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Fall in the Garden Lab

Fall 2020:

Pergola   Pop and Mrs. C   


Seed Germination experiment virtually  Gourd harvest  Virtual instruction in garden lab

Click on the link below to get a sample of virtual instruction in the garden lab:

Virtual Garden Lab Tour with Kindergarten


The school year started with distance learning in place.  Students were home learning and being connected with their teachers and classes with the use of technology.  The garden lab is the heart of our school and we missed being in it on a regular basis, but it has not stopped our staff from coming up with creative ways to bring our students and families to this special space.  Pop and Mrs. Cunningham presented a professional development to staff on ways to use the garden for both instruction and a place for our mental and emotional well being as it is such a peaceful, inspiring place.  Virtual instruction is taking place in the garden with a wide range of experiences, such as harvesting gourds with the teacher discussing the life cycle of the gourd, reading a good book together, finding math components hidden within the garden, creating a plant germination experiment at home together as a crop is planted in the garden lab and more.

We were pleased when we were able to use grant funds to care for the pergola by sanding, staining and sealing it as it is such an important shade structure for over the main lab table.  Thank you, Pop, for being our on site manager for this project.

Harvest time occured with big crops of figs, carrots, raspberries, gourds, flowers, lavender, garlic, and more.  Fall has rolled in with the garden lab continuing to grow and change.

Many students created gardens at home during the summer.  Here is one of our Frederick Douglass stars sharing their cucumber harvest with us:

Lena garden picture

Fall 2019:

The sprouts from the September and October plantings are growing well!  Ami Mason, our PTA garden lab chairperson, spent a great deal of time supporting our programs and teachers.  Here is Ami’s update with just some of what she and the committee were able to do over the last few months:
>     In the raised bed on the left where the pumpkins were growing we have carrots, lettuce, and some radishes growing. These were planted by kindergarteners and the EL class. In the middle bed next to that one, the fifth graders planted turnips, radishes, beets, rutabaga, and carrots. The next bed over (where the tomatoes were), the third graders planted lettuces. These are now all under frost covers and are growing wonderfully.
>    On the right side of the garden, first graders in Mrs. Morell's class planted more carrots and radishes in the raised bed outside their classroom (the bed with the peas trellised). The bed to the right of the milkweed bed was seeded again with swiss chard by Mrs. Joback's class but they did not germinate very well. I threw some cabbage seeds in there two weeks ago to see if they would take and they are growing pretty well! I wanted their class to be able to watch *something* grow.
>     In the cold frame the Futura classes planted tennis ball lettuce, arugula, red romaine, and tatsoi greens. These are sprouting now and we will keep the doors shut on them for the remainder of the cold season.

>     In the cotton bed we will wait to see if the last cotton pods open and they will be harvested for their seeds by the kindergartners. Once it is all harvested we will pull that bed clear and prepare the soil for the spring. This is where we will have some cold weather crops like broccoli and Brussels sprouts in the early spring.
>     As for the Three Sisters Garden, the we will clear the bed, not putting any squash leaves or vines in the compost and saving any beans. All else will go in the compost. Once that is clear, some time in the winter I will cover that bed in Krimson Clover, a cover crop, and then before it flowers we will turn it over into the soil to help provide more nitrogen to the soil.
>    The kindergartners used some of the Swiss chard and the kale to make chips last week and there is still plenty left to make with other classes. There is kale and chard left, so if you are interested contact Ami Mason, our PTA garden lab chairperson.

> *Compost Update: there are three tumblers now. The one on the very left is "done" for the season. I would like to not add anything more to that so that we can truly see how decomposed everything gets by the end of spring. If we keep adding things to it, it will push back the finish date. This is sort of experimental, to see how much or how fast a compost bin can decompose the contents. Any time you need to add to the compost just use the two on the right. Remember; only weeds, coffee grounds, leaves, and leaf/stem material from plants that are NOT tomato or squash related go into them. PTA garden lab committee will be adding water, as well because the microorganisms need water to keep getting through the matter. I bring in a plastic container (like people store cereal in) full of my coffee grounds and I add water to it to help pour the contents out and that's enough water to help the bin.
> Over the winter I would love to see parents working with their classes on bird feeders or other crafts for the garden. Let me know if you have any ideas for students to participate in the winter garden!

