If You Build It, They Will Play

Evergreen's new Woodland Playscape has been a daydream of ours for a number of years and we are so thrilled have finally made it happen.  HUGE thanks to a grant from Lowe's, their helpful staff and the parent/grandparent support that made it all happen. 

The goals of the "Woodland Playscape" are to:

  • Increase student time in nature during every school day.
  • Increase student access to core and deep-muscle stimulating activities (hanging, balancing, lifting, moving, jumping) during every school day.
  • facilitate both of these activities in a landscape that encourages imagination and play while deepening our students relationship and connection to the natural word.
This was our "working map", used to gather ideas from kindergarten and first grade teachers, administrators and our environmental education coordinator.

This was our "working map", used to gather ideas from kindergarten and first grade teachers, administrators and our environmental education coordinator.

These folks from Lowe's on Tunnel Road in Asheville made the in-store purchasing experience go smoothly. They ensured we had what we needed and were loaded safely, ready to go.

These folks from Lowe's on Tunnel Road in Asheville made the in-store purchasing experience go smoothly. They ensured we had what we needed and were loaded safely, ready to go.

This is the kind of project that highlights how special the Evergreen community is.  We had 20+ parent and community volunteers show up to help install the playscape on a recent Saturday.  With so many folks, tools and great attitudes we accomplished more than imagined and left by 2:00 p.m. with a playscape ready to be enjoyed by our students the following week.

Evergreen parents and friends gathered and worked hard to build the space.  

Evergreen parents and friends gathered and worked hard to build the space.  

Before....

After...

If you build it, they will play!

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    Cooking with Love at the Edible Schoolyard Project

    Every item in the ESY kitchen classroom is intentional. The space exudes love, beauty and acceptance.  Anyone who enters immediately feels a sense of belonging. 

    Every item in the ESY kitchen classroom is intentional. The space exudes love, beauty and acceptance.  Anyone who enters immediately feels a sense of belonging. 

    When an environment is beautiful it invites beauty. This is a real phenomena. We experienced it.

    As Academy Participants at ESY, we were invited into the beauty of the kitchen classroom and all of the magic it has to offer.  Unlike the garden, this space is orderly.  Everything has its place and there is a system for using and caring for everything in it, including each other and yourself. There are no curvy walkways to get lost in, or hidden spaces to explore.  Yet, the space invites the same sense of adventure and creativity as the wildness of the ESY garden.

    We experienced how the thoughtful organization of the ESY kitchen creates safety and structure, requiring students to practice mindfulness and self-regulation in order to participate in the rituals and learning opportunities being offered.

    Kitchen tools are well labeled and systems for using and caring for the space make sense.  

    Kitchen tools are well labeled and systems for using and caring for the space make sense.  

    In this space, students learn about people and cultures from around the world.  They learn about history, mechanical innovations, and geography.  They learn math, science, language, and health.  

     

    Molly, ESY Chef Teacher, walks us through the Silk Road class series, a 6th grade humanities lesson.

    Molly, ESY Chef Teacher, walks us through the Silk Road class series, a 6th grade humanities lesson.

    All handouts, posters, recipes and instructions are written by hand - creating an aesthetic that is beautiful to look at, and draws the participant in, as it is a deviation from the text-type print of the screens and devices we are so often plugged into. 

    All handouts, posters, recipes and instructions are written by hand - creating an aesthetic that is beautiful to look at, and draws the participant in, as it is a deviation from the text-type print of the screens and devices we are so often plugged into. 

    ALL of this amazing academic stuff happens AND, most importantly, in this space students feel seen and heard.  The kitchen culture is essential to the success of the ESY kitchen classroom experience.  How students feel when they are in the kitchen is as important as the academic standards they are learning there. ESY kitchen teachers create the love-infused kitchen culture by ensuring every piece of curriculum they create meets academic standards, as well as the cultural and equity goals intended by the lesson.

    In the ESY kitchen classroom, students learn to participate in the important ritual of feeding themselves and their community healthy, nurturing foods. They use real tools, like sharp knives and hot stoves, to produce real food, like vegetable fried rice and polenta with pepper and tomato sauce, that require them to practice really important every day, life skills like communication, collaboration, planning, and resourcefulness.   In this space all students feel like their contributions matter.

    Step 1: The ingredients

    Step 1: The ingredients

    Step 2: Students work together to prepare the vegetables for the recipe.  

