Chickens in the School Garden 2016


As you have probably heard, the chickens are here!  After 22 days in the incubator the big day had finally arrived. When we entered the classroom in the morning there were two beautiful black chicks in our incubator. Their feathers were already fluffed up. They probably hatched late at night.  The next arrival came at about 9am and another one at recess.


The class had been very worried because on day 14 the incubator was left open while the class went to the Zoo. This left the eggs without heat for more than 6 hours.  After candling the eggs it was only clear that the ducks eggs were still alive.   Ducks swim in their shells and move around during candling. Day 21 came and went without any chicks hatching. Finally the first little hole appeared and we could hear the chicks chirp in their eggs. We sang to the eggs and they started rolling in response. At this stage it is very tempting to help the chicks hatch. However any interference is usually fatal. It took all of our restrained not to open the incubator. After 2 days of struggling they all made it safely. Welcome to the Blue Planet little guys!


Now it is time to observe chick behavior. Our chicks cry for us when they are left alone.  They seem to like music and are very curious.  Chicks are not supposed to eat or drink in their first 24 hours after hatching.  Apparently our little guys didn’t get that memo.  They started pecking on their feed right away.

Presumably half of our chicks will be roosters.  If you or anybody you know is looking for a hand raised rooster, we might have two for you to choose from. Stay tuned for updates!



bean tunnel

Growing and Cooking Fava Beans

On Friday, the third grade (Room 14th) made a fantastic Fava Bean and Pancetta Bruschetta with the Fava Beans that they grew and harvested themselves. Everyone took turns and had a hand in each aspect of preparation. They were all eager to participate and excited to try the final result, especially once the pancetta and garlic started cooking! The fragrance wafted through the yard bringing more than one curious (and hungry) onlooker out to see what was going on.

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Once the treat was finished, they invited the other two 3rd grade classrooms to come out and share the deliciousness. It was a huge success, as there were many requests for seconds and declarations of the “best thing ever!” Ask your child how they liked it.

The recipe is below:

Fava Bean and Pancetta

Makes 4 servings

4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
4 ounces pancetta or unsmoked bacon, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 cups shelled and peeled fresh fava beans
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
8 slices country bread, toasted
4 ounces pecorino cheese, shaved or grated (optional)

1. Heat half the olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add the pancetta and garlic and sauté until fragrant, about 5 minutes.
2. Add the favas, season with the salt and pepper, and cook until the beans are tender, 6 to 8 minutes.
3. Meanwhile, drizzle the remaining olive oil over the bread slices and toast in a 450°F oven for 5 to 6 minutes.
4. With the back of a fork, mash the beans in the pan until the mixture is chunky.
5. Spread the beans on the toasts and top with the pecorino, if desired.


Saving the Monarchs

Unless someone like you, cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better, it’s not!

~The Lorax


Did you know that many years ago the migration of the monarch butterfly went right through our own schoolyard? In the beginning of summer the beautiful butterflies would swoop over the top of Mount Washington Elementary School and then make their way over the Sierras on their journey North.

Room 6 has been very busy wondering what happened.  Where are they? Are they using a different route?  Are they still migrating?  What has changed? A lot of big questions for first graders.

What a great subject to explore! Project based learning is a dynamic learning approach that  connects different subject areas with real-life applications.  Bringing the monarch butterfly back in the process?  All the better.

The kids have conducted research and come up with an hypothesis. There is no milkweed on our yard.  Monarch butterflies lay their eggs on milkweed and drink the nectar from milkweed flowers.


There is nothing  first graders can’t do when they put their minds to it.  While the class was closing their eyes, visualizing the return of the monarch, incredibly, a real life monarch came fluttering by.  Coincidence?  The class didn’t think so.

Milkweed plants cost money and the children needed to find a way to raise funds fast.  An opportunity presented itself during the annual Wolf Pack Run fundraiser. The class decided to create a lemonade stand.  Considering the customers at the event it morphed into a coffee and lemonade stand.  The children also decided on quiche, eggs, fruit, and other baked goods.  Out came the cash register and room 6 made brisk business.

$ 304.65 later it was time to plant. The garden committee and the kids planted a butterfly garden right in front of the school.  First the kids had to weed the area and clean up. Digging holes turned out to be much harder than anticipated, but with the help of our Mount Washington garden committee the job got done. The kids even created and placed “Butterfly Crossing Signs” throughout the freshly planted yard.


With the milkweed in place it is now time to wait and see.  Will the monarch return? Will the hypothesis turn out correct?  As we conduct research and collect data, room 6 is getting ready for another round in the scientific process.  Stay tuned for updates!


Feeding the worms

When feeding worms, it is important to remember a few key tips:

1. The smaller the better. Smaller pieces of food will break down faster, thus speeding up the composting process. Chopping large chunks of food to feed worms is recommended but not necessary. You can puree, freeze, or microwave food scraps before adding them to your worm composter to help break down material. Make sure that food has returned to room temperature before adding it to your worm bin.

You can chop your worm’s food to speed up the composting process
You can chop your worm’s food to speed up the composting process. You can also freeze the food to speed up the process and to avoid vinegar flies (fruit flies).

2. The frequency and volume that you feed worms will depend on you and your family. You can add new food to the feeding tray at any time. Worms can eat up to half their weight in food per day in a fully established, well managed vermicomposter. Make sure that worms are actively engaged in eating the food you added most recently in the top feeding tray before adding more food. If they are not, this is a sign of overfeeding. On average, most people can fill a tray in about one month. It may take shorter or longer than that depending on how much kitchen waste you generate.

Make sure your worms are engaged with the last food you added before adding more. (Image courtesy of Albert Tansey, New Hampshire)

Make sure your worms are engaged with the last food you added before adding more.
(Image courtesy of Albert Tansey, New Hampshire)

What to feed worms in a worm bin:


When you feed worms always try to add equal portions of greens and browns!

Greens: Vegetable and fruit scraps, bread, pasta, coffee grounds and filters, teabags, dead plant matter from houseplants

Browns: Paper, junk mail, paper egg cartons, cardboard, dry leaves

All organic material will break down, some faster than others; however, there are some suggested foods to avoid:

Salty foods, citrus, spicy foods, oils (like those found in salad dressing), prepackaged foods with preservatives, meat and dairy products because they attract flies and can cause the vermicomposter to smell.

The Difference between BROWNS and GREENS as compost ingredients

This is a popular question among many first composters or organic gardeners. Regardless of the name, “Browns” and “Greens” are not differences in physical color. It is more technical than that. These terms are functions of the C:N (Carbon to Nitrogen) ratios in all once living creatures, plant or animal.

Browns and greens are nicknames for different types of organic matter to use in composting.

Browns to feed worms in a worm bin

Browns to feed worms in a worm bin

Greens to feed worms in a worm bin

Greens to feed worms in a worm bin

Browns are high in carbon or carbohydrates, thus they are organic carbon sources. These foods supply the energy that most soil organisms need to survive. Carbons also help absorb the offensive odors and capture and help prevent most of the organic nitrogen in the piles from escaping by evaporation or leaching. Carbons are also essential in the faster formation of humus from the organic matter in a composting process.

Greens are high in nitrogen or protein, thus organic nitrogen sources. These products help the composting microherd to grow, breed, and multiply fast in the piles, thus creating extreme internal temperatures in hot compost piles.

A simple test to determine if your organic matter is a “green” or a “brown”, is to wet it, and wait a few days. If it stinks, it is definitely a green. If not, it’s a brown.


Article is a repost from Nature’s Footprint.


Our adventure with the worms was great fun. Those who were a little dubious about touching them overcame that by the end of our session.