Monday, October 26, 2015

Welcome Back to the DreamKeeper Garden!

So many things have happened in such a successful summer and fall of 2015 season we have almost been too busy to update the blog!

Matt Durham is returning this year as Lead Garden Educator, entering his fourth year at Langston Hughes Academy and his first year as our fearless leader! Amy Nau has certainly not left the LHA garden altogether, but she is stepping into a different role as site gardener where she gets to work through the Edible Schoolyard network not only at our site but at all of the Firstline Schools helping out a fantastic ESY garden crew. Amy is also taking on something she is really excited about, a pilot program combining gardening and therapy as a Horticulture Therapist for students all throughout the K-8 charter.  She also is teaching a "Garden to Table" cooking class with 4-8 graders in the industrial kitchen. So far they have made pizza, pesto and delicious smoothies!

Eloise Reid is returning this year as an Assistant Garden Educator, taking on a full-time position as her commitment to the LHA and ESY team and children grows and grows! New on the garden team this year is Jane Madden, an educator who has been working in gardens and with youth all around the teacher in places like Baltimore, South Carolina, and now New Orleans! We are thrilled to have her in her role as the other Assistant Garden Educator as she brings experience, joy, and passion to the LHA Dreamkeeper Garden.

As students came back through the double doors this August, many of them inquired as to how the garden was doing, and especially the goats, chickens and rabbits. The trio of goats is alive and well and enjoyed a hot New Orleans summer with the help of ESY volunteers providing food and water, Donkey, Mama Goat, and Oliver couldn't wait to spend time with their favorite scholars.

The Rabbits, Simba and Cherry, just received a new hutch and stayed shaded and cool all summer and fall with many new treats, including a beautiful water bottle, and a healthy change in diet. They are excited for Ms. Eloise's after-school garden class to build them a food forest in their own little enclosure.

Ms. Jane has been gracious in caring for our most stinky, and fragile resources- the chickens! In a new and improved home, we revived our flock this summer with 15 chicks! Unfortunately a raccoon or possum reduced that number to 8. With three brand new layers, including two silkies, we are back up to 11 and producing roughly two dozen eggs a week.


Watermelon Week!

This year was all joy and excitement for the K-4th grade students who took a trip to Wacky and Wonderful Watermelon World! They experienced a seed-spitting contest, got their muscles working while making a watermelon smoothie on a bike blender machine, and used their beautiful creative minds to make watermelon beaded bracelets and face paint their faces! Pre-K got a surprise visit from Mr. Watermelon! Middle school enjoyed a watermelon eating contest as part of their JOY celebration, and many teachers and staff were able to walk away with a watermelon or two with a little bit of extra harvest from Farmer Ben's Mississippi stock.

Before we get into the chilly season of New Orleans, scholars are always enjoying planting seeds, and learning all about their senses. First and Second Graders are diving in deep to the heart of garden creatures' life cycles, third graders are learning how to be observant, patient, and curious scientists, and fourth graders are learning all the ways to propagate plants!

Thanks for reading the epic post for the beginning of the 2015 year, and stick around for a Family Food Night post from our resident journalist, Mr. Matt!

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Farmer's Market Update

“Hi sir, are you interested in some of our fresh vegetables? We grew them in the organic garden at our school, Langston Hughes Academy in Gentilly. We have collard greens, different kinds of kale, lettuce, tat-soi, herb bundles and bouquets!”

My memory isn’t exact, but that was essentially the pitch that one our garden interns repeatedly gave to anyone within earshot last week at the Crescent City Farmers Market. Unprompted, he began to reel in customer after customer and our sales began to mount. We brought our scholars to the tents set up for the blossoming farmers market located in the French Market downtown. They exceeded all expectations while there, easily outselling many of the other more seasoned market veterans.


Our 7th and 8th grade interns have spent the last few weeks learning skills that served them well when the market rolled around: how to properly store and harvest greens, tying together herb bundles, and piecing together bouquets with the scant survivors of New Orleans’ most recent freeze. The morning of was spent putting the finishing touches on all of the above with the hope that there would be patrons brave enough to be out in an open market on such a windy and dreary day. Scholars minds were focused on the weather. Would it be too cold to sell? Would anybody be there to buy?

And yet with a surprisingly unbridled enthusiasm our scholars served as noble ambassadors of both our school and our garden. Duties were split among those who described our produce to consumers, those who handled the money, recorders of every transaction, and a revolving cast of scholars devoted to the upkeep of our table. Both garden teachers were thoroughly impressed with the diligence and perseverance they showed from start to finish.


