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Archive for the ‘Kids on the Farm’ Category

Pumpkin Harvest Day 2013

In Events, Kids on the Farm on November 2, 2013 at 8:36 am

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The “pumpkin patch” pre-invasion!

Every year the culmination of the year’s growing season is our Harvest Day parade when the whole school celebrates the last day of October. As the school parades around our community in fancy dress, the Pre-School and Pre-Kindergarten classes peel off and make their way to the Farm to harvest pumpkins.

Throughout the growing season (seeds planted July 14th, pumpkins cut form the vine October 21st to cure ~ see Inside the Numbers for a few more details) our youngest students have been following the progress of their pumpkins from the first flowers (an important concept introduced at that time is dioecy where members of the Cucurbitaceae family have both male and female flowers), pollination (our Farm’s honeybees and native bumblebee species always oblige with frequent visits to pumpkin flowers as instruction is ongoing), how the female flowers ovaries swell up to become future fruit, and the importance of beta-carotene in a balanced diet (“different colors on your dinner plate”) and whilst the botany of farm crops can become rather complex, “sowing the seeds” of certain biological concepts in young minds helps build a strong foundation for their science knowledge.

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Members of the Cucurbitaceae are dioecious, having both male and female flowers

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One of our native pollinators (there are about 4,000 species of native bee in North America) searching for pollen and nectar

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First fruits (technically a botanical “berry”)~ with successful pollination and fertilization, the ovary on the female flower starts to swell and the petals fall

In addition, supported by a few well-chosen books, the pumpkin crop allows us to also introduce a number of other natural history concepts (Ten Seeds by Ruth Brown ~ “root”, “shoot”, “seedling”) and to continue to develop community values (Pumpkin Soup by Helen Cooper ~ teamwork, friendship, and the fact that pumpkins are not just for carving at Hallowe’en but bona-fide edible crops that provide nutrition too!)

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Pumpkin SOup

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But in the end, the day’s main event created some of their strongest memories!

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Apiculture ~ Session 1 in the 2013/2014 “Ultra Urban Green” DC3 Professional Development Series

In Events, Kids on the Farm on October 27, 2013 at 10:25 am

This past Friday, we hosted the first session of this year’s teachers professional development series titled “Ultra Urban Green” for the DC3 Collaborative (nine DC Public Schools) which covers both the theory and the practice of incorporating meaningful environmental projects in schools, from growing crops to bug hotels, from wet beds (raised beds that house wetland plants for Anacostia and Potomac wetland restoration) to composting, from greenroofs to other bioremediation projects such as raingardens. Of course the site here at Walker Jones does all of that and is continuing to expand so not only can education professionals come together to share ideas and planning, working examples of these initiatives are already in place. One of our growing projects is apiculture; this was the substance of the day’s training.

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Last year we started our Junior Beekeepers initiative, generously supported by Whole Foods Market at P St NW and also the DC Beekeeper Alliance, when we trained students from Walker Jones, as well as from Maury and Mann elementary schools to keep bees. As we already have three mature beehives on the Farm itself, and a further four located on the school’s greenroof, giving the students hands-on experience, and now extending this learning opportunity to more teachers, will not only expose students to this exciting experience , but is also contributing to the establishment of urban honeybees to counter the plight of this most valuable crop pollinator.

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The success of our Junior Beekeepers initiative was underlined by how several of our students gave up their day off school to come demonstrate, and in turn to educate the educators themselves!

This was also an opportunity to share some of the excellent lesson plans and student materials created by entomologist and Curator of the Cornwall Public Library in New York, Louise Lynch.

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To learn a little bit more about the beekeeping work our students already engage in, please take a look at last moth’s blog post “The Keeping of Bees is like the Direction of Sunbeams”

This Season’s Pumpkins: Inside the Numbers

In Kids on the Farm, Recipes on October 20, 2013 at 2:45 pm

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90 pumpkins curing, two dozen still on the vine, and 87 Pre-schoolers and Pre-kindergarters anticipating our Harvest Day Parade in 10 days’ time… I think we have it covered!

