GAP teachers are excited to be back in the swing of things after being away last month. We are especially thankful for our amazing substitutes, Ariel and Riley, who took such great care of our students in January. This month we’ll be busy with various end-of-winter projects as we prepare to welcome spring.
Last week we cleaned and painted our bee houses in preparation of introducing our mason bees to their new homes in March. This week we dissected flowers from our winter-blooming camellia shrubs to learn about the anatomy of flowers. Students worked in teams to examine, sketch and label the flower’s many parts. They also got to take colorful and vibrant primroses to plant in their home gardens! (Primroses are winter plants, so keeping them outside in the cold is perfectly fine. Once the flowers begin to wither, simply pluck them off to allow new buds to bloom.)
One of the most popular educational games we’ve played recently is Where Does the Food Grow? Students are given a list of vegetables that either grow beneath or above the soil (e.g. peanuts and broccoli), and they must determine which grows where and sketch it as one of their garden drawings.
While snack time is always lots of fun, this week GAP students got an extra special treat. Our neighbor and baker, Tim Healea from Little T Bakery, paid Abernethy a visit and donated yummy bread dough, which we baked and devoured right away. Thank you, Tim! We are working to incorporate new, fun and healthy snacks to our growing GAP snack menu. If you have any suggestions, please pass them along.
Thank you again for supporting GAP.
Dania and Julie
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As we get ready for winter break, we wanted to extend an extra thank you for helping make our after-school program so special. Community is a theme we emphasize throughout the school year, and your continued support helps keep our GAP community strong.
Please note: Julie will be away for much of January, and Dania will be gone January 16-25, but we will have two wonderful substitutes, Ariel and Riley, who many of you have already met. We will make sure that our subs are fully prepared to provide GAP students with the best care and attention. If you have any questions regarding our short absences, or anything else, please don’t hesitate to contact us.
Julie has (finally) learned how to use Instagram, and she’ll be posting photos over the break! So, if you begin to have GAP withdrawal, you can check in and reminisce on the year so far.
We wish you all a safe and happy holiday season!
Dania, Julie, Caitlin and Allyson
Hello GAP families!
We hope everyone is enjoying the holiday season so far.
Between the rainy weather and the Thanksgiving break, the Garden of Wonders has been somewhat quiet, however, our classroom kitchen has been busy and smelling oh so good! Julie has been doing an amazing job roasting hearty winter vegetables and baking delicious treats such as cookies and pumpkin seeds. Needless to say, snack time has been a huge hit, as have our fun indoor activities.
We took a temporary break from our Daily Outdoor Observations (see last blog post) for a couple of weeks to allow more time for holiday-related festivities. We made colorful Thanksgiving turkeys from popsicle sticks and beautiful flower petals. We also made holiday wreaths with fragrant rosemary from our vegetable garden.
The next few weeks will be filled with more garden-inspired activities, nature journaling and, of course, spending as much time outside as possible as we prepare our garden for the cold winter season. Please let us know if you have any questions — now or in the future.
And finally, some housekeeping.
Our kitchen garden, located just outside the school cafeteria, is in need of minor repairs, including reinforcing some of the garden beds. If you are able to help, please contact Julie and she’ll gladly put you to work!
Also, please remind your children that toys from home are not allowed at GAP — especially Pokémon cards! In order to keep the peace in our classroom, we will not allow any students to play with their own personal toys during free time. GAP provides plenty of activities and games for everyone to enjoy. We would greatly appreciate your continued support with this.
Thank you for supporting GAP!
Dania and Julie
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The Garden Afterschool Program (GAP) blog is back in action! First, a bit of housekeeping. Please remember to send your kid/s to school with appropriate clothing for the colder and wetter days ahead. Extra clothes, layers, and, of course, rainproof gear are all highly encouraged. Also, safety is our highest priority, so please let us know if your child is going to miss GAP on a specific day, or if you need to make future enrollment changes.
Now let’s get down to the good stuff — the fun and learning that’s happening at GAP!
Each afternoon kicks off with a healthy, delicious snack. Not only do we harvest food from our own vegetable garden to eat, but everyone also gets a chance to help prep and cook. It’s a hands-on experience! After snack, each of us is responsible for washing and putting away our own dishes. (YOU’RE WELCOME!) After our classroom is nice and clean, it’s time for some outdoor fun.
We spend about 30 minutes at recess (rain or shine); less if it’s a heavy downpour. Then we gather to do a Daily Outdoor Observation (DOO), where students spend 15-30 minutes observing and studying different life forms in the vegetable garden. This can include noticing the changes in the leaves as the weather gets colder; the changes that occur as plants grow and mature; and the different types of critters that visit our garden each day. Student are asked to draw or write their observations in a personal nature journal.
