Saturday, March 31, 2012

Finish to Start

Having recently attended a training in which she was convinced that kids have too much constraint in their lives (really?? these kids??), T persists in allowing the kids to choose their own activities (from a short list provided by her).  This tactic creates a great deal of chaos at the start of class, but the end result, at least in theory, is that you get a group of kids who are really excited about whatever activity they are doing.   Hmmm.  The kids are jumping all around the garden trying to change groups, recruit their friends to their preferred activities, and generally postpone the start of class.  And they are very loud.  It makes me a little crazy.

This system of self-assignment frontloads the frustration factor.  But then we all really do have fun, and the kids stay on task.  I'm starting to buy in, and wondering how I could apply this principle to other aspects of my life.  So when my youngest suggests that she should trade her current lightweight chore of feeding the cats in exchange for "washing the windows, scrubbing the walls, and sweeping," I, against my initial instinct, agree.  You've never seen such energetic sweeping (even if you have seen a much cleaner floor).  And the windows really are a little more transparent.

Back in garden class, my morning group made pumpkin muffins (recipe below) with great enthusiasm.  And bringing things full circle, two afternoon kids chose to plant pumpkin seeds (check out the gorgeous heirloom pumpkin from which we saved aforementioned seeds last fall).  So by the end of the day, we had proud cooks, full bellies, and several flats of pumpkin starts in the greenhouse.  Seems that the system works after all.  Trading a little crazy for a lot of good work.  Not a bad plan for a garden, or a class or third graders, which really, if you think about it, needs both to thrive.

Pumpkin Muffins for the People (makes 30 good-size gluten-free muffins)

Beat 4 eggs.
Stir in 1 cup maple syrup and 4 tsp vanilla.
Then add:
5 cups Pamela's® gluten-free baking mix,
2 big scoops of cooked pumpkin (about 2 cups or more--ours was cooked in the fall and frozen until now),
and several shakes of whatever spices smell good to the kids (ours picked cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg).
Mix and transfer to well-greased muffin tins (fill each about 2/3 full).
Bake at 350ยบ for 20 minutes or so.

In the afternoon, we made wheat flour muffins from a recipe we found lying around (which as usual we altered beyond recognition).  They were lighter but not as sweet (since the morning group had used more than our share of the maple syrup, ooops), so the kids liked the gluten-free version better.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Missed out

As much as I might have preferred to be in the garden, I was trapped in mandatory computer training all day at work.  Here’s how much info I could extract from my 3rd grader.

Mom: How was gardening?

Kid: Fun.

Mom: What did you do?

Kid: (Shrug.)

Mom: What did you cook?

Kid: I don’t know. Oh, stir-fry.

Mom: With…

Kid: Greens.

Mom: Was it good?

Kid: Yep.  Can I go play now?

Mom: (Shrug.)

An adult who was present reports they made quinoa with all the remaining kale they could forage.  And that it was, in fact, good. 

Friday, March 16, 2012

The Three “S”es

Kind of like the three R’s (you know, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle), but wetter.  Our follow-up to our first hands-on rainy-day watershed lesson is our ever-popular boots-on rainy-day watershed lesson.  How do you help the rainwater replenish the aquifer and not all just escape to the sea?

First, we follow the water.  All over the campus, down drains and through pipes and across the field, down through the garden.

And way out back, T has created two waterflows, one straight and direct and FAST, the other using the Slow it, Spread it, Sink it lesson.  S times 3.  And we see which one would allow the salmon to spawn safely. 

Then the kids use their shovels, hands and wits to turn the fast-flow into a slower one.  And maybe they don’t always recall what the three “S”es are, but their bodies know.  I’m always trying to explain to my own kids why they should not waste water, but I never find a way that they can hear me.  But out here in the muck, I hear the kids explaining it to each other. Somehow the process of slowing the water allows concepts like “aquifer” and “wildlife habitat preservation” to spread out and sink in.  Or maybe it just helps to have muddy boots.

No recipe, unless you count mud pies.  Which, in my opinion, have a quite high nutritional content. 

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Recipe to come

Well, we had stomach flu at our house, so I wasn't at garden class this week.  But apparently they made yummy greens and potatoes, and I'll try to get the recipe as soon as I can...

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Rain, Rain, Come and Stay

Neither rain nor sleet nor snow…  okay, well, we don’t really have those last two around here.  But we certainly aren’t letting a little rain stop us from having garden class this week.  Especially since we’ve had so little rain this year, so all of our “rainy day” curricula are languishing in the filing cabinet.  Hurrah for the rain!
Number one on our rain list: watersheds.  I grew up near a creek, the flow of water toward which was so easy to see in the acres of open farmland.  I didn’t know the word watershed and didn’t really need to, having an intuitive understanding of the process of water flowing toward the sea.

But these kids mostly live where there are lots of houses, and it’s not always clear where the water in the drainage ditch beside the driveway is heading.  To the neighbors, right? 

So watersheds is our main rainy day theme, and it starts with the big picture.  Big trays of clay that the kids mold into pathways by which precipitation flows toward the wetland (a sponge) and then the ocean.  Hands-on learning, indeed. 

(No cooking today—our kitchen is wet wet wet.)