Following advice from the University of Illinois Agricultural Extension Service, we’ve harvested the majority of our pumpkins and are curing them inside the Growing Room. Ideal curing should be at 80-85°F with 80-85 percent relative humidity for 10 days. This is done to prolong the post harvest life of the pumpkin fruit because during this process the fruit skin hardens, wounds heal and immature fruit ripens.

A few more numbers: we used Charisma F1 hybrids this year, a selection from Johnny’s Seeds which was developed by Johnny’s in conjunction with Cornell University to be a PMT variety (powdery mildew tolerant); 250 seeds for $10.95; average weight 14-18lbs; 1.5 fruits per reduced-length vine; maturing in 98 days; so at 5 seeds per mound, and 25 mounds in total, planted July 14th… our 3 and 4 year-olds will continue the tradition on October 31st!

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But the math also means that we’ll have some left over for our Junior Chefs to have a go at making these delicious Pumpkin Cheesecakes following a recipe by food-blogger and Iron Chef America judge, Pim Techamuanvivit!

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Through the Eyes of a Child

In In the Classroom, Kids on the Farm on October 12, 2013 at 9:36 pm

pumpkin patch 1This season’s “Pumpkin Patch.”

Every year we plant enough pumpkins so that each of our Pre-schoolers and Pre-Kindergartners can harvest their very own pumpkin on Hallowe’en. The field in which they are planted also then becomes the field in which they work for the remainder of the school year. As per our crop rotation protocol, the next rotation after Cucurbitaceae (in this field we also have watermelons, ‘Delicata’ squash, and cucumbers) will be the Legumes, when our youngest kids will plant seeds for the very first time; in March, with a lusty “Root, Shoot, Toot” all our 80-odd 3 and 4 yr-olds will plant our beans and peas.

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Monitoring the progress of all our crops is a regular part of class visits (from the emergence of male flowers, the pollination of female flowers by honeybees and bumblebees, the beginnings of fruit with small green swollen ovaries, to the green-skinned, and then the orange-skinned mature pumpkins), and this month is no exception.

Here then are a few drawings of their pumpkins, through their eyes:

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“The keeping of bees is like the direction of sunbeams” ~ Henry David Thoreau

In Kids on the Farm on September 30, 2013 at 2:25 am


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“Well,” said Pooh, “what I like best,” and then he had to stop and think. Because although Eating Honey was a very good thing to do, there was a moment just before you began to eat it which was better than when you were, but he didn’t know what it was called.” ~ A.A. Milne Winnie the Pooh

On Saturday, September 28th, our Junior Beekeepers (Tipate, Kaniya, Trevon, Yasmine T., Kenneth, Yasmine P., Ralanda, and Ying) entered the honey they harvested from the Farm this Summer in the DC State Fair which was held during the Barracks Row Fall Festival on 8th St. SE (Eastern Market metro station)!

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In the end, out of 16 entrants, we took 4th with 93/100, only two points off “Best in Show”! Scores ranged from 95 down to 59. We dropped points on density (14/20) otherwise with only a 0.8 difference (as measured by spectrometry) we would have scored a 99! I guess we have to break the bad news to the bees and ask them not have their honey ready for harvest when it’s humid outside!

One Potato, Two Potato, Three Potato, Four…

In Kids on the Farm on September 24, 2013 at 3:04 am

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Red Norland potatoes ~ in the front, those harvested from plastic trash cans, those at the rear from direct sow in the ground

6 months ago our Kindergartners and 1st-graders planted 20lbs of seed potatoes, half in the ground and half in trash cans; today the now 1st and 2nd graders took home some of the 250lbs produced!

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As the potato plant grows taller, filling in the trash can with soil to leave the top one inch of leaves every couple of weeks will fill the trash can with potatoes ~ the kids planted eye sections of two potatoes in each trash which yielded a total of 10lbs in each can!

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A row of Yukon Gold and a row of Red Norland flank the five trash cans planted by our Kindergartners and 1st graders in April ~ almost 6 months later, both rows and cans yielded almost 250lbs of potatoes! 750lbs donated to DC Central Kitchen, 50lbs donated to the Golden Rule Plaza retirement home, and the remainder taken home by each current 1st and 2nd grader!

