“You make our school look like a 5-star place!” John, 3rd grade
Teaching in the Gardens
- Just like our students, we learn by doing. Over the years, we have learned some basics to simplify your experience in the garden.
- All of the common garden areas are available for your class to use. These areas have been planted specifically for collecting seeds, pressing flowers, and teaching about garden animals.
- Take time to weed if your activity is near your class bed. Each class is responsible for keeping its garden and surrounding paths free of weeds. Weeding the garden teaches students to identify weeds apart from garden plants.
- Teach students the importance of weed removal to reduce competition with garden plants, to prevent growth of new weeds, and to improve garden appearance.
- Show students how to remove the whole weed by pulling the weed where the stem enters the soil and not by pulling the leaves. Student fingertips should being touching the soil to pull a weed.
Our Best-Dressed Garden Educators and Volunteers
- Come prepared to get dirty. Even if it isn’t muddy, you may be working in the soil, with compost or wood chips, or moving supplies around.
- Dress in layers on cool days. You warm up quickly as you get to work.
- Wear athletic style shoes. Shoes and sandals with open toes or heels invite in wood chips from our paths.
- Lock your purse in the trunk of your car. You won’t have to worry about where you put yours down.
- Garden Educators wear a Granny’s Garden School apron or shirt when working. Apron pockets are great for carrying cell phones, car keys and scissors.
Where to Find Tools and Supplies
- Tools, wheelbarrows, wagons, and various containers are located in the corral. The corral is located in the left corner at the back of the Front Courtyard. There is a chain link fence and gate at the entrance.
- We stock student-sized shovels in the large, covered garbage cans.
- Many containers are in the corral. Buckets with handles are used to collect weeds and spread wood chip mulch and leaf compost.
- Please be sure that supplies in the corral are stored so water does not collect in them.
- Wheelbarrows and wagons are stored in an upright position.
- Buckets are stacked neatly in columns with the open end down.
- Supplies in bins are stored with the lid closed.
- Supplies that need to remain dry are stored in the barn. The barn is located in the Front Courtyard.
- The barn supplies include the basic supplies needed for activities and any listed in the lessons.
- Each garden educator is assigned basic supplies that are stored in an assigned wagon in the barn.
- The bulletin board in the barn has a sheet to sign out supplies, the lesson calendar, and the schedule of classes. We post these items so garden educators know what classes are scheduled when supplies may need to be shared.
Planting in the Gardens
- We prepackage seeds to be sure you have the correct amount for your class to plant. Planting instructions and a planting map are included in the planting lesson plans.
- Classes are assigned their own class garden beds. We plant only food crops in the class garden beds. Some plants like tomatoes, cucumbers, squash, and potatoes take up a lot of space and are planted in areas outside the class garden beds.
- Flower seeds and bulbs are planted in flower garden beds. The flower gardens are considered common spaces that can be used by any class. When the schedule calls for these plantings, the lesson plan lists planting locations.
- When seeds or seedlings are planted by students, students do the initial watering. After that, the garden team takes care of watering plants and seeds in the class garden beds and flower garden areas.
Compost the Gardens and Mulch the Paths
- Granny’s Garden School receives truckloads of donated leaves from the fall leaf pick up in Loveland. In roughly 12 to 18 months, the leaves decompose nicely into nutrient-rich compost that we add to the gardens.
- In the fall, students clean their beds and add a thick layer of compost.
- We use donated wood chips to mulch the walking paths through garden areas. The chips are large and densely packed to prevent weeds. The paths are mulched in the fall and spring mainly by groups of volunteers.
- Students should not climb on the piles for their safety and to prevent the piles from spreading too far.
- If we are able to acquire the necessary equipment, we locate a piles in other garden locations when the activity calls for it.
Planning a Walk on the Nature Trail
- Sign up for your trail walk. Only one class should be on the trail at a time to avoid bumping into another class. We recommend a minimum of 45 minutes on the trail; 60 minutes is ideal. Be sure to check the sign up to be sure another class has not already reserved the same time. Sign out any supplies you will use and return them after your class.
- Walk on path. Students must always walk on the path. Staying on the path allows the naturalizing areas to continue to produce plants for everyone to enjoy without being damaged. Plus, the path is the only place regularly cleared of poison ivy.
- Follow the leader. When you are moving along the trail, students must always stay behind you as the leader of the trail walk and in front of the teacher who is positioned last in line. This is the best way to keep track of the students and to keep their attention as items of interest are discussed. Ideally, one or two parent volunteers can be stationed along the line of students.
- Dress Appropriately. With some advance notice, teachers can let parents know to dress their child appropriately for a trail walk. Shoes and clothes can get muddy if the days have been rainy. Students should wear shoes that cover their feet, that is, no sandals or clogs.
- Don’t touch the vines. Vines along the ground or climbing up trees might seem harmless, but may, in fact, be poison ivy vines, which can grow quite large and resemble grape vines. Poison ivy vines look hairy because of the many small roots that usually attach the vine to the tree. Remember“hairy is scary” if you’re allergic to poison ivy. Grape vines usually hang away from the tree and do not have small roots. On the ground, the rule “leaves of three, let it be” is a good one to discuss and follow. If a vine or other plant shows three leaves coming out of a central point, do not touch it, since it may be poison ivy.
- Don’t take items or animals. The purpose of the nature trail is to provide students with an opportunity to observe the cycles in nature and to show respect for nature. To preserve the nature trail, anything observed on the trail must stay on the trail, including animals (big and small), fallen branches, wildflowers, nuts, and rocks. We want to observe processes over time by leaving the trail’s resources in place, and we want all of our students to have the same opportunity to examine organisms on the trail.
- If a decaying log is moved a bit to observe decomposition, it should be re-positioned as it was originally to cause the least disruption to the organisms that live there.