    Step 2: Students work together to prepare the vegetables for the recipe.  

    Step 3: Students work together to cook the recipe. 

    Step 3: Students work together to cook the recipe. 

    Step 4: While some students cook, others prepare the table.  When the food is ready, everyone sits and eats together.  Chef Teachers take time to facilitate reflection and conversation while they eat.  Then, everyone works together to clean up.

    Step 4: While some students cook, others prepare the table.  When the food is ready, everyone sits and eats together.  Chef Teachers take time to facilitate reflection and conversation while they eat.  Then, everyone works together to clean up.

    I came to the ESY Academy quite sure that edible education can and should be an integral part of every child's experience, but I am now absolutely convinced.  Edible Education has the potential to breathe heart and soul into our schools and to change all of our lives in amazing and powerful ways.  

    As Fund For Teachers Fellows, Carrie and I have committed to applying what we have learned this summer, through practice and process.  Time and again, we looked at one another with excitement and clarity--implementing Edible Education practices at Evergreen will not be hard to do.  We are already doing so much of this good work. What we have taken away from the ESY Academy is the inspiration and encouragement to dig deeper and cultivate more of it, more often, in academic and social lives of this community.  

    Together, all things are possible.

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    The Edible Schoolyard Experience: Catching hold of what matters most.

    We have arrived and we have begun the process of settling, orienting, and exploring this place.  The garden here at Martin Luther King Middle school is captivating.  It winds and turns this way and that, with rows of vegetables interspersed with fruiting trees, dripping apricots, lemons, and mulberries.  Chickens and ducks eat their fill and laze around, while hummingbirds flit through the branches of the olive trees and the resident cat leaves paw prints on the glass top of the greenhouse.  It is a magical, whimsical, grounding place of discovery and connection.  An invitation lies around every corner and in every nook and cranny.

    The learning cycle at the Edible Schoolyard. 

    The learning cycle at the Edible Schoolyard. 

    We spent our first full day of learning, alongside the other "Leeks" in our cohort, in the garden.  The Leeks are a group of 30 educators, administrators, and program coordinators from the southeast (Alabama, Louisiana, North Carlina, Georgia), New York City, and Washington state.  We come to this place for different reasons, but with similar intentions- to dig ourselves deeper into the Edible Education movement and to learn how to harness our energies to be agents of positive change, through food and garden education, in our schools and communities.  

     

    The 4 "B's" 

    The 4 "B's" 

    The lessons in the garden today were inspiring in both structure and function.  We propagated ground cherries, turned compost, harvested, turned beds, learned about the evolution of corn, explored simple machines that ancient Egyptians used to build pyramids, made garden-fresh lettuce tacos, studies bees...and so much more.  

     

    Using a botanical drawing exercise, we studied the connection between structure and function.

    Using a botanical drawing exercise, we studied the connection between structure and function.

    Honeybees teach us about sustainability, community, biodiversity and symbiosis in the garden. 

    Honeybees teach us about sustainability, community, biodiversity and symbiosis in the garden. 

    Cooking in the outdoor kitchen is its own special ritual here at the Edible Schoolyard.  Food is a "hook" that works for just about every kid (and adult!) 

    Cooking in the outdoor kitchen is its own special ritual here at the Edible Schoolyard.  Food is a "hook" that works for just about every kid (and adult!) 

    Physics, engineering, team building...a lesson in the garden to explore how simple machines can do big work.

    Physics, engineering, team building...a lesson in the garden to explore how simple machines can do big work.

    One of the most important lessons for me today came from the opportunity to reflect on this question:  "Where am I priveledged to serve?"   

    And, in this place, what is the soil like?....the water?...the air?...who are the guardians of this place (the mountains)?...and who are the first people that lived there?

    We were reminded to pay attention.  And then, ask ourselves, How do I tend this place?  

    What principles guide us?  Orienting ourselves to our principles, we were urged to catch hold.  Catch hold of what matters most.  Good food helps us remember who we are.  Good food helps us connect to people and other beings of and beyond this earth, living and non living.  Good food makes our bodies strong and our minds bright.  Every child, every person, deserves the opportunity to know, understand and have access to good food.

    It's a lot to take in.  A lot to consider.  

    Here we go. 

     

     

     

    ESY's Practices for Engaging Students in Edible Education. 

    ESY's Practices for Engaging Students in Edible Education. 


