Words With Letters Wiggler
Words With Letters Wiggler – The Central Community Garden in Edmonton is an inner-city garden located in the Central McDougall community. In this blog post, read the director of the garden, Dr. Kevin Soleza’s reflections on his experiences in the garden this year.
Don’t Forget Sustainable Food Edmonton’s inaugural Harvest Reception is this Saturday. There will be great local food provided by Chef Eric Hanson and entertainment provided by The Den.
Words With Letters Wiggler
There are many players in our food system. So one of our goals is to make students aware of the farmers and non-human components that help put food on the table.
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The pandemic has encouraged us to embrace virtual communications. That’s why for the last couple of years we invited speakers and farmers to share their experiences in a virtual format. We had a live farm tour, slide presentations and videos that allowed many classes to learn about food production in Alberta. So at a time when tours and visitors were not possible, technology allowed us to be present in virtual presentations in 49 classrooms with approximately 1,070 students, some of whom participated multiple times.
Our Kindergarten classes enjoyed a story and virtual greenhouse tour by local horticulturist and author Sharon Wallish. Her book The Perfect Place for Plants was a wonderful introduction to gardening for our youngest green thumbs and sprouts.
All good things start in the soil, and the Markster Composter brought the theme to life. The students learned how to set up a red worm tank and what it takes to keep the worms fed and happy. Mark talked about the amazing benefits of ‘worm droppings’ for our plants. Healthy soil is full of many types of organisms that need our kitchen scraps and leaves. Composting and vermicomposting is a natural extension of our gardening programs at Edmonton Sustainable Food!
Many people think that KNIVES are bad plants, but Paula Klassen encouraged us to think about how a Bee might see a plant. Instead of excluding plants because they don’t belong in our cultivated world, we should embrace ‘weeds’ for their amazing properties. Dandelions, plantains, thistles offer medicines that can help people, animals and also enrich the soil. Paul’s message to the students was that “we all belong”.
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We were privileged to have a private live tour of Chatsworth Farm led by the very knowledgeable and friendly Charlotte. Early spring is a busy time on the farm with the arrival of baby animals. Charlotte used her phone to teach us about the cattle and the new calves. The turkeys, geese and chickens had to stay indoors (due to the risk of avian flu), so we got a tour of the barns. We were lucky enough to see a chicken egg being laid right in front of our cameras!
We also enjoyed beautiful videos and engaging question and answer sessions with two other farms. Kirk and Trudy Harrold again showed how spring is coming to the farm; geese, songbirds and butterflies are a joy to hear and watch.
Maryann from Goodnote Farm was busy taking care of the baby goats while also taking care of the chickens and ducks. May is naturally a busy time for planting gardens. Maryann doesn’t want to garden alone, so her land includes a community garden, a flower garden, and a CSA garden that provides weekly deliveries to subscribers.
Finally, the topic of pollinators is such a natural fit for our indoor gardening classes. We had wonderful presentations on the many types of wild bees that call Alberta home. Students were encouraged to observe bees and learn how they gather food and build houses to raise their young. Being able to tell the difference between a bee and a fly or a wasp is crucial to alleviating our fear of flying insects and helps us keep the gentle, solitary pollinating bees at bay.
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We would like to thank Patty Milligan of Edmonton Urban Farm for her excellent bee presentation and expertise. Nicole with the Good Worm Garden program had students play a fun “eye spy” activity to help them learn about local bee populations.
We were thrilled to receive a student journal entry from a 4th grader at A. Blair McPherson School. What a beautiful illustration of all the learning that this student captured on paper! Check it out below.
If I could create a wordle or dordle garden, it would include the words seed, plant, water, earth, worms, grain, basil, beans, chard, and maybe start and again. Much like the latest pun craze, gardening can be addictive in a good way, creating regular moments of quiet observation and concentration that take us away from our worries.
With luck, some students can immerse themselves in the gardening adventure for more than one year. From Madona’s school: “This year I am teaching 1st grade…but I have the same students as last year. Therefore, they love the second year in the garden.
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Check out the inspiring photos and notes I received from several gardens. In this second year of difficult times of the pandemic, everyone is doing what they can.
One of the first steps in an indoor garden is making a garden plan and planting seeds. We sow many of our seeds in peat pellets, carefully planting 1-2 seeds and creating labels for each type of vegetable or herb.
How exciting when the seeds germinate and the seedlings reach for the light. Students often keep a diary in which they record changes and plant growth with drawings and descriptions.
When the growing seedlings need more space, the children first transplant them into pots or growing boxes under special growth lighting. Children help fill the boxes, add fertilizer and check that the plants and seeds have enough water. A recycled container with a pierced lid creates a gentle stream of water.
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As the plants grow, there is time to observe, measure and answer the questions the students want to ask. For example, at Mee-Yah-Noh School: “Something really exciting that we’ve done is take our classroom pumpkin that we had in October and plant seeds. I just came in today to check on them and they have sprouted! We are amazed at the growth in this first month.
Challenges come in many forms. It turns out that mice get into schools when doors are left open in the summer or early fall. Who would have thought that mice like to snack on small seedlings!
For longer breaks, consider how much water the plants will need when no one is at school. Teachers can make special visits to the water, but sometimes, despite their best efforts, the garden dries up. As with any skill development, persistence and repetition eventually lead to success. Creativity also helps; below we have a plastic tent solution to reduce evaporation.
After a few weeks, some leafy greens or herbs will be ready for a snack or taste test. There’s nothing better than tasting vegetables from plants you’ve nurtured and watched in class while it’s cold and snowy outside. We hope our LGT classes have a great rest of the year and growing season!
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Students and teachers do their best to follow health guidelines, and most classrooms at Little Green Thumbs are too small for our regular indoor garden. So it’s a real joy to learn about indoor growing projects where kids want to learn about plants, food and insects.
At Robert MacAdams School, Kindergarten classrooms have many plants on their windowsills, including Christmas cactus and many other houseplants. Plus, they’ve managed to make room for their Little Green Thumbs garden.
The children have been growing the garden since September, planting all kinds of seeds. They have squeezed the tomato to find the seeds in it; they have grown pumpkin seeds to see if they grow indoors and they have planted a “jar garden”. The LGT garden has already produced beans, peppers and the Tiny Tim Tomatoes are in full bloom. To ensure good pollination, students know how to gently tap the flower clusters. Some beans were left on the plant to ripen and dry, and soon the children would open the pods to harvest the bean seeds. The pepper plant has produced dark red, almost purple fruits – very exciting!
As with any garden, there are challenges. Most indoor gardens are a perfect home for fungus gnats, tiny flies that feed on organic matter in pots. Flies are becoming a bit of a nuisance in the classroom. Mrs. Brown told me she had tried every method; finally, play sand was spread over the potting mix and this stopped the gnats from multiplying. Both success and challenge are great learning opportunities, and so the children collected and studied the dead mushroom gnats that piled up on the windowsill. They learned about their wings, stripes and legs. Even rodent “poo” was important to study.
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Yesterday in class the children tried our purple pepper. After much discussion