Tuesday, December 13, 2011

A Trip to the Market

Part of what we hope to accomplish at the Dreamkeeper garden is to have our students appreciate the people who grow food and the places where it comes from. Over the last few weeks we've been taking our scholars to the Crescent City Farmer's Market to meet farmers, see their beautiful produce, and start to become familiar with the idea of local food.

This past week our 2nd graders arrived at the market around 11:30AM and received a quick orientation from Kelly, one of the market coordinators, before heading into the market.

Scholars walked around the market in small groups with their Dreamkeepers or family chaperones. They explored the different kinds of plants, herbs, and other food products and asked questions to farmers such as "What's your favorite vegetable?" or "How long does this take to grow?" Scholars recognized many of the vegetables from our garden such as broccoli, tomatoes, mustard greens, peppers, eggplants, and lettuce.

2nd graders viewing some herbs and flowers with their Dreamkeeper

Scholars completed two short assignments: first, draw a picture of a fruit or vegetable, and second, draw a picture of a farmer. When they finished their assignment they received a special treat: three satsumas to take home and enjoy!

2nd grade scholars talk about their market experience with Elisa, another market coordinator

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Time to Reflect

a first-grade scholar draws a picture during reflection space

Over the past few weeks we've started every garden class with a five-minute "reflection space."

Reflection space is a time for scholars to complete a short written or artistic assignment in their garden journals, and to have a few minutes to relax and enjoy the garden before class begins.

When scholars arrive in garden class they receive a "do now" related to the classroom lesson.  During our weather unit, for instance, 2nd, 3rd and 4th graders were asked to record the temperature on a thermometer and make three observations about the day's weather.  1st graders who are still learning the basics of writing usually draw a picture of something they see in the garden.

After collecting their journal, a pencil and a reflection mat scholars head into the garden silently and pick a reflection space.  When scholars finish the "do now" they can relax and enjoy the garden in peace.

We spend about five minutes in our reflection space before transitioning into the beginning of the lesson, a great way to start class on a serene note.

a 1st-grade scholar enjoys the garden after finishing her "do now" 

Monday, November 14, 2011

Cardboard and Coffee and Mulch, Oh My !

All school year we've been eagerly awaiting an opportunity to expand our Dreamkeeper garden.  So far everything in the garden grows in raised beds, but soon we'll have over 700 linear feet of growing space directly in the ground.

Over the past few weeks we've been collecting a number of materials - cardboard, coffee grounds, horse stable bedding, mulch, and topsoil - for use in building our soil.  On Saturday November 12th we had over 40 volunteers help us start that soil-building process by creating "lasagna layers."

We began with an empty field and a few piles of materials.

First we put down a layer of cardboard to act as a weed barrier and to provide our soil with carbon, one of the important elements in plant growth.

Next we added mulch (brown material on bottom), another carbon source and weed barrier, followed by nitrogen-rich coffee grounds (not pictured), followed by stable bedding (tan material) from Equest Farm at city park.

Finally we added topsoil (dark brown material on top).

With regular watering and the help of our soil decomposers like worms, mites, bacteria and fungi, we'll have beautiful rich soil in just a few months!

A big thank you to all of our volunteers from St. Augustine High School, Xavier Prep, and New Orleans Food and Farm Network!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

A view of the garden in early November

The garden looks terrific this time of  year!  Here in Southern Louisiana we have an ideal climate for growing crops late into the year.  Unlike places further north our weather stays warm into November and December, allowing us to have a second growing season in autumn.  Most places stop harvesting their fruits and vegetables no later than Halloween, but we might have a harvest right up until Christmas!

At our open garden day on October 1st we planted many different kinds of seeds.  Today our garden is blooming, leafing and fruiting with broccoli, cherry tomatoes, red russian kale, bush beans, red and white onions, green bell peppers, chili peppers, bok choy, spinach, cauliflower, summer squash, red okra, cabbage, pink and white radishes, arugula, lettuce, carrots, basil, rosemary, oregano, zinnias, hibiscus flowers and more!  Our variety is part of the strength of our garden, warding away pests and preserving all the good minerals and organic matter in our soil.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Our First Ever Open Garden Day!

This past Saturday the Dreamkeeper Garden had it's first ever open garden day!  We welcomed over 100 friends from the garden including volunteers from Tulane University, New Orleans Outreach, Americorps, and more.

Our day began right on time at 10:00AM when our Edible Schoolyard crew introduced themselves and explained the jobs they would be coordinating.  Mr. Jahmal led volunteers in pruning and mulching trees, Mr. Rahn's crew dredged land for our new wetlands, Ms. Marion's group designed and painted signs for our garden, and Mr. Sam's group kicked off our fall planting by seeding some of our beds and starting some new seedlings in trays.

More than 20 scholars from Langston Hughes Academy and their mamas, papas, aunties, uncles, brothers, sisters and cousins joined in for the fun as well.  We had students representing each year from kindergarten to 4th grade who participated.

For more than two hours the garden was abuzz with work!  Volunteers helped shovel, mulch, water, paint, built, deconstruct, plant, transplant, and weed until the garden looked absolutely spectacular!  At around 12:30PM everybody broke for lunch provided by Langenstein's.  After lunch some persevering volunteers and families stayed to help tidy up.

The garden has never looked so good!  Many thanks to the dozens of participants in the first of many open garden days at LHA, and many thanks to the staff, supporters and service people who made it all a success.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Welcome to the Dreamkeeper Garden!!!

Welcome to the Dreamkeeper Garden!

The Dreamkeeper Garden is an educational garden located at Langston Hughes Academy in the Fairgrounds neighborhood of New Orleans, Louisiana.

The garden is home to classes for over 300 students from kindergarten to 4th grade and to an after school program for 5th to 8th graders.  We teach a science-based curriculum with lessons that can only be taught in a garden or outdoor space.  In our soil we grow a wide range of vegetables, fruits, flowers and trees that vary with each new season.  Our scholars feed our compost pile with food waste left over from breakfast and lunch meals in the school cafeteria including fresh fruit, vegetables and bread.

Our scholars benefit from an experiential learning model that reinforces what they learn in other parts of the curriculum.  Even our youngest scholars are able to identify different kinds of plants and vegetables and learn how to interact responsibly with nature.

The Garden welcomes collaborations of all sorts and volunteers for in-class assistance, garden maintenance and watering duties.  For more information please contact dk@esynola.org.

During the 2011-2012 school year the garden is being run by lead teacher Amy Zellweger and two Americorps service people, Marion Spencer and Sam Gordon.

As of 2011 the Dreamkeeper Garden is a network garden of Edible Schoolyard New Orleans.