By Patti Berryhill, Garden Conservation Manager
One of the best (of many!) things about working in the Living Classroom gardens every day is the opportunity to indulge my photography hobby. Excited students, amazing wildlife, delicious vegetables - so many great photo subjects!
I recently took my macro lens to the native garden at Theuerkauf School to try and capture some of the smaller wonders in the landscape. As you can see from the photos, the fall and winter in a California native garden are the time for many shrubs to show off their beautiful blooms.
Ribes malvaceum, or Pink Chaparral Current, is a deciduous shrub native to slopes in the Coastal ranges. It has fragrant pink flower clusters that bloom from October to March. The pollinators love it -- and the birds love the edible red fruit it produces. A bonus for home landscapes near open areas: it's deer-proof. The leaves can be added to peppermint tea! Communities: Chaparral, Closed-cone Pine Forest, mixed Evergreen Forest and Central Oak Woodland.
Baccharis pilularis, commonly known as Coyote Bush or Coyote Brush, is a great wildlife attraction. It’s a nectary source for predatory wasps (very tiny, very cool non-stinging wasps - they lay their eggs inside bad insects, the larvae hatch out and eat the bad insect from the inside out); native skippers, which are small butterflies; and native flies. It also attracts native bees. On a warm day, there can be so much activity on this plant. They are hardy, too; there was one at Theuerkauf that was rotting in the middle, so we coppiced (cut it to the ground) and it's now a beautiful little plant. It’s another deer-proof plant, and is a great choice for privacy hedges. Communities: Chaparral, Closed-cone Pine Forest, Coastal Sage Scrub, Mixed-Evergreen Forest, Coastal Prairie and Southern Oak Woodland.
Both are great choices for people who want to add more native plants to their home landscapes!
By Shawn Shahin, Living Classroom Program Director, Palo Alto Unified School District
On Monday 11/5, Living Classroom docents and staff participated in a California Water Workshop presented by former Living Classroom Program Assistant Janet Hedley, and her amazing team from the Santa Clara Valley Water District! The workshop included three informative and engaging activities that are part of the water district's outreach curriculum: Discover California, H2O on the Go, and Hidden Water. Did you know that your water footprint includes what you eat, what you buy, and what you use? Check out how much water is needed to create each of the following items!
What can you do to help conserve water? Here are a few suggestions...Eat lower on the food chain, use reusable water bottles instead of plastic water bottles, purchase clothing from secondhand stores, and buy large bags of chips and package them yourself in reusable containers.
Native plants are uniquely adapted to the places where they’ve been growing for millions of years, and they co-evolved with our native wildlife. Why should we care?
Living Classroom plants native plants and trees in our schools for wildlife habitat and to restore our native ecology.
By Shawn Shahin, Living Classroom Program Director, Palo Alto Unified School District
Third grade students at Addison Elementary School in Palo Alto have been busy tasting, squishing, and saving the seeds of heirloom tomatoes while participating in the Life Cycle of a Tomato lesson. This lesson took a year off our schedule as we moved it from second grade, and adjusted it to fit the third grade NGSS standards. Students who participated in part two of the lesson this week enjoyed rinsing their seeds, and observing the impact of the yeast that had removed the gelatinous seed coats from the tomato seeds. Now the seeds must rest in a cool, dry place over the winter, so that they can be planted in the warm spring. Such a wonderful process for the students to participate in firsthand!
By Patti Berryhill, Living Classroom Garden Manager
I just had the pleasure of graduating from the UC Naturalist Program! According to the Cal Nat website, “The California Naturalist Program promotes environmental literacy and stewardship through discovery and action. Courses combine classroom and field experience in Science, problem-solving, communication training and community service.” It was much more than that.
This course was offered by Grassroots Ecology at the Lucy Evans Baylands Nature Preserve in Palo Alto. We also spent our Saturday mornings exploring the open spaces on the Peninsula. We studied the geology of Coyote Ridge Open Space Preserve and gained an understanding of the relationship between the serpentine soil, the rare California plantain and the Checkerspot Butterfly. We did seining at Lucy Evans in one of the salt ponds and found Comb Jellies and other interesting critters. We spent hours at Edgewood Park looking at the beautiful wildflowers and doing habitat restoration. We learned about Nature Journaling from John Muir Laws, a well-known Naturalist. We had inspiring speakers like Dr. David Fryeberg, Stanford University, California Water Resources, who discussed the watersheds in California. We hiked such beautiful areas like Jasper Ridge and Arastradero Open Space. The developers of iNaturalist from the California Academy of Sciences gave us a training on how to use the app and the importance of Citizen Scientists. I use this app every day in my work.
