Saturday, September 8, 2007

Ice Cream Social

Why are these people marching?

There was a party at the Washington Youth Garden yesterday where children and parents who've been tending their plots came out for an afternoon of games and ice cream.

There was mural painting, flag making, musical instrument construction, old-fashioned ice cream churning, a jazz band playing tunes from "Sesame Street" and "Scoobie-Doo."

And a long line of people waiting for a cup of Ben & Jerries.

The kids could also choose to have their faces painted with a choice of butterflies. Then they pulled on their costumes--a salad selection of vegetables--and marched around beating their drums, shaking their noise makers and waving their flags with garden coordinator Christopher Turse taking the lead.

Needless to say, a good time was had by all. Especially if you got to the ice cream (five or six times) before it melted.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Our New Pond

I've been meaning to write forever about all the work Elizabeth did in the Spring to build a pond in the middle of hour herb container.

We built our herb container large--eight-by-eight-feet square--to be the centerpiece of our school garden. We knew we wouldn't be able to reach into the middle of such a large space so we built a second box, half the size, and set that in the middle of the first box, turned 90 degrees to make a sort of compass effect, since the theme of the garden starts with the four compass points. We've been growing herbs and flowers in the space between the two boxes.

We put a lid on top of the inner box, thinking eventually we would use it as a platform for some kind of fountain. But then Elizabeth had the brilliant idea of removing the lid and lining the smaller box and filling it with water. So on any given day you could find Elizabeth sitting in the box, lining it first with sheets of rubber to make it leak-proof, then breaking up ceramic tiles and cementing the pieces to the box to make this very cool ceramic enclosure.

Elizabeth also purchased a small solar-powered fountain for the pond and we finally had our water feature. It wasn't until this week that I finally got around to focusing on some plant life for our pond. I stopped at Bittersweet Nurseries outside Annapolis for some ideas and walked away with several plants, including a water lily, cattails, a water hyacinth and several others that are very familiar but whose names I do not know.

These are all perennial plants that will come back year after year, even if the water freezes. The water lily will set out lovely yellow blossoms at some point. You can also buy annuals that float on the surface and make flowers. A few small fish from the pet store should help with any mosquito larvae that may try to make a home in our pond.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

We've Got Hose!

We planted our garden more than a year ago and today we finally have a hose to water it with.

Up until now, we've been filling watering cans in the big stainless steel sink in our lunchroom. That's a lot of watering cans to fill, and during the summer, we need to water almost ever day.

A few weeks ago, Mama Willie, our school accountant, found a plumber to fix an outdoor spigot on the wall just outside the garden. Then, thanks to a grant from our local Neighborhood Advisory Commission 1B, we ordered a professional quality aluminum reel and 100 feet of high quality, 8-ply garden hose.

Today we picked up our reel and hose from the hardware store. Some assembly was required. But as you can see from the photo above, already Baba Oron is taking advantage of the hose and the watering wand to give our thirsty plants a big, long drink. And we don't have to run inside to the lunchroom any more for water.
We have some new additions to the garden: an apple tree that is leafing nicely, two clematis vines and a bignonia vine. We are hoping the vines will cover much of the chain link fence that surrounds our garden. We also have two yellow jasmin vines that are beginning to fill out.

Sadly, the dwarf peach tree we purchased has not broken dormancy and looks as though it did not survived its purchase from Miller's Nursery in New York State. We will have to order a new one.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

We've Got Benches

Notice anything different about this picture?

Take another look.

Look closely...

That's right! These girls in our After 4 gang are all sitting down. That's something new for our garden. Because up to now, we've never really had anything to sit on.

But thanks to the good people at the Wardman Court Condominium Association, we now have five new park benches.

The association, located just up the hill from us at 13th and Clifton Streets NW here in the District of Columbia, recently donated the benches to Children's Studio School so that visitors to the garden can have a place to sit and relax.

People like to eat lunch in the garden or contemplate the beautiful flowers and herbs. They should have a place to sit and enjoy our space.

Our good friend Darren, who also helped build the garden, lives at the Wardman Court. He heard that the condominium association was looking for a new home for these benches and thought of us. Darren also helped disassemble the benches and transport them to Children's Studio School.

The benches are a cool green color--just like most of our plants--attached to black-colored iron legs. The legs are actually very long because they are designed to be sunk into the ground or into concrete. The legs have to be shortened so that people can sit in the benches. Baba Jose and Mama Elizabeth are working with a metal grinder to cut the legs down to the correct height.

Four of the benches will be installed around our central herb planter, where Mama Elizabeth and the After 4 gang are now assembling a solar-powered water fountain (we can't wait to see that). The fifth bench will be placed in the playground area where it will make a huge difference for our artist/teachers, who up to now have had to find folding chairs in order to sit while they are supervising children on the playground.

These benches are making a huge difference in the garden and on the playground. Thank you, Wardman Court Condominium Association, for thinking of us and making such a great donation!

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Garden in Bloom

One of my favorite displays in the garden right now are the clusters of Sweet William and dianthus blooming next to the silvery lamb's ears. We have multicolored flowers of pink and crimson and almost purple, and the small flowers look so perky next to the fuzzy, floppy lamb's ears.
Also the roses are putting on a big show right now. We have one rose climbing against the wall that has a profusion of pink blossoms. Two roses set on either side of the entrance to the garden from the sidewalk have big blooms of creamy peach.

The rock cress, with the tiny little sky-blue blossoms, are only now beginning to fade after a rioutous early Spring blooming. Many of the daisies look like they are getting ready to pop. And you can just see the beginnings of flower buds on the Black-eyed Susans and the cone flowers.