     

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    Evergreen's Young(est) Explorers

    Last week I handed our kindergarteners our new terrestrial invertebrate "shake boxes" and headed to the woods.  These tools of science are part of Evergreen's new on-campus field studies initiative, to establish ongoing ecosystem monitoring right outside our classroom doors.  

     

    Kindergarteners learn to sift leaf litter in our shake boxes and look for terrestrial invertebrates. 

    Kindergarteners learn to sift leaf litter in our shake boxes and look for terrestrial invertebrates. 

    With funding from a Burroughs-Wellcome PRISM award and the National Environmental Education Fund (NEEF) we have been able to establish a number of ongoing monitoring sites on our campus.  In addition to looking at the presence and diversity of terrestrial invertebrates, our students will be monitoring the weather, terrestrial and aquatic salamanders, bird nest boxes, and atmospheric ozone levels.  

     

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    image.jpg

    The process of data collection, entry and analysis is reserved for our middle school kids, but I decided to see what would happen if I introduced the equipment to our youngest explorers.  As you can see, they are ready.  Putting the shake boxes in their hands encouraged their natural sense of curiosity and their excitement about the experience was palpable.

    This experience reminds me that at the heart of scientific inquiry is a sense of wonder about the world around us.  May we all remember to pause and take time to see the world through the eyes of a kindergartener.  

     

     “A child’s world is fresh and new and beautiful, full of wonder and excitement... If I had influence with the good fairy who is supposed to preside over the christening of all children, I should ask that her gift to each child in the world be a sense of wonder so indestructible that it would last throughout life, as an unfailing antidote against the boredom and disenchantment of later year…the alienation from the sources of our strength.”

    Rachel Carson, A Sense of Wonder

     

     

    Can a Group of 7th Graders Save the World?

     

    Blog post from Jason Carter, Evergreen Middle School Science Teacher

    March 29, 2016

     

    Last Thursday I led my first mock world climate summit based on the model created by the nonprofit Climate Interactive. The participants, instead of the usual groups of college students or business leaders who are involved in this workshop, were my 7th grade science students. For the past 12 weeks, each student has become an expert in a particular country. Through their social studies and language arts classes, they learned about the government, economy, culture, and rights of the people for these nations. In science, they have been focused on air quality issues and how climate change is affecting their countries and being addressed.

     

    To culminate this large, interdisciplinary unit, I asked my co-teachers to try taking on this summit. They heartily agreed and took on roles to fully enhance the experience. We all became participants right along with the students rather than lecturers or experts dispensing information to them. All of the teachers met early Thursday morning to set up the room. The United States (represented by the social studies teacher and a parent of a 7th grader with a background in climate science), had the prime seats at the front of the room. Their table was decorated and full of drinks and snacks as well. The European Union also had a well-decorated table to sit at and cushions to make them more comfortable. The other developed nations had a table with chairs. China, India, and several of its neighbors were given chairs but no tables and seated behind the

     

    tables. The developing nations (represented by 16 of the 52 students), were given one picnic blanket to sit at on the floor.

     

    I asked six students to be ready to give a two minute opening address for their region of the world, highlighting issues and successes around climate change. They were given the floor to speak first and really set the tone for the rest of the summit. They were poised, prepared, and well-spoken. For a few minutes, I forgot that they were only 13 years old! Students were then instructed on the goal of the summit - to limit temperature change for the planet to less than two degrees Celsius by the the year 2100. They would be making the following pledges: the year their region would stop increasing the amount of carbon dioxide being released into the atmosphere, the year the region would begin reducing emissions, the percentage of decrease per year, commitments to reducing deforestation and increasing afforestation, and money that would go to a world fund to help countries in need to financially support these pledges. While negotiating was underway, three other teachers took on roles to help make the process more realistic. One was a fossil fuel lobbyist, bribing students with chips and candy to pledge low. Another was a climate activist whose bribes consisted of fresh fruits and vegetables. She appealed to the students’ hearts and sense of decency to “do the right thing” for the planet. A third was a journalist, asking students reflective questions through the lens of an interview.

