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.

The School Garden Journal, v.2, Issue 3

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 at least a week before the winter solstice. Thanks!

from Gleaning the Field:

Five Important Garden Tasks for October

Mission-Aligned Resources

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.

Nurturing Wellness

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:


Sustaining school gardens through evidence-based practice.

The School Garden Journal v.2, Issue 2

It doesn’t seem possible that only three months have passed since I published the spring issue of The School Garden Journal. Another change in season reminds me to take stock and look forward. Taking stock, I feel incredibly grateful for my health, my work, and, especially now, my garden. Looking forward, I muster all the hope I can to believe better days lie ahead.

In this special issue, I’ve curated resources for building resilience and confronting silence. Taken from organizations who are leading the way in the face of social inequity and racial injustice, I hope you find something of personal value for contributing to an anti-racist society.

from The School Garden Doctor:

Growing Gardens as a Metaphor for Hope

Mission-Aligned Resources

Enhancing STEM Education (for All)

  • The Big Garden boasts a diverse team to reach their mission to “cultivate food security by developing community gardens, creating opportunities to serve, and providing education on issues related to hunger.” Their garden-to-table initiative highlights STEAM education.
  • The Citizen Science Association (CSA)’s Integrity, Diversity, and Equity Working Group compiled resources including the 2018 NSF STEM for ALL video showcase Public’s Choice award winner, Community Perspectives: Transforming Science to Benefit ALL.

Nurturing Wellness (and Healing Trauma)

Fostering (Equitable) Environmental Literacy

  • Be sure to check out the podcast “Black in Nature” which can be found on the NAAEE Equity Resources page.
  • BEETLES shared this Listly material related to justice, equity, race and racism in environmental education.

Other Featured Resources

Voices in Support of Social Justice and Racial Equity

Of the more than a dozen email updates I’ve received from organizations that I look to for guidance, here are some of the voices I choose to elevate:

Food Tank: 22 Individuals and Organizations Building Stronger Black Communities and Food Systems

In the spirit of equal representation (all but one of the statements above came from organizations led by white women), here are some folks doing food justice work right here in California:

If there is a resource you would like to recommend for inclusion, please contact me at

The School Garden Journal, v.2, Issue 1

As I prepared to post the spring 2020 issue of The School Garden Journal, the list of things I want to accomplish in my garden(s) over the next month grows, as it always does this time of year. What is most unexpected, however, is the unusual circumstance of having weeks of time to do them all! So far my home gardening tasks have included dividing asparagus crowns, interplanting chives and strawberries, and trying to grow cauliflower for the first time.

Amidst the Coronavirus precautions, no school until (at least) mid-April means no school gardening either, so I’m digging in at home. If you are home and want to start seeds with kids, but can’t get a hold of any right now, email me your home address and I’ll send some in the mail from my donation overstocks. In the mean time, as one of my community garden friends likes to say, “Keep Calm and Garden On!” Definitely read on for the latest news from The School Garden Doctor.

Featured Lesson: Bulb Botany

If you missed January’s Blog Post, Bedazzled by Bulbs, you can read it here.

Stone Soup for the Body, Soul, and Society as a Whole

With flu season well underway (and a global pandemic in our midst), soup is a comforting go-to meal. Read about how three kinder teachers use soup to build a classroom community with a garden-integrated Common Core Cooking lesson.

E.V.E., a parent of one of my favorite gardeners and youth birders won the Something from Nothing cooking kit giveaway, which she plans to use as a 4H Garden-to-Table project leader. Congratulations, E.V.E! More contests and giveaways coming soon, so be on the lookout!

Community Appearances

International Women’s Day Celebration

On March 7th, nearly 250 participants gathered at the CIA @Copia to hear inspirational speakers and network with businesses and nonprofits for the 4th annual event organized by Women In Power Napa Valley. Among the take-home messages for me was from Lauren Duca, who assured women in the crowd that it is overwhelming to keep track of everything, so when it comes to working for gender equity, choose what you can opt into not out of.

Community Literacy Day [CANCELED]

Community Resources for Children annual Community Literacy Day was previously scheduled for March 14th, however, due to the current public health emergency, this event was canceled. My role was to lead a bulb-planting activity. You’ll find a spring bulb planting guide below.

Spring Gardening Resources

At home, you can start to prepare beds for planting, if you haven’t already. Directly sow carrots and onion sets. With the additional rain in March they’re sure to get a strong start.

