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

Friday, May 16, 2014

Spring Garden Update

Spring has sprung in the Dream Keeper Garden, and we’re welcoming with warmer weather with the most open of arms! The flowers are blooming, the birds are chirping, and the browns and greys of winter are rapidly being replaced by every hue of green imaginable. Our excitement this spring is only heightened by the nearly completed construction of our outdoor classroom, set to be finished sometime over the rapidly approaching summer. The spring is a time for change, and we can’t wait to share all that’s happening in our garden!
Over the winter our garden has gone through a metamorphosis on par with the butterflies that grace our flowers each year. Scholars dreamkeepers alike weathered chorus after chorus of construction work, knowing that soon the Dream Keeper Garden will have its very own outdoor classroom! Our garden is now home to a brand new pathway leading up to a concrete slab that every day becomes a little more homier. Huge plans are in the works for the areas surrounding the eventual classroom, so be on the lookout for native grasses and plants as well as utilizing the surrounding hill-space (a rarity in New Orleans!).
3rd Grade scholar showing off his transplanting skills
Our classes are covering quite a lot in wrapping up the year. Kindergarteners are working on exploring their senses in the garden, while first and second graders are moving into the different life cycles that we see every day while outside. Third and fourth graders are closing out their time in the garden this trimester by learning all the different parts of a plant. 
Middle schoolers that come to the garden have continuously been working hard towards a lot of goals. Each Friday has brought us tons of joy to cook a meal with ingredients from our garden, and each week our scholars work towards that privilege. Fifth and sixth graders have built their garden skills up every week and helping our garden flourish during this transitional time. Seventh and eighth graders are about to make their return to the Marketplace at Armstong Park, a space that gave our scholars so much pleasure during the first trimester.
A middle schooler who isn't afraid of any compost!

This is an exciting time at the Dream Keeper Garden as different projects spring up along with our warmer weather plants. Soon our garden will be home to a butterfly sculpture AND a butterfly mosaic. We’ve constructed a fence across our garden to give more space to our beloved animals. As our winter crops like broccoli, cauliflower, kale and chard are coming out, so many more are taking their place. Recently planted items include tomatoes, basil, and sweet potatoes, a LHA scholar favorite!

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Trimester 2 Update

Late Winter Update

“It tastes better because we picked it."

A few weeks ago a fifth grade scholar said this to me as we were making omelets. After finishing a unit on animal husbandry our scholars applied what they learned about our goats and chickens to make garden fresh goat cheese omelets – with freshly picked greens! Cooking has become a mainstay of both our middle school classes and each Friday our scholars look forward to showing off their developing culinary skills. Over the rhythmic chopping of newly harvested bok choi, we learn as much from our scholars as they do from us.
1st grade scholars peeling and planting garlic
In other middle school news, our 7th and 8th grade class has made its long awaited return to the farmers market. They’ve worked long and hard this trimester to get to market, and last night marked their first venture to the Crescent City Farmers Market, held every Thursday from 3 to 7 PM at the corner of Orleans Ave and Bayou St. John, in the parking lot of the American Can Company. With smiles abound scholars interacted with customers and vendors alike. They set their own prices, learned how to log what they sell, and different market skills to make a pretty impressive debut. As the weeks move on we look forward to see the connections that form when scholars are placed in such a unique environments.
Our farmers market all-stars
Connecting fresh food to families at our school has always been a priority of the Dreamkeeper garden, and this week we launched our FSA program. Families sign up for a share of our garden. This means that each week we’ll send home a bag of produce with a scholar to take home. In that bag will be whatever our garden can produce at that time, along with recipes to help turn those veggies into something delicious (not that they aren’t already!). For March those bags will be filled with greens like bok choi, kale, cabbage, chard, arugula, and root veggies like carrots and turnips.

5th grade scholars showing off their greenhouse skills
As we wind down this trimester and into a new one, we’re looking forward more and more to our middle school classes. Both of them this trimester will be an advanced gardening course, with scholars who have already been in garden once this year. We’ll get to go more in depth and explore different topics with those scholars, and hopefully inspire some young minds and hands to start their own gardens.