Lately we have been planting lots of different kinds of lettuces because they do so well in the garden and we can make salad for the whole school. We've also been planting a number of flowers, including the marigolds whose seeds we saved from last year, and Shasta daisy, asters, cosmos, zinnias and nasturtiums.

Next week we hope to plant several different kinds of sunflowers. But we have to put more soil in our planter boxes first.
And here's a surprise. We received a note from our friends at the Garden Club of Annapolis. They sent us a very kind donation. So we went right out and bought two winterberry trees, a male and a female, and ordered some clematis vines that will help cover the chain link fence around our garden. We also want to order some small fruit trees, such as peach and plum.

Thank you Garden Club of Annapolis!
This is a picture of our friend Helen holding our even newer friend, Hazel. They came to the garden to help us plant seeds. Wasn't that fun Hazel?
Please come again soon...

Monday, April 30, 2007

Anacostia Haikus!

Recently the girls in After 4 have been learning how to write haikus. Here are a few inspired by their Anacostia boat tour.

Fish have cancer there.
When sun shines in the river
the water is blue.


River in D.C.
It is really polluted
And it has sewage.


Dashes to river
just like a big rocket ship
Flying high in sky.


Students write about the Anacostia trip

The After 4 gang wrote about their experience going to the Anacostia. Here are some excerpts from those writings combined.

"We went to the Anacostia River. We got there by vans, trucks, and cars, and we rode on a little boat. Mr. Josh's company name was Earth Conservation Center-- the ECC. Mr. Josh was a boat rider/captain. We learned about sewers and ducks and birds and flowers and fish. He told us that if you litter and it starts raining, it will come out at the Anacostia River. Then, we saw a bird flying with a fish; it was very odd."

"I've never been on an exciting boat ride. Josh said we shouldn't litter, because then the earth won't be healthy. I learned that a park is better for a river than buildings. The best thing for the edges of a river are wetlands and miles of trees, especially the Weeping Willow. Then, we have a healthy river.

The Indians discovered the river first. They called it the "Country Trading Center." The one thing I noticed was everywhere we went there was lots of sewage and Captain Josh said, if you litter on the ground, the trash will go to the river. "

"Captain Josh told us about littering, then Nia started chanting, "No more littering!" Captain Josh said maybe you should save your energy and say it to the buildings. We all said it loud to the people on the bridges and in cars."
--Aiyana, Princess, Quennie, Devinity

Thursday, April 26, 2007

No More Litter!

The After 4 gang has been learning about our precious water resources and some of the issues we need to think about to protect the Chesapeake Bay watershed.

Part of that watershed is the Anacostia River right here in Washington, D.C. This river is only 8.4 miles long, running from Bladensburg, MD, to the Potomac River.

The Anacostia is mistreated in many ways. For instance, long stretches of the river have been stripped of all the trees, which help filter water before it enters the river and also help stop erosion along the river banks.

Even worse, the Anacostia is badly polluted. Many species of fish live in the river. But an estimated 60 percent of all the catfish suffer from some form of cancer.

People simply dump their trash into the Anacostia. Storm drains from the District of Columbia empty into the river. And when it rains heavily, much of the city's sewage system overflows and spills into the river as well.

That's right: When we get a heavy rain, your toilets dump right into the Anacostia. Hard to believe, but true.
Yesterday the After 4 gang took a boat ride with our captain, Josh, of the Earth Conservation Corps. They have an office in an old building on the river in Southeast Washington near the new baseball stadium. The building used to contain pumps that sent water from the Anacostia to make steam heat in the U.S. Capitol building.

Josh takes people on tours of the Anacostia almost every day. There is still wildlife on the river. He showed us osprey nests. We also saw cormerants and seagulls and a great blue heron.

We also saw some Canada geese. But Josh says the geese are a problem: They eat important wetland plants. Wetland plants along the river's shoreline act as a filter, remover harmful pollutants from the river. We need more wetland areas, but they have to be fenced to keep the Canada geese out.
Imagine a time when the area around the Anacostia River was inhabited only by native Americans. There were no buildings or cars, only lots of trees everywhere along the river and wildlife. The natives, or Necostans, considered the river their own special market, because it supplied so much of their food.

Now, people give the river hardly a thought. They also dump their automobile tires into the Anacostia. Josh said the Conservation Corps at one point cleaned up a small portion of the river and collected more than 400 automobile tires. Also, everywhere you look trash is floating on the river, mostly soda bottles and plastic packaging.

This past weekend, the Conservation Corps filled 320 bags with trash from Kingman Island near RFK Stadium. But when we passed the island yesterday, the trash was back. Lots of trash.

The reason for so much trash is that people litter everywhere. And the litter gets washed down the storm drains and into the Anacostia. So the After 4 gang began to chant: No more litter! No more litter!

The chant grew louder and louder. It went on and on.

We hope you will take up the chant. Tell all your parents and all your friends. Help the Anacostia and our Chesapeake Bay watershed.

No more litter!

Monday, April 16, 2007

Recently in class we've been focused on learning about photosynthesis and vascular plant systems. These images show a papier mache tree the gang made. The leaves are made from their handprints, and if you look closely, you can see that built onto the side are papier mache layers that fold out, labeled: Outer Bark, Phloem, Cambium, and Xylum.

The class got so excited about their knowledge of how trees use light energy to make glucose, that they expressed a great interest in having a play on the subject. In this image, the kids are cutting out different lengths of light waves as costumes. There was much fuss over who would play the sun, so in addition to that role, we designated girls to play different lightwaves that penetrate our atmosphere, and thus a tree's leaves. Shown here are three little smiling rays!