Vermont School Garden

A visit to a Vermont public school garden through the seasons.


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Grinding Corn Into Meal: What’s Physics Got to do With it?

kernels into mill

kernels into mill

If you could look down into this hand crank mill, you would see an auger-like screw that feeds the hard flint corn kernels into the two grinding plates. Students in the fifth grade learned how this machine works and compared it to familiar uses (like the auger used to drill holes for ice fishing, or a farm combine). A quick ancient history lesson and a new/old term for the machine: the “Archemedean Screw,” accompanied a short physics lesson:

The Archimedean screw is an example of simple machine application that has survived the ages to fit diverse products in the modern era. Historians date the first evidence of Archimedean screw use around 250 B.C., and it is so-named because tradition suggests it was invented by the Syracusan natural philosopher and scientist Archimedes.

Archimedean screws are generally used to transport material. An irrigation system is a good example of this mechanism. A screw can be positioned over a reservoir. When it spins, water is pushed up the length of the screw to the end of the threads, where it is deposited, generally over an arid, planted land. Other liquids use Archimedes screws as well. A combine, which is used on farms to harvest crops like grains and hay, is essentially a horizontal Archimedes screw that grabs the plants from the ground and feeds them into a container. In these instances, an Archimedes screw will be called a “screw conveyor,” but it is basically the same.

While they played with the name ‘Archemedean,’ fifth graders helped each other to hold the mill in place. Together they ground more than enough flint corn from our garden to make cornbread for their class. The recipe follows:

click here: Grandmother’s Cornbread

grinding flint corn kernels

grinding flint corn kernels

Group effort

Group effort

keeping the meal in the bowl

keeping the meal in the bowl

kernels off cobb

kernels off cobb

taking turns

taking turns

kernels into mill

kernels into mill

cracking eggs, delicate work

cracking eggs, delicate work

Finished cornbread

finished cornbread

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Getting the Garden into the Kitchen: Salad Bar Beets

adding brine and storing jars

adding brine and storing jars

A group of dedicated multi-age students met weekly this fall to learn about where their food comes from. One of the assignments was pickling our garden beet harvest for the school salad bar. Last year pickled beets were a huge hit for students and teachers so this year we planted more of them. Students followed a recipe and doubled fractions to create the brine. I precooked the beets ahead of time and let them cool for easy removal of their skins. Slicing and prepping was no problem for even the youngest students. Our new Master Gardener candidate, Kathleen Hacker, was on hand to help with math and reading.

adding brine through funnel

adding brine through funnel

slicing beets

slicing beets

assembly line

assembly line

adding brine and storing jars

adding brine and storing jars

following a recipe

following a recipe

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Click on recipe for: Pickled Beets


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Fall Garlic Planting 2014

Last Summer's Garlic Harvest

Last Summer’s Garlic Harvest

Last summer our teen crew harvested and braided the garlic we had planted in the fall of the previous year. This year, the cycle continues. Dena Weiss-Tisman’s third graders came out to plant garlic just before our Thanksgiving break. Parent, Amy Rice Sciacca donated horse manure again this year. It’s one of the best fertilizers for healthy garlic growth. We have about 25 gallons for a 25 foot row. Last year’s garlic bulbs seemed a bit small. This year I introduced a new variety from our local Putney grower, Marissa Miller at Lost Barn Farm.

I built a plateau from our newly tilled earth and mixed in the manure. (Fourth graders are a bit squeamish about manure.) Then the kids came out to break up garlic bulbs into cloves  and plant them (about 6 inches apart). They were covered with a nice blanket of straw (thank you Paul Harlow at Harlow Farm) and they’ll sleep and grow through the winter and spring. We hope to have a good harvest again next July.

manure prep

manure prep

burying cloves

burying cloves

cloves in rows

cloves in rows

planting and covering

planting and covering

working together

working together

straw blanket

straw blanket


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Popcorn Update: Drying the Harvest

counting by threes

counting by threes

Mr. Cafferky, our new fourth grade teacher and his assistant, Mr. B. have led their class in a post harvest popcorn  experiment in their classroom. Fourth grade math is all about multiplication and division. I’m hoping that these students will get some firsthand experience counting by threes as they decorate the ceiling of their classroom with bunches of drying popcorn. We won’t leavebundles of popcorn the popcorn up to dry for as long as we did last fall. It already seems “pop-worthy”. One of our problems with school popcorn is knowing when the little kernels are hydrated enough to pop. I think we’ve waited too long last year. The result was very crunchy half-popped popcorn. The good news is that popcorn kernels can be re-hydrated simply by adding water and refrigerating!

teamwork tying

teamwork tying

teacher directions for drying popcorn

teacher directions for drying popcorn

pulling back leaves

pulling back leaves


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Putting Our Garden to Bed

Tilling the garden.

Tilling the garden.

On one of the last lingering warm days of fall, classes came out to the garden to help clear away some of the larger debris before tilling. Mike Zaransky, a new Westminster farmer came to help us “put the garden to bed” for the winter. He took time to talk with the Kindergarteners about the changes made to the soil. He even encouraged them to run through a section that he had tilled to see how it felt under their feet. Mike really helped to spread the joy of observation and change in our garden. We appreciate the time he took to share his love of farming.

MIke 2MIke 3

Look what I found!

Look what I found!

taking down structures

taking down structures

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

kale will keep growing through November

kale will keep growing through November

volunteer from the Master Gardener program

volunteer from the Master Gardener program

magic beans

magic beans

taking down the corn

taking down the corn

teamwork

teamwork

wheelbarrow help

wheelbarrow help

thinning raspberry canes

thinning raspberry canes


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Corn Harvest

arms full

arms full

Fourth graders traditionally plant and harvest corn from our garden. This is the time of year for drying popcorn for their schoolmates’ weekly snack program. Some of the corn they harvested was flint corn. They will dry that type of corn for grinding into corn meal later in the year.

 

flint corn

flint corn

teaching first graders about popcorn

teaching first graders about popcorn

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Right now, though, they were estimating and predicting how much corn they would be harvesting by doing a sample count in a 3 by 3 foot area of the corn rows.

estimating corn crop yield

estimating corn crop yield

 

sorting corn

sorting corn

finished counting corn

finished counting corn


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Measuring the Marigolds: First Grade Work

close-up marigold seeds

close-up marigold seeds

Using her own experiences as a gardener, first grade teacher, Kathy Hewes helped her class gather marigold seeds to conserve. In addition to saving the seeds from flowers, the class estimated how many seeds they would find in one flower. As the garden class moved into the school building, students were buzzing about big and BIGGER numbers. Look at some of their work below. (click to enlarge)

seed recycling lesson

seed recycling lesson

grade one estimate

How many seeds here?

How many seeds here?

irst grade mathematicians

first grade mathematicians

verifying seed estimates

verifying seed estimates

marigold seed count

marigold seed count