Professional Learning Opportunities for Teachers

The School Garden Journal, v.1, Issue 8

What can you grow when there are only 10 hours of light between sunrise and sunset? Microgreens!

In a recent visit to the Vallejo People’s Garden on Mare Island, I learned about PharmFresh, a nonprofit that cultivates microgreens on an urban scale. A partnership between a community organizer and university medical students, this project aims to get the freshest, most nutritionally-dense foods to the local community. Sounds exactly like what school gardens strive to accomplish!

I loved this collaboration so much that I bought one of their microgreen grow kits to gift this holiday season. There are more green gifting ideas at the end of this seasonal newsletter, but first, a few features and updates.

If you missed October’s blog post, here it is: Rave Review of “the School Garden Curriculum” by Kaci Rae Christopher

Currently, seven Napa educators are exploring Christopher’s book as a Professional Learning Community (PLC). On four Saturdays throughout the year, the Sustaining School Gardens course engages garden educators in reading about and discussing permaculture practices and then implementing and sharing lessons from the School Garden Curriculum. The next meeting will be on Saturday, January 25th. Contact Carrie if you would like to join (CEUs available.)

Featured Lesson: Garden to Crockpot

Got the rainy-day blues because you can’t get your class outside? Never fear, the Food Tank annual book list is here! Check out these 15 Children’s Books Celebrating Food or read one of the multiple versions of Stone Soup. Don’t have a copy? Request one today, compliments of the Whole Kids Foundation. In the Common Core Cooking lesson, Something from Nothing, students rate the taste of raw vs. cooked carrot coins and then write a recipe for a class soup. 

You could win this!

New Partnership Launch!

The result of a year of collaborative planning, the Napa County Office of Education secured the first USDA Farm-to-School grant award in Napa County. The School Garden Doctor will provide professional learning to after school educators implementing garden-enhanced nutrition education (GENE) at three sites. Read more about this project here.

Community Appearances

On November 30th, three Dirt Girls braved cold and windy weather to interact with buyers at the Napa Farmers Market. We raised $130 dollars selling homemade beeswax sandwich wraps. Funds will be used to take a field trip to the Ruth Bancroft Garden this coming spring. 

Read more about DIY Crafting and Engineering Design

Green Gifting


In addition to beeswax sandwich wraps, dried persimmon and potpourri make the list of “green” gifts I’ve given or received this holiday season. Watch the GrowVeg video for more great ideas!

Alternatively, give the gift of giving with a contribution to any of the end-of-the year fundraising campaigns for (one of) your favorite nonprofit organization(s). 😉

To empower youth in your own community, be one of the donors to Inspire Dozens of Girls to Pursue STEM Careers. Only $585 to go in this year-end campaign!

In one donor’s words: I am the father of a teenage girl, and I also work in STEM. Unfortunately, my daughter and most of her friends do not see STEM as a career path for girls and I want to help change that.

~Global Giving Donor

As the calendar year comes to a close, be sure to pause and reflect on the bounty you enjoyed from your school garden. For winter solstice inspiration, read a few Sweet Stories from Soil Born Farms.

The School Garden Journal, v.1, Issue 7

You know fall is here when Napa Valley gets a light rain. I was not in town for the first drizzle of the season, but I can imagine the dewey smell. The first rain always feels so refreshing, just that little bit of moisture to capture the dust and pollen and give those drought-tolerant plants a quick drink.

Humidity brings a reprieve from the heat, but it also harbors pests. Keep an eye on your crops, especially fungus damage on cucurbits (e.g., powdery mildew). Be prepared to remove infected plants earlier than expected. This year, the fall equinox is on 9/23, but the shift in weather has already signaled senescence, the loss of cell growth and division.

Read on for more fall school garden news, events, and opportunities…

Latest Blog Post: How Do You Like Your Zs?

The Napa Valley School Garden Network is preparing to evaluate The Z Project, a garden-to-cafeteria pilot! Join the debrief conversation on September 23rd at 3:30 pm at NOSH (1360 Menlo Ave.). Tour of the new NVUSD central kitchen to follow. Growers strongly encouraged to attend. All others welcome! Not able to attend? You can read about The Z Project in the Napa Valley Register.

Community Appearances


National Heirloom Exposition

Carrie and Marisol engaged nearly 400 children with two kid-friendly activities as part of the Kids’ Pavilion hosted by the Sonoma School Garden Network on September 10-12th in Santa Rosa.