Our garden hosted several groups this month:  The Peterson Young Naturalist Journal Professional Development training and Hamilton Elementary School Second Graders came as a field trip with our K students acting as experts to give their students information about the garden lab.

Hamilton visit  Hunt with Hamilton students  hamilton students

Please be sure to thank Ami and the parents who are supporting the garden lab.  The garden lab is constantly changing by the seasons.  The frost covers are up and remind students of “tents” for our plants.  The shade cloth has been removed from the pergola and stored for the Winter to protect it from snow damage.  The remaining seeds will be harvested from the garden and given to Kindergarten to prepare for their seed sale in the Spring.  In the near future, the fig tree will be insulated with a blanket of straw to protect it from the harsh freezing conditions to come this winter.  There are still many adventures to happen before winter arrives.

Young naturalist can be seen through out the day in the garden lab completing nature journal entries.

nature journal entry   class nature journals

Kindergarten PBL Harvest to Home Launch and Monarch Butterfly Program
The first week in the garden lab was busy with students, teachers, and parents exploring the changes and crops that happened over the summer.  The success of the crops is due to the hard work of the PTA Summer Garden Lab volunteers who cared for the garden all summer!  Many crops have already been harvested and enjoyed by our school community.
Kindergarten started out the school year with the launch of the Kindergarten PBL Harvest to Home with all 105 Kindergarten students coming into the garden to harvest (carrots and radishes) and to plant seeds for part of our fall crops to include carrots, lettuce, and sweet peas.  Ami Mason, our new PTA garden lab committee chairperson, was on hand to pass out seeds she donated and to help students plant.  Be sure to touch base with Ami and our garden lab committee if you would like to support your child's class in the garden lab.
Over the last two weeks, Kindergarten students have been watching the life cycle of a Monarch Butterfly right before their eyes.  There have been over 5 healthy Monarch Butterflies released into the garden lab.
Monarch Release      Eating produce   
Monarch Butterfly Release                                                Eating carrots and radishes for snack
Fall 2018:
Loudoun County High School Seniors Partner with Kindergarten
Loudoun County High School seniors visit Kindergarten to work together with students to observe the pumpkin tower in the garden lab.  Students partner with the seniors and document what they observe with sketches as well as written descriptions.  Our kindergarten students enjoyed having the high school students write down all of their collaborative descriptions and compared their drawings to the high school partner's drawings.  It was a fun and successful partnership!  One high school student exclaimed, "I am amazed at the small details that the Kindergarteners noticed in the garden.  I learned as much from my kindergarten as they did from me."
LCPS whole group   LCHS partners  LCPS small group
From Harvest to Cafeteria
Fall crops have been planted by Kindergarten for their kick off of their PBL called Harvest to Home.  Carrots, spinach, lettuce, and carrots were planted in the raised beds for a late fall crop.
Our first harvest to cafeteria occured with the help of Stefanie Dove from the LCPS Nutrition Department.  Kindergarteners from Mrs. Cunningham's class were able to harvest chard, prepare the chard in the cafeteria to make chard chips, go back in the kitchen to cook the chips in the oven, and eat the chard chips at lunch.  Yummy!
Chard harvest  Chard harvest B and A  cooking chard chips  chard in the oven  eating chard s  eating chard H and A
Classes from all grade levels are having their garden lab introductions and observations with focuses in all subject areas.  
Pergola Surprise!
As the doors opened for a new school year, our school community was treated to a wonderful surprise:  the arrival and installation of a beatuiful pergola kit that had arrived from Forever Redwood in California.  Forever Redwood is a restorative forestry company that creates hand made pergolas from Douglass Fir and redwood.  When the company became aware of our common interests to practice sustainable practices, Raul and his staff wanted to support our program and create the beautiful pergola kit that you see complete today.  With the help of Pop, Mrs. Cunningham's family, custodial staff, PTA volunteers and staff volunteers, the pergola was built over the main garden lab table to insure a shade structure that would protect our students and staff from the sun during instruction at the table.
