Archive for April, 2012|Monthly archive page

Day on the Farm with Fulbright Scholars

In Uncategorized on April 28, 2012 at 9:17 pm

Recently, our students spent an entire morning out on the farm working with a group of Fulbright scholars visiting the city. The kids were very curious about all of the places the volunteers hailed from, and the questions they directed at our new friends from Australia and Germany and many other points were seemingly never-ending. However, the questioning had to continue through an ambitious work schedule for the morning.

The high point of the day for our younger students was the worm farm that the scholars put together for the farm.

They are laughing in this photo because despite the instructions coming in five languages, all of them known by at least one member of the group, it still proved a challenging project. While the kids waited for completion, they made a kale salad for the worms.

And poked around in the bucket of worms to make sure they were ready for their new home.

And then could not get enough of them once moved to their permanent house. Mrs. Felder, second grade teacher, here helps the students understand how worms are beneficial to our farm.

The older kids had plenty to do as well.

And were even joined by Assistant Principal Hill in weeding the butterfly garden.

And how did we keep them all going strong? We encouraged them to eat the blossoms off these kale plants. They LOVED them! Well, most of them did. There were the three children who claimed they tasted like dirt.

Many thanks to the Fulbright scholars who helped make for such a happy and educational morning on the farm!


Our Herb Garden

In Uncategorized on April 28, 2012 at 8:42 pm

We tend to think of herbs mostly from the culinary point of view as plants that lend flavor to food whereas vegetables provide substance, but in a broader sense, herbs are any plants with leaves, or seeds, or flowers that are used to not only flavor food, but are used medicinally, spiritually, and for perfume. It is with this broader sense in mind that the Herb Garden at Walker-Jones has now developed into a resource not just for culinary flavorings, but which now incorporates a number of species traditionally used by native Americans for medicine and sacred rituals, and plants that provide intriguing or inviting scents.

By far the most prominent plants featured in our herb garden belong to the Lamiaceae, the mint family, however we’re not just talking about mints like peppermint, but also rosemary, savory, marjoram and oregano, lemon balm, hyssop, lavender, thyme, and sage; as well as bee balm, catnip, self-heal, and deadnettles. Most of the over 3,000 species in this family have aromatic parts often used in medicine and cooking. They have leaves in opposite pairs which are usually toothed, they often have square stems, and their flowers are bilaterally symmetrical with five unified petals (forming a lower and an upper lip) and five unified sepals.

The design of the Herb Garden takes some inspiration from Japanese tradition: the gateways are always open, so as not to shut anybody out; because evil spirits are said to only travel in straight lines, the paths wind around, leaving evil spirits behind; and in the meander of the paths some stones are set unevenly, focusing a visitor’s thoughts on their walk, rather than problems the world outside.

This post was contributed by David Hilmy, Walker Jones EC Physical Education teacher and coordinator of student Green Team initiatives. Mr. Hilmy is responsible for the renovation of our perennial herb garden this season.

Blue Ribbon Youth Leadership Institute Visit

In Uncategorized on April 15, 2012 at 12:04 am

Last Wednesday, 31 high school students from Chapel Hill, NC, spent the morning learning and working at The Farm. After Sarah explained that serotonin could be absorbed by digging in the dirt with bare hands and that the bee colonies house at The Farm were ruled by powerful queens, the students went to work, keeping a curious eye on the bees. The energetic 9-12th grade students weeded the strawberry garden, transplanted lettuce and kale seedlings, tilled the herb garden, and cleared a perimeter around our annuals bed.

“I hope to impact DC by giving back to their community,” said 12th grade student Cyerah O’Briant. The students were part of the Blue Ribbon Youth Leadership Institute, an organization dedicated to providing youth with leadership skills necessary to become servant leaders in their communities and to empower them to be advocates for change. The group of students was visiting D.C. for their annual alternative spring break trip where students participate in service projects, college visits, and cultural enrichment activities. Many of the students had worked in in community garden in Chapel Hill before, but most of the group had never been to D.C.

The Spring Break Swarm

In Uncategorized on April 10, 2012 at 12:40 am

The children had no sooner left the building for spring break when some of our bees started to swarm. Both fascinated and a little cautious, we immediately contacted our bee expert, Jeff Miller at DC Honeybees, who assured us that this was a perfectly normal state of affairs. He pointed us to this article that explains that swarming is “the natural means of reproduction of honey bee colonies. A new honey bee colony is formed when the queen bee leaves the colony with a large group of worker bees, a process called swarming. In the prime swarm, about 60% of the worker bees leave the original hive location with the old queen. This swarm can contain thousands to tens of thousands of bees. Swarming is mainly a spring phenomenon, usually within a two- or three-week period depending on the locale.”

The bees on the branch in the first pictures were the first swarm. The queen from one of the hives left the hive with followers and they settled temporarily on the branch while scouts went out to look for a suitable space for their new colony. Jeff interrupted this process by placing them gently into a new temporary hive (the white box) They eventually took to it, and he left it there while they got settled and picked it up at the end of the day. He will relocate it to a permanent hive somewhere else.

Sometime later we noticed new bees swarming in the air above us, thousands of them. A second swarm. The group dissipated and eventually we found them on another bush. They were soon gone, having probably found a suitable place far away to set up a new colony. See our Flickr photostream here for all the photos.

When the kids come back to school tomorrow, all in the bee yard will be at peace as you see here, but the stories of the swarm will be important to share as we continue to demystify the lives of bees for the students, making sure they understand the natural order of things without fear.