The School Garden Journal, v.2, Issue 4

In my location on the map, this year’s winter solstice happened at 2:02 am this morning, Monday, December 21. It is my sincere wish that with the turn of the season, we also get a proverbial turn of the tides that lets us put the dark days of 2020 behind us.

As I look to 2021, I see hope on the horizon. Though this past year has forced us all to grow in unexpected ways, it also offered a chance to reset priorities and renew commitments. Spending more time at home prompted me to hang a few bird feeders and regularly observe their visitors. I’ve noticed that spending just half of an hour watching (and counting) birds positively impacts my overall wellbeing, in part, because I sit long enough to appreciate the still and the quiet. It also it reminds me of the delicate balance between humans and nature (and human nature) in a less harsh way than the horrific realities of 2020 have.

In this issue, you’ll find more about birding, including a spotlight on a fall project done in partnership with the American Canyon Community & Parks Foundation. I also preview Horticulture@Homea creative approach to introducing youth to indoor gardening, while also tending the fragile social emotional needs that may have arisen out of three seasons of social distance. Finally, I invite you to participate in the Stone Soup Community Challenge, which involves sharing soup with your neighbor (while abiding by all COVID-19 safety precautions) and then sharing your story.

On a logistical note, this will be the final installment of The School Garden Journal on this platform. Starting in March of 2021, this quarterly publication will be hosted on Gleaning the Field. Watch your inbox for new options to stay connected.

from Gleaning the Field:

Becoming a Curious Birder

How one community partnership and

four birding videos provided an antidote to 2020!

Mission-Aligned Resources

*Note: all resources in GREEN are linked at the bottom.

Engage in Science!

Citizen and Community Science for Winter Break

I’ve been big fan of Community and Citizen Science (CCS) since my the first time I participated in UC Berkeley’s SOD Blitz. Whether tagging trees, tracking debris, or counting birds, I enjoy the process of collecting and contributing data to a larger scientific effort. To keep myself accountable to weekly bird observations, I signed up for Project FeederWatch, a program of Cornell Lab of Ornithology. Find FeederWatch sites near you!

People of all ages can participate in CCS. During the winter break, I’m joining some 4th and 5th grade students who are participating in Project Squirrel. One of the many kid-friendly options offered on SciStarter (a platform dedicated to “using science to solve local and global problems”), Project Squirrel engages students in understanding squirrel ecology. After learning about the three different kinds of squirrels being monitored, we committed to making at least three, 3-minute observations while school is out. It’s a great way to get outside and enjoy nature while sheltering at home. Speaking of being at home…


In 2021, The School Garden Doctor will launch Horticulture@Home–a house plant-based virtual program–as a stand-in for the beloved Dirt Girls until campus-based programs can resume. Founded in 2016, Dirt Girls provides a gateway to STEM careers through an after-school garden club format. Horticulture@Home will provide weekly sessions focused on identifying, caring for, and designing with air plants, succulents, and ferns! The inspiration for this indoor program came from the preservice teachers of UC Berkeley’s BE3 program!

As part of my semester-long elementary science methods course that I teach, I included a segment called “scientist(s) of the week.” This sharing routine makes science the focus of the common elementary classroom student-of-the-week tradition. I adopted this approach to model what elementary classroom structures look like. If I want teachers to honor the ‘everyday’ science in their students’ lives, they first have to see themselves as scientists, so I invited them to share an everyday science interest or avocation.

One week, two students shared their love of house plants, touting the many benefits, such as stress reduction, increased levels of concentration, and improved air quality. I was immediately inspired! I have a lot to learn, so I’ve started doing my research: purchasing and potting up some new plants as well as stocking up on helpful books. Stay tuned for opportunities to learn, grow, and connect through house plant-based horticulture.

Practice Mindful Habits

Stone Soup: A Recipe for Community
When the first shelter-in-place order first went into effect last March, I was laid up with a cold. Grateful it was nothing more, I took advantage of the downtime to write Stone Soup for the Body, Soul, and Society as a Whole. The highlighted lesson invites students to try raw vs. cooked veggies and share a meal together while emphasizing how to build a classroom food community. Students read Stone Soup.

Stone Soup is a centuries-old folktale that has been told all around the world. The actual soup recipe in each version is a little different, but it starts with a pot of water and a smooth, round stone. Eventually, the community comes together for a feast. No matter the culture or language, the theme remains the same: food is better when shared with others and a community can make something big from very little.

“Soup puts the heart at ease, calms down the violence of hunger, eliminates the tension of the day, and awakens and refines the appetite.” — Auguste Escoffier

As COVID-19 cases surged and the weather got colder this fall, we decided to Turn Off the News and Make Some Soup. Taking advantage of the fall vegetable bounty, we cooked and froze about a dozen different soups. In the back of my mind, I was preparing for the worst: if my husband or I got sick, we wanted to have plenty of nourishing meals on hand.

We’ve been so lucky avoid the dreaded virus so far, so we’re paying our good fortune forward. For National Soup Month, The School Garden Doctor is partnering with Community Resources for Children (CRC) and the Napa Farmers Market to celebrate community. Thirty copies of the book Stone Soup will be distributed to clients of Napa’s CRC. Thanks to several generous sponsors, each family will also receive a soup garden collection of seeds, a $25 gift card, and the best-ever veggie peeler for tiny hands. Farmers market shoppers will be invited to share a soup recipe for a chance to win an Instant Pot (valued at $100). You, too, can enter the contest! Cook, safely share, and submit your “stone soup” story here.

Become Environmental Stewards

World Soil Day & Kiss the Ground

If you haven’t yet heard of Kiss the Ground-the move, it’s worth checking out. Released in the U.S. last spring, this documentary is gaining a wide audience. Although you can view it for free on Netflix, several soil-forward organizations have been hosting screening events with live discussion. One such screening was held by Kids Gardening for World Soil Day (December 5th). Be one of 10 million viewers to watch the official trailer. It’s guaranteed to make you want to take action! Kids Gardening has already curated numerous resources to support you on that journey.


It is my sincere hope that you found ways to sustain your garden practice during these challenging times. I look forward hearing what resources and antidotes you relied on to get through 2020!

Resources Featured in this Issue:

Program Sponsor Acknowledgement

  • Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds and Renee’s Seeds provided vegetable seeds
  • Raley’s Community Giving supplied $25 gift cards

Sustaining school gardens through evidence-based practice.

Published by The School Garden Doctor

Established in 2018 to sustain school gardens in the 21st century.

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