Early Morning Okra!

In Kids on the Farm, Recipes on September 18, 2013 at 3:28 am

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One of the easiest crops to grow here in DC is okra. Yes, Robin Williams’ comedy might represent the thoughts of a few past okra consumers – “Okra is the closest thing to nylon I’ve ever eaten. It’s like they bred cotton with a green bean. Okra, tastes like snot. The more you cook it, the more it turns into string!” – but when freshly picked, even eaten raw straight off the plant, okra gladdens the heart in stews, soups, and when dusted with corn meal and quickly sautéed!

Okra is very good source of Dietary Fiber (13%), Vitamin A (7%), Vitamin C (50%), Vitamin K (66%), Thiamin (13%), Vitamin B6 (11%), Folate (22%), as well as the minerals Calcium, Magnesium, Phosphorus, Potassium and Manganese.

Related to both cotton and hibiscus, once the edible flowers are pollinated, it only takes about 4 days for the seed pod to form. We are growing 5 varieties this season: ‘Millionaire’, which produces high yields of dark green 5-point pods; ‘Clemson Spineless’, light green 5 to 8-point pods and the standard variety grown in the southern US; ‘Jambalaya’, a high-yielding early season pod; ‘Carmine Splendor’, a fast-maturing, deep red late season pod; and an heirloom variety from Jamaica, mailed to us from one of our friends in Kingston!

In October this crop will be the featured vegetable when our Junior Chefs learn all about pickling!

The recipe ingredients: fresh okra, garlic, lemon, cider vinegar, mustard seeds, coriander seeds, fennel seeds, celery seeds, and black peppercorns (the okra, garlic, coriander, and fennel seed all harvested from our Farm)

NBC4 on the Farm

In Kids on the Farm on June 29, 2011 at 7:18 pm

Recently, Elaine Reyes of NBC4 came out to see our farm and chat with the kids a bit before school let out for the summer. Click on this link to see the full video on the NBC4 site. Our middle school kids turned a little uncharacteristically shy when the camera came on. Well, all except our resident arachnophobe. Not sure what I’m talking about? You didn’t click on the link, did you?

All jokes aside, we are very proud of how well our middle school students conducted themselves. This year, they have often found themselves the heavy laborers on the farm when certain tasks were beyond the abilities of younger students. They have risen to the needs of our school project time and time again. As middle school math teacher, John LaRue states in the video, the farm is for everyone. And it has given our older kids the ability to step into the role of school leaders by working hard to make sure that the farm is the best it can be. For everyone.

From Start to Stomach

In Happy Moments, Kids on the Farm on June 27, 2011 at 2:38 pm

Cucumbers seedlings on a windowsill inside school…

… became thriving, producing plants out on the farm…

… and gave a basket of cucumbers for farming kids in need of a snack. The same kids who swore they did not eat cucumbers when we planted a tray of them in April. Most satisfying. No “I told you so”s required.

Deal Gives Back

In Events, Kids on the Farm on June 7, 2011 at 11:41 pm

When Alice Deal Middle School assistant principal, Simon Rodberg, contacted us about bringing a group of seventh grade students out to the farm for a community service day, we were more than happy to accept the offer. Our excitement about the partnership proved more than warranted today as approximately 20 hardworking kids dug into a list of chores that could have been the undoing of even our most stalwart volunteers. Curious about what they accomplished?

– wood chipped pathways between rows

– pruned and fertilized the herb garden

– planted sweet potatoes and winter squash

– added compost to squash transplants

– mulched the strawberry beds with straw

– painted farm signs

– staked and pruned tomato plants

– weeded pathways and rows

– watered all the crops and the fig trees

– harvested lettuce to take home

They also got a farm tour, introduction to urban agriculture, and an overview of the crops and the methods we are using to cultivate an organic food supply. And enjoyed a picnic lunch on the farm. We had the honor of hosting some new friends to the farm, and seeing first hand what a significant impact the annual Deal Gives Back community service day can have for those lucky partners to whom they reach out. Many thanks to them all!

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