Arrival pergola kit  Pergola arrives from California
Installing pergola 1  Installing pergola 2  Pergola  
Pergola K students  
Fall 2017:  Butterflies, Harvest, and Frost Covers
The garden lab has been thriving this season with the arrival of the Monarch butterflies to our butterfly garden.  Eggs were laid, caterpillars appeared, chrysalis' appeared, and Monarch butterflies arrived.  A stream of classes have been flowing in and out of the garden lab learning through a variety of lessons ways to explore, observe, and connect to educational standards in a real life experiental environment.
Our students were able to experience the garden to cafe experience with the harvesting of chard, carrots, lettuce, tomatoes, herbs, and turnips.  The produce harvested was served fresh in the cafe thanks to the cafeteria staff who helped prepare it.  Lavendar was harvested and saved for future use with some sensory lessons.
Micah with lavendar   Leo with tomato
In November, we received a grant from the Virginia Agriculture in the Classroom organization that enabled us to construct frost covers over our fall crops in order to protect them into early winter.
frost covers   frost covers put on
putting on fabric frost covers  k team with frost covers
Fall 2016: Update in the Garden Lab -   
Our student horticulturalist have been busy in the garden lab this season.  Kindergarten has planted sweet peas, watermelon radishes, and lettuce.  Kindergarten was able to harvest some of the crops grown over the summer, such as kale, carrots, tomatoes and turnips.  Mrs. Wilson, our cafe manager, uses our fresh produce in many of the meals she serves to our classes at lunch.  The pumpkin tower is full of pumpkins and will be ready to harvest in October.  Third graders arrived in the garden with their garden journals to document their planting of turnip seeds.  Second grade has been busy planting carrots.  In the meantime, fourth graders are carefully observing their cotton crop and have noticed the beautiful white flowers that have arrived.  You may be lucky enough to see a Monarch butterfly in the garden lab or on school grounds due to Mrs. Cunningham and Mrs. Reles' classes raising and releasing 8 monarch butterflies so far.  
In October, our Kindergarten students were busy harvesting the pumpkins from the pumpkin tower.  With great excitement, our students were able to explore the inside of a pumpkin, harvest seeds, and taste roasted pumpkin seeds.
 Pumpkin exploration  
In November, the chard was harvested and prepared by Kindergarten chefs to make Chard Chips for snack.
Making chard chips   Chard Chips delivered to Cafe
 In December, fourth grade and kindergarten completed the cotton harvest.  We will use the seed pod, cotton, and seeds for winter and spring learning experiences.  We have a seed bank with cotton seeds available for us to replant in the spring and to raise money in the Kindergarten seed sale.  
 cotton harvest   cotton K nature journal  
Pop, Mr. Cunningham, and Mrs. Cunningham completed winterizing the garden lab to include insulating the fig tree and fourth grade turnip bed with straw.
 Insulating fig tree   Insulating turnip garden
Fall 2015:  Kindergarten in the Garden Lab - Kindergarten students harvested the carrots and cucumbers after having a grade level lesson together in the Garden Lab.  The carrots and cucumbers were delivered by students to Mrs. Wilson, our cafe manager, to prepare for lunch.  Students were offered the harvest at lunch and enjoyed their first "garden to table" experience in September.  After harvesting crops, each Kindergarten student was able to plant our fall crop of sweet peas, lettuce, and watermelon radishes.  Students will use the scientific method during a variety of science based lessons and observation lessons with the growth of these crops.
carrots   K Fall planting
Congratulations to FDE for being named on the 2015 Virginia Naturally Schools!
2015 Garden lab fall
Fourth Grade Cotton Crop Ready for Harvest!  
Students are busy making observations and recording information about the cotton.  Fourth grade will harvest the cotton and collect the seeds to be planted for the next crop.
K Cotton harvest  
Kindergarten helps fourth grade finish harvesting the cotton crop.  The cotton will be used in a Winter Celebration project and the seeds harvested for a seed sale fundraiser event in the Spring.