Taking scholars to the market brings a sense of closure and finality to our work as garden educators. We take our oldest students, who have been with the garden the longest to the market. And just like our departing produce, they’ll soon be moving on to the next phase of their life - high school. And in the same way our garden will replenish itself with veggies and flowers for a new season, they’ll be a whole new crop of scholars waiting to take the place of our market all-stars.


Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Family Food Night! What a Healthy Success

Around 250 people strolled into the brightly lit cafeteria after enjoying the magical Middle School Afterschool Showcase on a chilly December evening at Langston Hughes Academy. All types of folks from Edible Schoolyard, including both the garden team and network team had been busy prepping a
nd preparing for “Family Food Night, Give the Gift of Health” for weeks, and our hard work showed! The cafeteria was transformed into an indoor farmer’s market style venue, with families, students and teachers floating around the room tasting delicious, homemade morsels at each station. We had lovely volunteers from LHA helping with set-up and staffing tables! Mr. Matt and Ms. Eloise of the Edible Schoolyard made a delicious vegetarian lasagna that was a hit with all ages. Ms. Zuri, of ESY, and Renee Williams, a local herbalist, created different blends of teas and medicinal drinks for all to try, including a fantastic hibiscus tea made with the Dreamkeepers Garden own hibiscus flower! Amy, or Ms. Z, held it down for the third year straight with everyone’s favorite Green Smoothie Machine!

As families traveled from a homemade granola station, to the freshly cut sweet potato fries, to our librarians create-your-own snack table, they filled out a raffle card.  Upon completion they were entered into the raffle! Prizes were given including brand new ESY aprons, cook books, and Dreamkeeper garden bouquets. We had a few different lucky winners. Giving the gift of health is a top priority of the Edible Schoolyard and the Dreamkeepers of Langston Hughes and we were all excited at the numbers of people who cycled through Family Food Night collecting recipes, tasty treats, and delicious memories.  

Enjoy your own granola snack from this recipe below:

3 cups old-fashioned oats
1 cup coarsely chopped pecans
1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut*
3 tablespoons (packed) brown sugar
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon (generous) salt
1/3 cup honey
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 cup assorted dried fruit


Preheat oven to 300°F. Line rimmed baking sheet with parchment. Mix first 7 ingredients in large bowl. Stir honey and oil in saucepan over medium-low heat until smooth. Pour honey mixture over oat mixture; toss. Spread on prepared sheet. Bake until golden, stirring every 10 minutes, about 40 minutes. Place sheet on rack. Stir granola; cool. Mix in fruit. Enjoy!

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Fall 2014 Harvest Party!

Autumn in the Dreamkeeper Garden is an amazing time, the kale heads are poking out of the ground, the squash flowers paint yellow splashes across the garden, and the goats, as always, frolic and jump in their enclosed goat garden. Most importantly, we have a grand sweet potato harvest and enjoy the treasures of pulling out the largest, smallest, weirdest and longest golden orange sweet potatoes from all four sweet potato beds. This year, the third grade class, with their practiced trowel-holding hands, got to dig into the sweet potato beds and collected over 200 pounds of bounty! With all of these summer-grown treats, the LHA Dreamkeeper team started planning a gigantic harvest party to celebrate all of our locally grown autumn produce, and the success of the scholars hard work throughout this year.

For three weeks we planned and inquired as to what should go into the harvest party festival, and among many different answers from students, such as hot-wings and ice cream, some salads, pies, and sweet potato casserole also make their way into the desired menu. We also asked students if they could invite anyone to the party, who would they like to invite - and mothers, fathers, teachers and siblings were all on the invite list. Michael Jackson's Spirit was also invited so he could "teach some moves" to a first grade scholar. We prepped and  planned for our harvest party all month long, and all four garden teachers put in some extra kitchen time at home to make enough food for 500 K-4 elementary scholars! 

40 pounds of sweet potato casserole, 20 pecan pies, and 20 pumpkin pies later…we were ready to go! The students entered the garden atrium area where three tables with ESY tablecloths and bouquets were set-up for them, and a buffet with all kinds of harvest party feasts to enjoy. On their plates were apples, celery and garden grown peanut-butter, popcorn, sweet potato casserole and pecan or pumpkin pie with a cup of hot cider to wash it all down. Before we ate, the students shared with each other what they were thankful for, one third-grader in particular said they were thankful for the food and the people that grew up, and after Ms. Zuri prompted who made the food they all realized it was their hard work and garden skills that brought lots of these delicious treats to the table! 

Our Autumn Harvest Party was a great success and we can't wait for next year!

Friday, August 29, 2014

Another Year with the Dreamkeeper Garden!

Welcome back to another year with the Dreamkeeper Garden at Langston Hughes Academy Charter School! Our scholars are back, the sun is shining (sometimes a little too much!), and our garden is blooming and producing as intensely as this Louisiana summer will allow. Our harvest over the past few months has included crunchy cucumbers for pickles or salads, several varieties of eggplants, peppers, tomatoes, and summer squashes.