UC Master Gardeners of Napa County

Come make a “Mustard Monster” and explore more than 20 educational booths showcasing creative master gardener projects and select nonprofit organizations at the second Fall Faire on October 5th.

Featured Lesson: Decomposition Mission

Fall Gardening Resources

Professional Learning Opportunities for Teachers

The School Garden Journal, v.1, Issue 6

It’s my favorite day of the year: the summer solstice! Like plants, I really like light. Nothing motivates me more than a long, sunny day!

As the official kickoff of summer, June 21st will enjoy a 14-hour-and-46-minute-day length in Northern California.That’s a lot of time to photosynthesize the sun’s energy. It’s also a great time to plant flowers, herbs, and vegetables you didn’t get in the ground at home because you were busy tending the school garden at the end of the year.

Read on for summer school garden news, events, and opportunities.

The Z Project Goes Live!

Earlier this week, Napa’s Garden-to-Cafeteria pilot program was launched! Thanks to The CanDo Connection, the community is learning about this collaborative project. NV CanDo also donated space, materials, and volunteer labor to sow more than 100 zucchini seeds.

In addition to two community gardens, three NVUSD school gardens have committed to participate as growers: Harvest and River Middle Schools and Pueblo Vista Magnet School. Several more are awaiting their Approved Source status from Napa County.

There’s still time to sow zucchini plants to grow with us! Look for The School Garden Doctor at the Napa Farmers Market on July 2nd to get your free zucchini seedling.

Pueblo Vista Culinary Garden Goes on Tour!

On Sunday, June 2nd, Pueblo Vista Magnet School was featured on the Bay Friendly Garden Tour. Hosted by the Napa County Resource Conservation District (RCD) for the eighth year in a row, the tour aims to educate the public about how landscape design can minimize resource use. Read more…

National Children and Youth Gardening Symposium

In July, I will travel to my home state to deliver two presentations in Madison, WI: School Gardens Are For the Birds: Bonding with Youth Birders and Dirt Girls to the Rescue! Gender Equity and Empowerment. Based on successful site-based programs I’ve developed, these talks will address the rationale for crafting experiences that engage youth in authentic science and peer-to-peer learning.

For more information about professional learning, curricular integration, or program development, visit

Summer Gardening Resources for School Gardens

Teleflora’s Summer Planting Guide

Sloat Garden Center Bay Area Garden Monthly Calendar

Professional Development Opportunities

Soil Born Farms Teacher Training

Life Lab Workshops

The School Garden Journal, v.1, Issue 5

Summer is nearly upon us, Garden Educators!

Hopefully your tomatoes are in the ground and you are preparing to plant sunflowers, corn, or pumpkins. Now is the time to check your irrigation and recruit volunteers for summer vacation.

Read on for May highlights…

Lesson of the Month: Sow a Sunflower House

The School Garden Journal, v.1, Issue 4

Happy Earth Day, Garden Educators!

What a flurry of garden activity over spring break! Plant Sales, Wildflower Hikes, and so much more! Read on for April highlights…

Lesson of the Month*: From the amazing archives of Green Thumbs, this lesson provides the recipe for Calendula Salve (submitted by R.Thompson, TK Teacher @ Pueblo Vista).

**Would you like to share an organization, resource, or lesson? Send me a note and I’ll include it in the monthly blast.**

This could be you! Would you like to be featured in my bimonthly blog?Reach out to schedule a school visit. Online presence is a great way to share your awesomeness and get attention from donors.

Empowering teachers, schools, and communities to grow school gardens  that enhance science education, nurture wellness, and foster environmental literacy.

The School Garden Journal, v.1, Issue 3

It’s Almost Spring, Garden Educators! 

The bulbs and buds are emerging. According to the calendar, spring starts in a week,

but there’s still a small chance of frost. Read on for March highlights…

Lesson of the Month: As the weather improves, so do the insect populations. With this field guide, kids can identify what kind of ladybugs are present in the garden this time of year.

**Would you like to share an organization, resource, or lesson? Send me a note and I’ll include it in the monthly blast. **

If you’ve read this far, you deserve a prize! What and how much produce have you harvested in your school garden so far in 2019? The first 5 teachers to email me your answer are eligible to receive FREE Peaceful Valley seeds for a Three Sisters Garden.

Empowering teachers, schools, and communities to grow school gardens  that enhance science education, nurture wellness, and foster environmental literacy.