Vermont School Garden

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


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One More Hearty Soup Recipe: Kale Potato

frozen kale leaves

This is one of the tastier soups we’ve turned out at Westminster School. The ‘yum’ factor may be the addition of a cup of nutritional yeast. It’s not only good for you as the name implies; it adds a creamy buttery dimension to this hearty recipe. This was my first introduction to nutritional yeast in soup; it’s surprisingly good! The boys who prepared it each ate three bowlfuls. The rest went to teachers, drawn to our kitchen by the aromas permeating the school hallways.

dicing potatoes

dicing potatoes

 

adding potatoes

adding potatoes

sauteeing carrots, onions

Recipe:

Creamy Potato Kale Soup

 

We used kale from our garden. Last fall, children had  had torn it into bite sized pieces after de-ribbing it. The pieces were sealed into quart zip-lock bags with the air pressed out of them Many months later the kale retains it’s emerald green color as well as its vitamin and fiber content. Our potato crop has been stored at temperatures that have kept it intact right through March. With the addition of some veggies from the store and a bit of chicken broth (you can substitute vegetable broth) kale potato soup is a nutritious and comforting soup for a cold rainy March day! Serves it with crusty bread or toasted grilled cheese sandwiches.

stirring the yeast into the soup

stirring the yeast into the soup


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More Green for March: Spinach Potato Soup

Stirring spinach potato soup

Stirring spinach potato soup

RECIPE: Spinach Potato Soup

cutting potatoes

cutting potatoes

ingredients

cutting potatoes

cutting potatoes

We hope to extend the growing season of our school garden next year. If we do, we may be able to grown our own spinach for this hearty delicious soup. It was made by the youngest children in the After School Program with a little help from older students. Children at any school age LOVE the responsibility of using a sharp knife. It really helps them to keep focused on their job. These youngsters are cutting up our school garden potatoes from last summer.

They’re adding them to some ‘sweated’ onions. Then, with the magic of heat and a bit of chicken broth to cover, the potatoes soften in no time.

While the soup boiled, children wrote their own stories about how the soup was made…the beginnings of labeled drawings are emerging as you can see. Each child has his/her own way of expressing the magical transformation from potatoes, spinach and chicken broth to soup. (Click on any photo to enlarge.) We blended the ingredients with a wand. Next, just a touch of heavy cream and….yum! Students slurped up their nutritious snack. Full recipe above!

labeled drawing

labeled drawing

Isabel was stirring the pot

Isabel was stirring the pot

labeled diagram (note the word 'steam' at the top)

labeled diagram (note the word ‘steam’ at the top)


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The Wearin’ of the Green

Marigolds to GreenhouseThird Graders planted a flat of basil seeds to send to our  farmer, Paul Harlow’s greenhouse. That flat will soon join the marigold seedlings that After School Program brought to the greenhouse last week (see above). Extended periods of warmth and sunlight aren’t really the order of the day right now in a typical Vermont environment. We’re grateful for the space provided at Harlow Farm. The third graders are about to test out their theories of where seedlings will grow best. Basil seedlings are so tiny they’re almost the size of a typed period. Students got a closer look at them with magnifying glasses. Planted seeds will spend the weekend germinating in a dark place in the classroom. Then on Monday, the experiment will begin. (Click on photos to enlarge.)

Planting basil seeds

Planting basil seeds

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Predicting with a variable

writing predictions

writing predictions

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

With their teacher, Dena, students chose a few places in their classroom to care for seedlings. One group put theirs in a drawer, another on the window sill and another on the book shelf. They will monitor and care for the growth of their basil seedlings daily. Students worked hard at writing predictions for how each seedling group will fare. Labeled diagrams were exceptional in their detail.

labeled drawing grade 3

labeled drawing grade 3

labeled drawing and prediction

labeled drawing and prediction

I will keep the class  posted on the progress of the flat that goes to the greenhouse via emailed photos.

These basil seedlings will be big enough to be transplanted within a month. Students will plant them into small recycled school milk cartons. Some will be sold. Others will grow in our garden. We use basil for making pesto and for cooking projects….especially pizza sauce!


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Cooking With Toddlers: Easy Banana Bread

playing with the batter

playing with the batter

You’ve all had bananas sitting on your counter that look as if they’re ready for the trash bin. But, not so fast. It’s January in Vermont and you’re stuck indoors with a bored toddler. Here’s what you can do: make banana bread. Be sure to have all of your ingredients ready, and then follow the simple recipe below. You can decrease the sugar by half and still have a yummy snack. (We put one loaf in the freezer and then gobbled up the other one.)

Download: Banana Bread Recipe

those overripe bananas

those overripe bananas

mashing babanas

mashing babanas

mixing eggs, oil, sugar and bananas

mixing eggs, oil, sugar and bananas

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

measuring dry ingredients

measuring dry ingredients

adding dry ingredients to wet

adding dry ingredients to wet

finished banana bread

finished banana bread

 


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Last Chance to Plant: Field Day!