We then spend another 15-30 minutes working in and around the school’s multiple garden areas. This is when children really get their hands dirty and become fully engaged in the wonderful art of gardening. This week we raked leaves for our compost, planted winter crops, and removed weeds from each garden area. Each week brings a new set of projects to complete. The kids make a huge contribution to the beautification of Abernethy’s gardens!
We have lots of indoor activities planned to keep everyone engaged this fall, along with as much outdoor play time as the weather will allow.
We hope that your child will continue to learn, grow, and have fun with our little community of gardeners this school year! Please let us now if you have any questions — now or in the future.
Thank you for supporting GAP!
Dania and Julie
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Dear Friends and Families of Abernethy’s Garden Afterschool Program!
Welcome back! We are excited to see everyone, get back into the groove of things and start the year off on a good foot!
Our themes for this quarter focus on building community and understanding the importance of winter. Some of the fun activities we have planned include: Pickling vegetables, making bird feeders, mapping out our garden spaces for the coming months, and celebrating our garden communities!
We are so excited to see what creative and brilliant things your students will contribute :-)
Also, it is an unseasonably cold winter and we’d like to remind you to to help prepare your students with warm clothes each day. Hats, gloves, jackets, rainproof gear and extra clothes are encouraged (if you need help getting these items, please feel free to e-mail us). We’d like to be outside as much as possible, but safety is always our highest priority!
Thank you very much for your continued support of our program!
-Ellen, Arielle, Linda
Dear Family and Friends of Abernethy Garden Afterschool Program,
As the seasons are changing and we’ve settled into the rhythm of the new school year, we wanted to reach out to parents and let you know what we’ve been up to!
We’ve been having lots of fun prepping our ‘Kitchen Garden’ for the winter! This is the garden space behind the school cafeteria in between the brick walls. We’ve planted cover crops, moved in a few new garden beds and are keeping a close eye on our carrots that (may or may not) grow. The students have also had a blast tending to our new worm bin! Who knew worms could be so much fun? We’ve also been enjoying the colorful autumn leaves by raking, collecting, and using them for crafts -- what a special time of year!
In the coming months we have many activities planned, including making rain gauges, birdseed ornaments, natural dyes and tiger’s eyes. Don’t worry about the weather, a lot of these activities can be done inside!
Some reminders to make sure your students are prepared for each day of GAP:
-We’d love to be outside as much as possible throughout the next couple of months, it is important that your student has proper rain gear and warm clothes (perhaps also a change of clothes) so we can enjoy ourselves as much as possible. Of course if the weather is too bad, we’ll be inside engaged in cooking, crafts and group activities.
-Also a reminder during pick-up to please grab your students’ backpacks from the hallway before signing them out. This allows our instructors to stay engaged with the students instead of pulling away to let parents in the building. We will always strive to be in the classroom by 5pm each day. If there are any questions or concerns about pick-up that day, please text or call Ellen at (828) 329-6589.
We’re excited for the rest of the school year and happy that everyone is enjoying themselves.
Thanks for all your support!
-Ellen, Arielle, Linda
Dear GAP Families,
Week two was short, sweet and full of outdoor exploration and activities. From the Garden of Wonders, we harvested beans to save for next year, pulled mint, and learned about how our snack scraps and garden debris can be added to the compost.
The Garden Specialist for Abernethy, Julie Welch, offered GAP the beds outside of the cafeteria as she is utilizing the Garden of Wonders for her students for the time being. In these beds, we’ve been weeding and digging and are already seeing the green sprouts of the cover-crop we planted last week. Because we’ve had new students to the program almost each day, we’ve spent time reviewing ground-rules for safety and fun outdoor play.
Next week, our theme will be soil. Stay tuned for experiments on absorption and dispersion and a more expansive soil test. If your students have any books they’d like to share, we welcome them.
-We are active and outside. We want to encourage all students to bring their own water bottle to curb waste and keep them hydrated.
-If you haven’t turned in your GAP Behavior and Incident Policy form please do so.
We are so enjoying getting to know each of your students and rhythm of the school day.