Hover over the images above to see the captions.
We are also required to do a Capstone project and volunteer 40 hours a year. Monta Loma Elementary School parents approached me to design a new native garden, one that shows how the local Ohlones seasonally use native plants. In my research, I discovered there used to be a shell mound and a large Ohlone village in the Monta Loma (which means mountain hill in Spanish) neighborhood. My goal is to name the garden using the Ohlone name for the village and to include the Ohlone names of the plants on the species signs.
The UC California Naturalist program started in 2012 and has partnered with 45 environmental organizations graduating nearly 3,000 naturalists who have logged over 130,000 volunteer hours. This has been an amazing, exciting and fun experience. I have really enjoyed spending time with people who get as geeky as I do about nature! I can’t wait to apply what I learned to the work of Living Classroom!
New paradigms for local ecological restoration
By Vicki Moore, Founder, Living Classroom
Over the last year, Living Classroom began its work to create two new paradigms addressing critical needs for the future: a new local model for urban and suburban ecological restoration, and a new local model for creating ecologically literate students and young environmental stewards.
There is a movement afoot to dramatically change the way we view landscaping as strictly ornamental to habitat creating. With path breaking books, research studies and reports on this topic, including here in Silicon Valley, it’s clear that there is great potential to restore our local ecology through a constellation of biodiverse and native gardens and landscaping amidst our urban and suburban layout.
School grounds are an important component to this ecological resilience movement as they comprise many acres scattered across our communities and offer an amazing educational benefit for not only students, teachers and parents but also a broader neighborhood base that uses the school grounds on a regular basis. They can provide environmental health benefits such as urban carbon and runoff sequestration, air quality improvement, and ecological resiliency and are important components of green infrastructure as well as key places for learning about our local ecology.
A new paradigm for creating environmentally literate students
The best way to raise a new generation that will care about and act to protect nature is to provide frequent experiences in the natural world for children, starting at a very young age. Schoolyards are now critical spaces for educating and inspiring the next generation of environmental stewards—they can be ecological learning laboratories.
Children’s sense of wonder awakens as they find life teeming in a handful of soil or nurture a seed into a healthy plant to be harvested and enjoyed in a delicious meal with their classmates. Living Classroom’s lessons which involve restoring the habitat of a threatened species teach students that they can make a tangible difference in the world. Later, as adults, those students are informed by an ecological understanding and conscience. Green schoolyards which include native habitat gardens and landscaping are a central piece of a wider vision to restore our relationship with the natural world. We have the power to bring nature to every child, every day, while improving our local ecosystems, learning environments, and health.
At Living Classroom, nature is our teacher. We know that understanding the principles that sustain ecosystems requires basic ecological knowledge. Many of the central principals of ecology are variations on a single fundamental pattern of organization; nature sustains life by creating and nurturing communities. Organisms cannot exist long in isolation. Animals, plants, and micro-organisms live in webs of mutual dependence.
We involve students as young as second grade from all 22 schools we serve as contributors to several citizen science efforts and linking the habitat areas created on their campus to a larger efforts in Silicon Valley to restore habitat within the suburban framework and to contribute to the body of scientific knowledge about flora and fauna diversity and abundance through citizen science.
By Deanna Boettcher
Originally posted on September 15, 2017
An excerpt from The Heirloom Expo event description:
The Heirloom Expo - “World’s Pure Food Fair!”, an event for pure food enthusiasts, the national press, home growers across the country, farmers, school groups and the general public. The Expo is now dubbed the “World’s Fair” of the heirloom industry! This is a “non-profit” event, and any funds above cost will be donated to school gardens and food programs.
Each day includes a host of speakers on topics ranging from organic farming methods to food justice and the most exciting new seeds varieties for the year. There is also a vendor hall/expo, an expanded kids area, local food vendors, and opportunities for networking with other like-minded folks in the industry.