We have a lot of exciting things planned for this year. Our outdoor classroom is in it’s final stages of construction, and we cannot wait to share that space with our scholars. Our goats now have a grazing/play area for scholars to observe them in, whether in class or while waiting in line in the cafeteria. We’re in the process of planning exciting events for our scholars, with Watermelon Day (a personal favorite) coming right around the corner.

Our classes this year will feature primarily elementary school grades Kindergarten through Fourth. Scholars will be engaging in the garden in a variety of ways, from learning the basics of watering, becoming a member of the garden community, learning plant parts, and using the garden as a vehicle for teaching interdependence and respect. We’re opening up a prestigious internship program for middle school scholars to come out and work in the garden and help out with our lower school classes, setting a great example for our younger kids. We’re also working diligently with middle school science teachers to integrate their lessons to become more hands on in the garden.

We’re excited to add Zuri Obi and Eloise Reid as our Americorps and Garden Fellow for the 2014-2015 year. They’ve already been incredible additions to the Dreamkeeper garden team. We’ve already done a lot this year, but there is a lot of work left to be done. But with all the sweat from this humid New Orleans summer comes plenty of smiles like these that make it all worth while:


Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Come work with us!

If you're interested in a job with at the Dreamkeeper Garden, consider the following opportunity:

Creating and inspiring great open admissions public schools in New Orleans

Organization Information:

In 1998, FirstLine Schools started the first charter school in New Orleans, which became the highest performing open admission middle school in the city.  FirstLine now operates four K-8th grade school and a high school.  Our mission is to create and inspire great open admission public schools in New Orleans. We do this by:
  • Ensuring high achievement for all our students.
  • Providing a rich variety of education experiences to nurture our students’ social and   emotional development and love of learning.
  • Developing our faculty’s skillfulness and creating sustainable working conditions that facilitate our teachers’ success.
Our faculty is a diverse and talented group dedicated to our students’ success and to their own growth as teachers.  Our schools are led by instructional leaders who hold themselves accountable for student achievement and teacher development.

Langston Hughes Academy DreamKeeper Garden
The Dreamkeeper Garden at Langston Hughes Academy is a new and exciting enrichment and curriculum integration program, which began in the Summer of 2010. With the conception of this program came an interest and drive to create a safe, outdoor educational space where scholars can learn life’s cycles and interrelationships. The Dreamkeeper Garden has potential to grow and expand into a community garden and a large edible producing garden.  ESY NOLA and the Dreamkeeper garden share a strong and supportive relationship in the Firstline School network.
The mission of Langston Hughes Academy Charter School is to provide students with the knowledge, skills and character traits necessary to succeed in high school, college and the world beyond. Our goal is to send every student to college by preparing them for the best public and private high schools in the New Orleans area. By developing a Schoolyard Edible garden, LHA is preparing their scholars for success in not only the traditional academic realm, but a hands-on, experiential knowledge of the Earth and its cycles through a seed to table life science based curriculum program.

The Edible Teaching Dreamkeeper Garden is the venue for weekly garden classes where children learn to grow and harvest their own food. In the 2012-2013 school year, students in grades K-8 participate in hands-on organic gardening classes that reinforce academic curriculum while learning how to grow their own food and become stewards of the land. The garden includes an outdoor classroom, a composting and worm composting (vermiculture) station, seasonal edible crops in raised beds and production garden, an herb garden, grape vines, and a butterfly garden. With ample vicinity for expansion, the Dreamkeeper garden will host a variety of growing practices including use of Dillard Universitys’ green house and seasonal row crops. The space will also facilitate a reconciliation circle and community gardening. With a subtropical climate, students can plant, harvest and enjoy seasonal produce all year long in New Orleans!

Edible Schoolyard NOLA
Edible Schoolyard NOLA changes the way kids eat, learn and live at FirstLine Schools in New Orleans. Our goal is to improve the long-term well being of our students, families and school community. We do this through a comprehensive seed-to-table experience that integrates hands-on organic gardening and seasonal cooking into the school learning experience, culture and cafeteria food programs of the schools we serve.

ESY NOLA involves students in all aspects of growing, harvesting preparing and enjoying food together as a means of awakening their senses, cultivating a school environment that promotes a sense of pride and responsibility for our land and natural resources, and developing a love for fresh, seasonal foods. ESY NOLA is a signature program of FirstLine Schools, a public charter school network in New Orleans.

Position  Summary:

The School Garden Teaching Assistant teaches garden classes for K-8 grade students as a small group leader; assists in preparation and breakdown of classes; contributes to lesson planning and classroom development collaboration; helps to maintain the garden; and supports ESYNOLA’s collaborative programming.

