Was asked about curriculums in school gardens
Heres some thoughts and pictures from my experiences at the local elementary school

Make it fun
The garden is not a classroom
It is a place of endless learning and adventure and wonder
But it is not a classroom
You don’t sit around listening to one person talking all the time
You don’t sit there in groups talking to each other
There is no busy paperwork
Work to keep you occupied, work to be scored and graded
Work like a fishhook through the lips
You don’t sit in the garden, spacing out on the phone
On the tablet, on the computer, on the screen
You engage with plants
Talk to bugs
Dig in the dirt
Kill weeds
Pour concrete lay brick saw wood
Cook in a clay oven
Water the chives
Plant sunflowers
Eat strawberries you planted in the spring
Dig up potatoes
Make a stir fry with veggies you harvested
Bring in your own rice cooker to complement the stir fry
Make it interactive make it mutual make it flow
Make it fun

Organize it well
You are going to have twenty some lil kids
Maybe five year olds, maybe 10 year olds
They better be on task, working together, working in the garden
Or else its gonna be chaos
They gonna get distracted
Somebody gonna get hurt
One kid gonna run off to the side not participate
The others gonna follow
And its game over
Then you gotta be the teacher
The mean teacher who tells people what to do or else
No no don’t fall into that, let the plants be the teacher
Organize it well
Our usual scheme is divide and conquer
So split em up into groups, squads, teams, units, crews
Four or five people or so is a good number
So you have room for hand tool use
Room to space yourself out
Room to talk and supervise and instruct
If you don’t have enough adults to work in small groups
Then a bigger group will have to do
But in an open garden it is easy for kids energy to go everywhere
Scatter and fall like buckshot at 500 yards
Best if it can be focussed
Organized it well
The garden must have different areas to work in
Stations and specific activities that are seasonally dependent
There is endless work in the garden that must be done
Everybody needs to work together
That is the key
Waste into fertilizer, composting, cutting weeds, piling them up, shoveling manure
That is a good station, very popular
Hunting for bugs, putting them in a terrarium, eating a termite or two, breeding worms and snails
That is a good station too, very popular
Harvesting greens, washing them, tearing them up small to get ready to eat them
That is a good station, extremely popular
Making flower bouquets or herb bundles of calendulas and sages, lavender and rosemary
That is a good station, over the top popular
Making a short brick wall, a concrete block raised bed
Quite popular
Pulling weeds, pickaxing weeds
This is not always popular, but some kids really like it!
So, organize it well and you will have plenty to do

The problem is the solution
Some kids you have seen them in the classrooms
They are hyper and jumpy and bored cant sit still
They cannot concentrate and don’t like to read much
They have a hard time hanging with their peers
You know these kids
Some kids they are on some kind of psychiatric medication
Their parents in the big house or doped up or alcoholic
Their parents are splitting or fighting or leaving or somewhere else
Their breakfast is a bag of chips and a soda
Some kids they seem to have all the material riches
They believe that money is love is money is love
They believe that power and popularity are the only games on earth
They never had a chance to learn about
Nature and the nature within
The sun lit worlds outside and inside
Worlds that don’t work according to economic law and latest fashions
Worlds profound
The sky the waters and the soil we walk on
Worlds that bring peace and contentment
Right sad that is if you do not acknowledge these worlds
The kids missing these elements
You can see it in their eyes in their being
They are a shell a skeleton a zombie a hollow
They are plastic and know it but don’t know what to do about it
They are just kids
They don’t know
Kids like this, kids starved of life and reflection
Often take to the garden like a lion in the savannah full of acacia trees
The problem is the solution
Before the kids get dragged into the world, the career world, the cut throat world
Show them the garden and all its infinite gifts
And they will have something happy to hold onto for the rest of their days
The best school gardeners, managers & helpers
Were not always the best in the classroom
Or the best on the play courts full of balls
But they were the best
In the garden
They cleaned up the beds
They shoveled dirt
They found every critter hidden under the rocks, under the leaves
They protected the flower beds and trees
They made stick and bamboo forts
They showed natural curiosity
And a propensity for working
Doing things
That made a difference
Doing creative, nurturing, and cooperative things
Actively engaged with the world
Actively engaged with alien creatures
Actively engaged with reality
Not fake stuff, theoretical stuff, mental stuff
Not competitive stuff, I’m better than you stuff, what’d you get stuff
Water, sun, dirt and flowers
The problem is the solution

Take it easy
The garden is infinite
Take it easy
with the Don’t touch that!
with the That is the wrong way to do it!
with the No you can’t no you can’t
The garden is abundance
Take it easy
Its a good place to learn how to take and give
Pick apples and plow in manure
Its a good place to learn to be thankful
Eat carrots pulled out of the earth
Its a good place to sit around with your friends after working hard
Drinking a cup of yerba buena mint tea
Fresh plucked leaves
Drinking a cup of lemon verbena tea
Fresh plucked leaves
Drinking a cup of lemon aid, squeezed fresh from the lemon tree
Students planted five, ten, fifteen years ago
You are in the garden
It is paradise
The garden is infinite
Partake of the bounty
Take it easy

