In Our Garden

PTO Garden Residency September 2014

What’s been going on in the JP garden?

Students have been having a fabulous time in the school garden! Just like in their other classrooms, the students created rules for their outdoor classroom. In this first month of school, they honed their observation skills and actively learned what ‘edible’ means. Here is a sample of what happens in the garden, as recorded by our fantastic Garden Educator, Deb Gries.

Not-so “Bore-ing” Acorn Weevils and Burrowing Caterpillars. Max from Mrs. Walker’s room was a first class observer! He cracked open an acorn and found a creature inside. His classmates wondered how the creature got inside the acorn. After telling them that sometimes insects bore holes into acorns and other nuts to insert their eggs, Jackie found an acorn with a hole! It turns out that the larvae Max found grew from an egg deposited by an Acorn Weevil female.

Rocio from Mrs. Frenchu’s class observed a Yellownecked Caterpillar, which feeds on oak leaves. The reason Rocio found it on the ground is that the caterpillar will soon burrow into the soil 2 to 4 inches, where it will overwinter as pupae.

Plant Galls. The students in Mrs. Eisenacher’s class observed plant galls (growths) on oak leaves and learned they are a home for insect eggs. Once they discovered one leaf with plant galls, they found many!

Ample Samples; JP Students are Full of Beans. In addition to being first class observers, JP students were also first class samplers. The students delighted in harvesting Sungold cherry tomatoes, Rattlesnake green beans, Gold Rush beans, peppers, raspberries, and other green beans that were started in cups last year in Mrs. Kukla’s Pre-K classroom. Mrs. Lepard’s and Mrs. Bongiovi’s third graders ate some beans and, like people back in colonial times, pickled the rest of their harvest.

Know Your Plant Parts, Measure Your Worms, and Never Throw in the Trowel. Mrs. Walker’s and Mrs. Finn’s first graders observed weeds from the garden and discussed what animals and plants need to survive. They also learned about the parts of plants and the functions of those plant parts.

JP kindergarteners are learning about worms in the garden and were patient, respectful explorers. They were rewarded by finding many worms of different sizes.

JP kindergartners learned how to carry and use trowels safely and appropriately. They were very serious about acquiring their new skills!

Beware of Floating Acorns. Mrs. Bongiovi’s third graders and Mrs. Worden’s fourth graders came to the garden together and practiced being “gatherers” like the Lenape. They collected two big pots full of acorns, discussed different ways to count the acorns, and found that many of the acorns were “floaters” when put in a bucket of water. “Floaters” had to be routed to the compost pile, since those acorns had been attacked by Acorn Weevils. Only “non-floaters” could be used for acorn flour by the Lenape. One of Mrs. Lepard’s students actually found an Acorn Weevil larva crawling OUT of an acorn on its way to pupate in the ground!

Farm Like a President; Squash the Squash Vine Borers, and Tell Mother England about the Radishes. Mrs. Eisenacher’s third graders learned about some of the soil practices of George Washington. They also discovered firsthand why it is a good idea to rotate crops as Washington did. The boys and girls donned garden gloves and pried Squash Vine Borer (SVB) larvae out of the dying pumpkin stems to reduce next year’s SVB population. Tyler noted that the SVB larvae look just like the Acorn Weevil larvae, and he’s right! Their tasks required them to put aside their very natural inclination to squeal and run away…

Mrs. Eisenacher’s third graders read aloud the letters they wrote about their experiences last week in the garden. Like some colonial plant lovers from long ago, they raved about their botanical finds to their dear relatives in the “homeland.” They also harvested radish seeds and planted them right back into the garden. We’re hoping for a final harvest!

The school garden is certainly changing as we roll into October. Much of the grass is now yellow/brown and there are many acorns on the ground. However, our tomato, raspberry, and green bean plants are still producing because our students are such good samplers!



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