After school on Field Day last June, a crew of students came out to the garden for some final planting before summer vacation. They proudly showed off their face and hand paintings. Marigolds were planted around the garden border and a few kitchen garden seeds (carrots, beets and beans) were planted for the summer camp in two weeks.

Summer camp runs everyday from today, July 8th, for six weeks. there will be many opportunities for garden exploration for our 70 or so summer students.

Field Day After school kids

planting marigold border

planting basil

A row of basil, started from seed by students in the After School Program was also transplanted into the garden. At this point, three weeks later, I am already pinching back the top two leaves of the basil plants to allow the plant to branch out. Garlic plants from last fall have sent out their flower buds (scapes). These can be cut back as well and put into a blender with olive oil and salt to make a very spicy pesto. In the fall we’ll make basil pesto with our own garlic. Pesto can be frozen to use on pizza or with pasta. Throughout the winter we’ll be able to taste memories of our garden.

pinching back basil

Basil pinched back

Basil pinched back

Garlic scapes (flower buds)

Garlic scapes (flower buds)

Here are some rare strawberries from a very wet and dismal strawberry season….and what became of them!

strawberries

strawberry jam


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Lettuce Party June 14th

Getting ready to harvest

harvestingwashing

The third grade lettuce investigators came out to the garden to harvest their early crop just as school was ending. Some had happily been recording changes in plant growth for four weeks. Others lost their adopted lettuce plants during the experiment and theorized about what had happened. Everyone joined in to harvest, wash and spin the lettuce dry. We have a giant lettuce spinner. It stopped working mid spin, but one of the class members is a great mechanics “trouble shooter.” This provided a nice opportunity to highlight an individual student’s strength. He had the spinner gears humming in no time.

There was more than enough for a salad party!

spinning drysalad!


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We’ll Miss Our Sixth Graders

Two sixth grade boys worked hard yesterday to weed some of the invasive lamb’s quarters from our garden. We will miss sixth graders, Dan and Zach as they move on to middle school. They’ve worked hard in the garden. Below, Dan shows Zach how to recognize a weed from a garden plant.

In the background you can see mini flags flying from the tomato stakes. Each sixth grader made a flag describing one memory of playing learning and working in our all school garden. They were posted as a leave-taking gift to the school. Come and read some if you have a chance this summer.

Dan showing Zach how to weedweeding boys


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Fourth Graders Ending the Year by Giving

Yesterday a group of fourth graders used  their recess time to plant two flowering  rose bushes under our school sign. They raised the money for the roses by selling marigolds and basil plants, a project started from seed in conjunction with the After School Program. Fourth graders recycled milk cartons at lunch  to use as planting containers and volunteered their recess time  last spring to transplant and sell seedlings to students at school. Their teacher, Nancy Bladyka helped them buy the bushes. The rose bushes needed composted manure for their transplanting. I knew where to find that…at Goodell farm, just down the road from school. (The same farm that donated the baling twine last summer.) I drove down there and arrived just as the family was having a meeting (all seven of them) in the barn. They were happy to give me as many bags of manure as I needed. This is the great and generous spirit of the town of Westminster.

In addition to the roses, our school sign was given a facelift by Laurie Bolotin, teacher and perennial grower. She saw a need to renew the garden under the school sign and she donated healthy hardy perennials to its beautification. Many thanks, Laurie! Laurie’s perennials can be found at Rockingham and Brattleboro farmers’ markets in the summer. Look for “Morningstar Perennials,” OR go to http://www.morningstarflowers.com!4th graders putting in roses at sign

Grade 4 plantng donated rose bushesserious 4th graders


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After School Planting

Our After School students have been very active in the garden this spring. Last week a team of them planted two 75 foot long rows of sweet pepper plants. They worked together to plant each tiny seedling about a foot from its neighbor. The peppers will be ready to harvest during the last part of summer camp and into the fall. These hard working students also dug holes for the rest of the tomato stakes (63 in all) that we needed to support our newly planted tomatoes.Garrett and ASP Peppers Junedigging tomato stakesstakes in peppers planted

planting peppers in teams


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Final Project

Did you know that Indiana’s state plant is mint? Neither did I. Did you know, if you’re making mint brownies for a project about Indiana and you don’t have mint extract, that finely diced mint leaves work just as well as extract?

mint leaves for browniesmixing in the mint

pouring the brownie batterNeither did I, but I’m always willing to try something new, so when Abby asked me to help her with her fifth grade presentation, I was flattered and happy to experiment with mint leaf brownies. These brownies were delicious! We substituted about 2 tablespoons of finely diced fresh  spearmint leaves for one teaspoon of extract. A small mint leaf was placed upon each brownie served to Abby’s class after her Indiana report was given!Brownie caption