Gadener Kirk, learned about beneficial insects and brainstormed describing words to write in their journals.

Mahalo to all for sharing mana’o and helping to inspire a new generation of chefs, teachers, scientists, farmers and urban gardeners on these islands!

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

seed saving class at kihei elementary school garden

Seed Saving: The Cycle of Life… In Real Life

seed saving class at kihei elementary school garden
KES Teachers - Sign up for seed saving classes!

When teaching life sciences and sustainability with students of any age, seed saving is an essential element that bridges the gap between a text book explanation and real life.  As students experience the full cycle of a plant, from planting the seed to harvesting the seed, the concept of life cycles is experienced more deeply beyond words or charts.

You’re invited to dive into our wonderful collection of plant flowers, collected from garden goodies as they’ve bolted into Spring.

Class options include:

  • “Why Save Seeds?” talk story
  • Pollination – Self-pollinators and insects as pollinators
  • Wet & dry seed-saving techniques
  • Seed storage tips
  • Take away seeds for home gardens and next year’s school garden!

Volunteers are available 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. to assist classes at Kihei Elementary School garden. To request volunteer assistance for your class, email INFO AT GROWSOMEGOOD DOT COM the following info:

Teacher / Grade Level

Number of Students

Requested Day / Time

Why Care About Pollinators?

Pollination — the transfer of pollen grains to fertilize the seed-producing ovaries of flowers — is an essential part of a healthy ecosystem.  And pollinators play a significant role in the production of over 150 food crops in the United States.In this introductory curriculum educators have purposely chosen to focus on just two of the many pollinators as a means for teaching basic concepts about the process and importance of pollination.

Bees were chosen due to their primary importance among pollinators and butterflies were chosen because of the interesting and distinctive stages of their life cycle and their intrinsic appeal.

Find out more about butterflies, bees and other pollinators through activities designed to provide a systematic exploration of the topic using  scientific thinking processes at the Pollinator Partnership’s website.  This SERIES curriculum was funded through a grant from the United States Department of Agriculture.

The Nature’s Partners curriculum contained here is designed to be a highly adaptive and flexible resource for teachers and youth leaders.   Here’s a link to one of the learning modules if you’re ready to buzz and flutter into the world of pollinators.

Wild Ones Seeds for Education

Deadline: October 15, 2011

The Wild Ones – Seeds for Education Program (SFE) began in 1996 and was named in honor of naturalist and Wild Ones inspirational leader Lorrie Otto, a pioneer in the natural landscaping movement in the United States and on who’s philosophy Wild Ones was founded. SFE annually gives cash awards to places of learning and other organized groups who successfully communicate their vision of creating natural landscapes using native plants for the purpose of educating users of the facility and the community. Applications are judged and winners selected by a volunteer panel of educators and naturalists. SFE Nursery Partners (native plant nurseries and propagators) also donate seeds, plants and guidance to grant recipients.

Many Wild Ones support community efforts to establish or maintain natural areas, and work with local schools, scout groups and other organizations to create butterfly gardens, rainwater gardens, or other projects.

The Wild Ones’ mission (to educate and share information about the benefits of natural landscaping using native species to promote biodiversity and environmentally sound practices) encourages members to interact with the community. As members see the results of their native landscaping in their backyards, they begin to notice other areas in their communities where naturally landscaping could be beneficial. They also become aware of community efforts to help children learn about the natural world. Many members support these efforts.  See more at  www.for-wild.org/aboutsit.html