Arielle, Ellen & Millicent
Dear GAP Families and Friends,
This year we are excited to be a part of your student's after school life. It is our hope to provide a space of exploration, creativity, and curiosity with the garden and natural spaces as our backdrop. This year you can expect us to dig deep into natural cycles from the seasons to seeds and from soil to the air around us. We'll leave no stone unturned (literally). We'll be getting our hands dirty, tantalizing our taste buds with recipes reflective of the season, and creating art inspired by the colors and sounds around us. Please know that we are respecting PPS's suggestion to not eat the food from gardens and will be using this topic to test soil, to understand that plants can help to clean soil, and that toxic soil is a global issue that affects everyone. If you ever have questions about what we are doing, please feel free to check-in. We will also be leaving a "Today We..." outside of the classroom door that will give you a few bullet points with insights to our day so that you have some talking points in the car, on your walk, or around the dinner table.
This week and next week we are working toward building our community, encouraging compassion, safety, and getting to know so many new faces (ours included) from all grade levels. Your student might tell you about "Ollyollyoxenfree" which is our attention-getter or they might share some of the guidelines we have worked to come up with together. This week we have also been reading stories, building fairy houses, and starting seeds. We are looking forward to getting to know our students better and building trust with both them and you. We are so thankful for the privilege of working with your students and encourage you to communicate with us about how you are incorporating the natural world into your home life so that we can bridge the larger garden community of the neighborhood together as well.
Thank you for transitioning into this new school year with us!
Millicent Zimdars, Ellen Payne, & Arielle Solomon
Spring continues to fly by in Garden class...we're soaking up as much fun and learning as we can before we part ways for the summer!
Week 6 we took a closer look at the importance and process of pollination, discovering more about who our local pollinators are. We played a hands on pollination game to explore how bees communicate and work together to support their communities. We also celebrated Cinco de Mayo in class with a batch of "Agua de Jamaica," which is a type of juice or infusion made from Hibiscus flowers, enjoyed in Mexico and areas of the Caribbean. We added in honey, to celebrate both aspects of pollination!
Week 7 our class focused on service learning projects in the garden, such as planting, weeding, and harvesting the abundance. We also began a larger project: building Mason bee houses for our backyards and school garden. Students started with a plain block of Fir, and worked hard to create functional and beautiful bee houses. Mason bees are a vital part of our local pollinator community, and as solitary bees are very gentle and non-territorial, making them the perfect pollinator to invite into our home gardens.
More info about Mason bees and caring for Mason bee houses can be found at the links below:
Week 8 we began a new, two-week project of creating our very own GAP cookbooks to take home and share with our families. Over the past year together, students have created a number of delicious recipes in class utilizing fresh, seasonal produce. Some of our class favorites, such as pea pesto and garden pickles will make this cookbook really special.
One last note - a quick reminder to GAP families: we will be having a short but sweet potluck on Wednesday, June 8th from 5-6pm. Students will be showcasing some homegrown and homemade garden snacks, and sharing some experiences from their time in GAP. Please join us!
Hello GAP families!
Happy May to everyone...I can't believe how fast Spring term is flying by. The past three weeks have been filled with hands on learning around indigenous foods, crafts, and storytelling, Earth Day celebrations, and an exploration of insects in the garden.
During week 3 we learned about some of the Native American tribes of the Pacific Northwest through traditional stories and myths, following characters such as Raven, Coyote, and Bear. We harvested and brewed Douglas Fir and Spruce tip tea, a traditional recipe that provided local peoples with vitamin C before citrus was introduced to the Americas. We closed our week together by cooking bannock bread (a sort of cross between a pancake and a scone) with local huckleberries.
Week 4 was possibly the most beautiful week of weather we've had yet this year, and in GAP we took full advantage of being outside as much as possible. Students created giant bubbles, and made fresh strawberry ice cream from scratch. We also talked about the meaning of Earth Day, and how each of us helps care for our whole community, including nature, animals--and our families and friends. On Earth Day we created a large poster that collected all of the ways we help take care of the earth, and hung it in the gazebo to help inspire the Abernethy community.
Week 5 began our exploration of the small but hugely important world of insects and pollinators! Students observed and sketched live ladybugs before releasing them in the garden to help keep harmful insects in check as the weather gets warmer. Students also created their own hypotheses about where the most insect life can be found on the grounds, and then investigated and took inventory of how many and what types of insects they found in each place. Hot spots of diversity included areas such as the compost bins, the herb garden, and some of the flowering trees.
This week we will be learning about the importance of pollinator populations and how they can help us support healthy ecosystems and local food.
One last bit of news: With only 6 more weeks before summer break, we are starting to plan a small end of the year celebration for GAP students and their families. We are looking at Wednesday June 8th from 5-6pm (the last day of school is Thursday June 9th). We hope you can join us for some delicious snacks and fun activities that let students share what they've done this year in GAP!
All the best,