Know your material
Take classes
Talk to grandmas and grandpas
Walk mountains, ford rivers, paddle streams
Know your material
Your material is plants and cultivation
Work in the community garden
Work in the greenhouse
Work in the nursery
Work in the woods
Know your material
Your material is plants and their uses
Go to the markets
Go to the kitchen
Go to the paddock
Go to the reservations
Go to the slaughterhouse
Go to the butchers shop
Go to the farms
Go to the forests
Go to the wetlands
Go to the desert
And stay there for forty days
Know your material
There are plants everywhere
There is nothing worse than
A garden teacher, a garden director, a garden administrator

Who does not know anything
About growing plants, loving plants
A garden teacher with a BA or a MA or a MS or a PhD
Maybe has multiple licenses and permits and certifications
Maybe has worked and traveled all over all over the whole wide world
But has never
Grown a plant
Funny and really sad at the same time
Botany majors, biology majors, landscape architects
Hundreds of thousands of dollars of hours of education
Never grown a plant
Then they become a garden teacher
They think aha such an easy gig
And make the kids sit in chairs
While they lecture for forty five minutes
Last five minutes of garden class
Paperwork – label the parts of a flower with the correct spelling
No I am not joking, seen this sort of behavior too too too many times
The worse part is the arrogance and close mindedness
That comes from a formal rigid expensive education
I’m right, you’re wrong
I’m smart, you’re dumb
I know, you don’t know
The kids can sense it
The kids can feel it
The kids know that your heart
Is not
In it
You phony and selfish
Not real and generous
The kids wonder
Was the old dude ever a little kid? What happened to him?
Why does this young lady keep talking and talking instead of working
With us with us together
In the garden?
Don’t let this be the fate of your school garden
Be a good teacher
Be hands on, not hands off
Be hands on, not only-brain on
Know your material

Take the bull by the horns
You know that the garden is low priority right?
Reading writing arithmetic
Social studies language and science
Teachers got tons of standards to cover
Teachers got exams to prep for
Teachers got tons to do
There is never enough time
For gardening
The parents
The parents are busy too
Back and forth, lesson to lesson, activity to activity
Bus stop waiting, car sitting in traffic, flat tire and family emergencies
PTA, sports leagues and bake sales, field trips and school auctions
And the principal? Good luck
So if you want a garden program for the students for the kids
You got to
Take the bull by the horns
Nobody else is going to do it
You got to
Commit and charge!!!
Take the bull by the horns
It is worth it
The garden is worth it
All the sweat all the achy muscles and backs all the dirty fingernails all the scraped knees
It is worth it
The kids will learn things from nature
That they will not learn anywhere else
The kids will learn things in the garden
That will last all their days
Nature is joy in action
Nature is a reflection of the human soul human psyche human mind
Nature is beauty

Nature is authenticity
Nature is true
Valuable valuable valuable lessons for kids to learn when they are young
Take the bull by the horns

Okay thats it!
  Enjoy your garden!
The pics:

sphinx moth larva.jpg

Well thats a good lil package
A lesson about lifecycle and bauplan
Mandibles and proboscis
Theres always the human overlay and stories
Associated with transformation and metamorphosis


Have you ever eaten sunflower seeds right off the flower head?
This one of those activities that take some planning
In the spring you plant the sunflower seeds with the kids
Then all summer long
When nobody is around at school
You gotta make sure
They are watered and cared for
Because when kids return to school in August September
That is the brightest thing in the garden
Crack goes the shell


Plant flowers
No reason
No reason
Plant flowers
All day long
At recess
At lunchtime
And after school too

bench 2011 sept.JPG

Mix up some mortar like cake mix
Plop it on
Lay a brick
Cut some lawson’s cypress
With a hand saw
Everyone gets a chance to cut
On the pull or on the push
Then hammer and bolt it all together
One day you can build houses
One day you can build bridges
To stay warm and dry
To cross the waters
And make peace between lands
Separated by seas

upper nov 2010.jpg

Not every garden needs a pond
Water features got pumps and filters and cables and pipes
Water breeds algae and mosquitos and is a drowning hazard
Water features are high maintenance
Still, with proper care
A pond is a lot of fun a lot of education
This pond started with a 2G rock foundation
And a six person volunteer group from Salesforce
The rest is a liner and many many sacks of concrete
A few tons
Wheelbarrowed and hauled and mixed and poured and formed
100% kids with a little guidance
Good project

alvarado trees1.jpeg

The trees
Gotta go meet and greet them
Good creatures to know
The trees
Theres a lot of different kinds and species
So I drew some maps
For the kids, for the adults
So that they could go say hi
To the trees
Walkabout walkabout walkabout
Dream of trees dream of forests dream of elegant dappled cathedrals
Of trees