Early spring growing and learning

At the School Farm this early spring we’ve been feeling the cold wind and rain almost daily. However, our spirits are high with the promise of warmth, sun and new growth at the farm.

The students delighted in the newly planted pear, apple and plum trees in the recently extended southwest part of the farm. They enjoyed finding the decomposing pumpkins at the base of the new trees and seeing how the rotting pumpkins are providing food for our fruit orchard.

Grade one students and the SWA K-2 class are thrilled with finding big wiggly earthworms, interesting beetles and pesky wireworms. They made traps for the wireworms by skewering and planting potatoes. Wireworms are attracted to potatoes and burrow in, an easy catch for the children when they dig up the potatoes each week. They remove the wire worms and then replant to potatoes to catch more!

IMG_2827IMG_2826The students also learned about glaciers crushing rocks to make all different sizes of soil particles, and decomposing plants added organic matter. The children fanned out through the garden to find all different kinds of soils, and lined the soil samples up by color. Which soil is darker and why?

Second graders continue explorations of soil in more depth. They examined the beds where they turned over cover crops to see how their cover crops have decomposed, and also spread compost and mulch in anticipation of spring planting. After prepping their potato bed, the children planted the potatoes that will be harvested for our Thanksgiving Farm Feast!

Earlier in February, the third graders had learned about plant structure by examining the four different kinds of cover crops they grew — rye, field pea, hairy vetch and clover.

In March, they learned about seeds, starting with scarlet runner beans and moving on to lettuce, spinach and kale. With magnifying scopes they observed the seeds up close, took time to draw them, and then planted them in 4 inch pots that will be planted in the salad bar bed along the veggie tunnel. Once the seeds had germinated, the children sketched the new little sprouts with all their different shapes and colors.

The engineers and designers in grade four have been working in groups to create pea trellises. The students learned about the “creature features” of peas, and what peas need to grow successfully. Many creative designs were discussed, sketched out and modeled. In late March, after the soil had dried out from our wet month, the fourth graders planted four different kinds of snow and snap peas in the terraced beds. In April they will put their designs to work and build trellises for their peas.

The fifth graders are working on three projects this spring, all of them interconnected: growing and measuring radishes, collecting weather data, and growing pea shoots for healthy snacks. Every student will have a chance to do all the projects as they rotate between them during March, April, and May. While the pea shoot group is making sure everyone is well-nourished, the radish and weather groups are following the changes in soil and air temperature, rainfall, and plant growth through the spring. Students are involved on a daily and weekly basis taking measurements or tending their plants.

pea shoots_2980Pea shoots are high in vitamin A, C and folic acid. The students are growing them in light boxes at the Elementary School. Thanks to some recipe sleuthing and development by Pam Muncey and Nadean Curtiss, the students are now making pea shoot pesto, in addition to using the pea shoots for afternoon green snacks. The pea shoot pesto sure makes a tasty lettuce wrap!

IMG_3223The lettuce, spinach, radishes, peas, kale, broccoli, cabbage, bok choi, potatoes, and herbs are loving the sunny skies and warm temperatures at the end of March.

Most importantly, we are growing a community of students who love working in the soil, growing vegetables, and eating fresh food from the farm.

We will be celebrating all this at our Earth Day event on Friday, April 22nd! Stay tuned for more details.

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