Nicole did a workshop with the School Learning Garden Network. This is a for-garden educators, by-garden educators event which aims to connect the Seattle (and broader) school garden community and share stories, successes, failures, and resources.
Her workshop is one in a series that would have been presented at the annual Winter Workshop, which was cancelled due to COVID-19. Now, the School Learning Garden Network is offering these FREE online events for anyone interested in learning more about the amazing work of garden educators and community members who support school gardens in the Seattle area.
The presentation is called “Stories from the Garden” and highlights the various school garden programs Foxberry Education has been involved with. Nicole’s co-presenter, Patty Lavelle is the Garden Educator at Jane Addams Middle School, which is the location the in-person event would have been held at. Patty has an amazing virtual tour of their school garden as well. Stories from the Garden also presents an opportunity for parents to learn tips and tricks for working with their kids in the garden!
Many of us are stuck inside these days, but I find comfort in the fact that animals are still able to come and go as they please. Now is the time of year when birds are collecting materials for their nests, bees are beginning to emerge in search of pollen and nectar, and many other animals are out and about searching for food, water, and shelter.
Here are a few ideas you can do while at the home to help out these amazing urban critters!
Like us, urban wildlife needs 3 essential things to survive: Food, water, and shelter. This time of year, they are also looking for a safe place to raise their young.
1. Bird and Squirrel Feeders
This project is one of the easiest and most effective ways you can help out your local wildlife! There are many ways to make a feeder: The classic pine cone, peanut butter, and seed is always a good option. You can make a similar project using an apple half if you don’t have access to pine cones. Recycled materials like toilet paper rolls or old milk cartons can also be used, and you and your kids can even create a bird garland with string and dried fruits! Don’t be upset if a squirrel comes to your home-made feeder- they need food too! My backyard squirrels have even planted me beautiful sunflowers in my garden that they found in my feeder.
Home-made suet is another great way to attract furry and feathery critters to your yard or garden. It is a zero-waste project that can be catered to the specific diets of birds in your area that you are aiming to attract. These “cookies” are no-bake, but very messy, so be aware! They should be put out once they dry, so they don’t start to get moldy! They can also be made even simpler with bird seed and coconut oil.
2. Bird baths
“Bird baths” are just as much for bathing as they are for drinking! If you currently have a birth bath, make sure that the water is fresh, and being changed regularly. Birds won’t come if the water is too deep- this can be fixed by placing small stones in the middle to for a place to perch. Birds need to bathe in order to loosen the dirt in their feathers, so it’s easier to preen.
If you don’t have a bird bath, you can make one using a plant pot saucer and some pea gravel. Have the kids help collect rocks from the yard and find a nice shady spot somewhere along the side to put it. The bath shouldn’t be put out in the open or the animals will feel exposed to predators. Putting it in the shade of a tree or a fence will also help keep the water from evaporating too quickly.
Apparently, white is used in bird plumage to warn other birds, and is a color of danger for them. Try not to use too much white in these projects, or in your yard in general if you are trying to attract birds to it!
3. Nesting Material Ornaments
Now is the time we are seeing birds big and small searching for the perfect twig for their nest! They also need soft, natural materials to line their nests with, so they are warm and safe for their eggs and future chicks. Generally, they use dried grass, moss, cattail fluff, and anything else they can find that might work as nest liner. I have even seen and old nest with snakeskin woven in! You can help birds keep their hatchlings cozy by creating nesting material ornaments. These are colorful and whimsical decorations for your yard that also act to attract native wildlife. You can use recycled net bags, like the ones potatoes and mandarin oranges come in, to hold the materials. Start by going outside and gathering grass clippings, dead leaves, and anything that looks like it might belong in a nest. Then, you can turn your search inside and collect bits of yarn and cloth scraps. Even pet hair would be a great addition to your nesting material ornament if you have a cat or a dog! Finally, put it all together, and hang it up in a tree near your house so you can watch the critters come by and “shop” for their home-improvement supplies.
It is a common misconception that birds “live” in their nests. Nests are actually only used by birds to lay their eggs and raise their young. After nesting season, nests themselves are abandoned, and many adult birds sleep, or “roost” off the ground in tree branches safe from cats and other predators.
Have fun trying one of these crafty, practical, hands-on activities with your kiddos at home today to inspire respect, wonder, and admiration for their natural environment.
This cold late Fall weather is the perfect time to cozy up and make some tea. Why not share the tea-making love with your kids in the garden? And while you’re at it, share the amazing benefits and stories herbs and spices have given us throughout the years…
Before getting into the tea making activity, share a story with the students about an herb or spice in history. The one that I like to share is the story of Prometheus and how he stole fire from the gods with a sprig of fennel. Many kids are really into both fennel and Greek Mythology, so this goes over pretty well. However, you can make this experience your own by sharing a different story about another herb that your kids enjoy! Here are some each-one-teach one cards that I have created to help the kids understand both the historical significance of herbs and how they have been used both for medicinal and culinary purposes in the past.
With that knowledge in mind, it is time for the kids to put their learning to practice by harvesting and serving up some fresh garden tea themselves! There are a few different ways to create a lovely tea-party experience in your learning garden.
One way to celebrate our “herban legends” is by making a community tea pot together with your students. Show them the different varieties of herbs you have in your garden space and how to harvest and cut the plants into small pieces in order to make fresh mint, lemon balm, rosemary, etc. tea! Let them mix and match and make fun combinations. A boy in one of my after-school programs even decided to make chive tea, which the other students really loved! Once all the herbs have been harvested, rinsed, and chopped, they can either be put in a french press or a tea pot and then strained to serve! I usually add a little bit of sugar.
Another method to allow students to take home their tea treasures is to teach them how to make homemade tea bags. This can be done with store-bought disposable tea bags, or for a more rustic look, cheese cloth and string! Simply cut the cheese cloth into about 5×5” squares for the students to fill with various herb clippings and cut out lengths of string for them to tie them closed with as well as to use as the “dipper”.