Key Responsibilities:
The position’s specific responsibilities include:
  • Assist in the conducting of daily garden classes for the Green Charter School K-8 student population.
  • Lead and manage a small group during each garden class, delivering content that is academic, sensory, and experiential in nature.
  • Lead students in the propagation, planting, cultivation and maintenance of the garden, with the guidance of lead teacher.
  • Guide students to make connections between science standards and the tangible characteristics of the garden, using the garden as a “living laboratory”
  • Prepare for lessons; includes reading and reflecting on lesson plans provided by the Lead Teacher, as well as individual creativity in teaching approach and delivery for the small group portion of the lesson
  • Maintain high expectations for all students in garden classes consistent with school culture. Maintain transparency in all behavioral expectations and consequences.  
  • Assist in the preparation/break down of classes
  • Collaborate in class and curriculum planning sessions and lesson plan development
  • As appropriate, participate in after-school programming and/or garden based programming across multiple school sites
  • Model respect and curiosity for learning. Encourage students’ interests and talents.
  • Assist in the building of cafeteria culture during daily lunchtime.
  • Promote healthy eating and nutritional education in the cafeteria and classrooms.
  • Participate in and lead wellness initiatives for students and staff.

  • Remain engaged, knowledgeable, and “up to date” about the garden as it transitions through seasonal changes by creating up to date diagrams and mapping of garden
  • Assist in garden maintenance, including propagation, soil fertility, composting, crop rotation, fertilizing, pruning, irrigation and pest and disease management
  • Update daily garden log and diagram and maps of garden growing space
  • Responsible for upkeep and maintaining appearance of garden and toolshed
  • Act as informal “ambassador” to the garden for visitors, volunteers, and school staff; includes answering questions, organizing and working alongside volunteer groups on
  • Spearhead new projects in the garden for the development of the garden aesthetic

  • Attend regular Garden Teacher meetings to review, prepare for and contribute to garden class planning
  • Participate in ESYNOLA all-staff meetings
  • Maintain consistent and constructive communication/feedback with garden teaching team; Work closely with other garden teachers to provide/receive internal feedback; check email on a daily basis to stay informed of events and schedules
  • Assist in communication with classroom teachers (ie, completing lesson/behavior feedback forms)
  • Participate in Garden Teacher trainings provided by ESYNOLA staff
  • Participate in the Garden Specific trainings provided by ESYNOLA staff
  • Ensure an engaging and rewarding experience for volunteers.  Help orient volunteers to the garden and garden-related responsibilities, help prepare volunteers for class involvement
  • Assist with LHA community and family events, including Open Garden Days (this may require some weekend work)
  • Participate in collaborative goal setting process with Lead Garden Teacher to create individual fellowship benchmarks
  • Participate in regular evaluation meetings with the Lead Garden Teacher to review performance and establish/revisit goals.
  • Create and maintain garden bulletin board
  • Create and maintain displays for education station signs for garden and cafeteria
  • Assist in organizing community events
  • Assist in volunteer coordination; Coordinate Volunteer online calendar
  • Publicize and create decorations for ESYNOLA events and programming

Position Requirements:
Education and Background Experience:
  • Bachelor’s degree or some college experience strongly preferred. Focus in education, horticulture, environmental science or related field preferred.
  • Some science instructional background strongly preferred.
  • Experience working with elementary/middle school aged students required
  • Experience living and gardening in an urban setting preferred.
  • Experience working with high poverty, minority population preferred, especially in a public/public charter school setting preferred.
  • Strong enthusiasm for experiential, sensory education, with emphasis on garden-based education required.

Qualities and Characterisitics:

  • Commitment to FirstLine Schools’ mission and vision  
  • Achievement orientation with a focus on goals and results
  • Initiative and drive for continuous improvement
  • Excellent communication and interpersonal skills
  • Proficient with information technology
  • Strong project management experience
  • Ability to represent the organization to a variety of audiences
  • Ability to work with frequent interruption and to simultaneously supervise a variety of tasks.
  • Ability to stand, reach, and bend.  Mobility of arms to reach, dexterity of hands to grasp and manipulate large and small objects.
  • Ability to stand for long periods.
  • Ability to lift, push and/or pull objects, which may be approximately 50 pounds.
  • Willingness to smell, taste and feel garden produce, to help determine quality of raw food.
  • Willingness to work outdoors under all weather conditions.
  • Willingness to work occasional weekends/special events when needed

Reports to:

Lead Garden Teacher and Garden Coordinator

Forward you resume and cover letter to

And for other opportunities with Edible Schoolyard New Orleans, check out