The autumnal equinox takes place in Napa, CA on September 22nd at 6:30 am. On that day there are approximately equal (12) hours each of daylight and nighttime, signaling a shift from the dog days of summer.
Here in Northern California, where the LNU and the August Complexes have burned well over a million acres, cooler temperatures are a welcome reprieve. The air has cleared a bit after weeks of smoke and I've gently rinsed the ash off of the plants that I could salvage. I'm reminded to reduce automatic irrigation, contemplate what to plant now, and replenish the soil with cover crops.
In this issue, I've curated practices that lessen the burden of garden chores (and remote teaching), especially when the weather or air quality prevent us from being outdoors for long. I also share a few new resources for teaching science, nurturing wellness, and fostering environmental literacy.
If you would like to recommend a resource for inclusion in the next issue, please send it to firstname.lastname@example.org at least a week before the winter solstice. Thanks!
from Gleaning the Field:
Enhancing STEM Education
Itty Bitty Nature Journals
On August 31st, I started my sixth year teaching the science methods course in UC Berkeley's BE3 program. It's my first prolonged foray with remote teaching, so I've had to adjust a few of my techniques to connect with my students and engage them in science learning. During week two, I sent them on a Neighborhood Walk, an activity from the Learning In Places project. When they return to class this week, they will bring with them an itty-bitty eight-page nature journal. Each week thereafter, I'll introduce a new sketching technique and we'll take regular "sketch breaks" during our two-hour sessions together.
Integrated STEAM Curriculum
Green Our Planet claims to be the nation's largest school garden program. Started in Nevada as a filmmaking effort focused on conservation, Green Our Planet quickly grew into a crowdfunding platform, a school garden conference, and much, much more! Learn about their robust virtual academy in the short introductory video.
Sharing and Preserving Abundance
In the last month, I've processed 24 pounds of peaches, eaten more figs than I can count, and picked a record number of pomegranates from my tree. Without the option to invite friends over, I've dried, pureed, frozen, and baked delicious ways to share and preserve the harvest. My favorite so far was Pomegranate Chocolate Cookies from the book farm-to-table desserts. Yummy!
Veggie of the Year Contest!
With schools closed, Sacramento's Founder and CEO of The Food Literacy Center, Amber Stott, shifted attention to food insecurity, distributing thousands of veggie boxes to families so kids can keep cooking at home. Never skipping a beat, the 8th annual Veggie of the Year contest is underway now! Check out this amazing community engagement campaign, replete with virtual food education resources. Cast your vote by September 30th!
Fostering Environmental Literacy
Nurture the Soil with Cover Crop: the September issue of Mother Earth News had an excellent article about cover crops. It reinforced the concept of interplanting different cover crops to achieve multiple aims. The School Garden Doctor's fall cover crop blend does just that and is now available in both "branches" of the Napa County Seed Library! If you don't yet know about this collaborative endeavor to make seeds free and accessible to Napa residents, you can read the story in this Register article: Napa seed libraries 'sprout up" around town. You can find out what's inside each envelope here.
National COVID-19 Outdoor Learning Initiative
Schools and districts around the country are taking advantage of outdoor spaces to make the return to in-person instruction more feasible. The National COVID-19 Outdoor Learning Initiative "seeks to equitably improve learning, mental and physical health, and happiness for children and adults using an affordable, time-tested outdoor approach to keeping schools open during a pandemic." Check out their videos, resources, and tools.
It is my sincere hope that you find something that sustains your garden practice during these challenging times. Until winter, I hope you stay safe and find joy in your gardens!
Resources Featured in this Issue:
Itty Bitty Nature Journal (see video)
Sustaining school gardens through evidence-based practice.