     

     

    I had much trepidation as a teacher going into this summit. Would 7th graders take it seriously? Would they represent their country in the process in a realistic and appropriate way? Would they get out of this process what their teachers hoped they would? Well, I had nothing to worry about. From the opening statements to the final debrief, these students demonstrated a strong balance of concern and realism in their approach to these issues. All of the students dressed up for the summit, and they each brought all of their research on their countries. I noticed them referencing it multiple times through the process of the day. They represented their countries very realistically, carefully considering how pledges on emissions or funds would affect their economies and quality of life for the people living in their regions. No one made lofty or unrealistic pledges just to try to meet the goal, but each gave careful consideration as to how best to represent her nation.

     

     

    After the first round of negotiations, we broke for lunch. Students were not instructed to stay in character, but I observed many of them having private lunch meetings to continue to negotiate. We ultimately made it through three rounds of negotiations, and students managed to make pledges that brought the projects down to 2.25 degrees, very close to ultimate goal! The most powerful moment of the summit came at the end when we reflected and I could see what students truly got out of the summit. Here are some of the points these students brought up, letting me know that there is indeed hope for the next generation to continue to solve these complex issues:

     

    • Negotiation is hard. People can easily be corrupted by others.

    • Climate change can be mitigated, but it is going to take all of the world working together, the sooner the better.

    • Though much of the burden of greenhouse gas emissions lies with the US, China, and India now, the developing countries of the world are projected to far exceed them in the next fifty years.

    • Learning happens best when it is interactive and relevant.

    • Climate change is affecting every country in the world, and humans are the major driving force behind it.

    Ultimately, I hope these students are inspired to make a difference, or at least think more critically about how interconnected all parts of the world are in causing but in also potentially mitigating the worst effects of climate change. I know that I have been inspired by them throughout this whole process and found a bright spot in the dark cloud of climate change.

     

     

    March Madness Is In The Air. Is Your Bracket Complete?

    By Jason Carter

    Athleticism, intelligence, teamwork, grace, agility. These words could easily describe the dedicated Bulldog basketball players of UNC-Asheville, now seeded number 15 in the men’s and number 14 in the women’s NCAA championship tournament. They also describe many of the competitors in the March Madness I will be glued to - Mammal March Madness! Now in its fourth year, Mammal March Madness pits species from around the globe against each other in imagined battles to the death (or forfeit) to determine which species will reign supreme.

    Image Courtesy of Mammals Suck . . . Milk Blog

    Image Courtesy of Mammals Suck . . . Milk Blog

    Created four years ago by primatologist Katie Hinde, who also writes the blog Mammals Suck . . . Milk, the competition brings together scientists and the general public to play along with matches between a variety of animals. She, along with three other biologists, design a March Madness bracket of mammals in four divisions. 2016 features mammals of cold climates, mascots, giants, and mammals of the noun (a wordplay in which mammals like the mountain goat can be written as goat of the mountain). Each of the 16 species in a division is seeded, just like a college basketball team. The number one seed plays the number 16, number two fights number 15, and so on. The seeds are determined through thorough research of scientific literature, focusing on each animal’s adaptations and abilities to fight and defend itself.

    Once the bracket is set, the four biologists then give each animal a percent outcome of winning based on their research. For example, number one seed polar bear was given a 99% chance of defeating number 16 seed the lemming. To determine the winner of the battle, a 100-sided die is rolled. For the previously mentioned battle, if a 1-99 is rolled, the polar bear wins; a 100 rolled means success for the lemming. This randomization does allow for upsets, just like in the NCAA March Madness. One of the biggest upsets so far this year occurred when the #13 badger defeated the #4 mountain lion. This ruined many a fan’s bracket.

    Rather than just report the winners, the scientists cleverly live tweet the battles, filling the dialog with facts, photos, humor, video clips, and many pop culture references. Each battle is narrated as if it actually happened, like when the swamp wallaby slammed a volcano rabbit like a rugby ball. Using the hashtag #2016mmm, others join in the trash talk as well. Thousands are following the battles each night, adding their own facts, memes, and video clips to the discussion.

    This year, I have invited my middle school students to participate, filling in brackets and following along as the battles are posted. We update scores, discuss the battles, and follow along to many of the facts and video clips. This has become an engaging tool for students to explore issues of climate change, genetics, and natural selection. According to creator Hinde, “A lot of people think of science as dry and dusty and memorization of a lot of facts. What it really is is one of the most creative things you can do. You have to think and imagine things about the world in order to design the studies we do. This is an opportunity for us to celebrate the imagination of science.”

    As a tool for communicating science, students are engaged in social media in a positive way and see twitter and other platforms as more than just a place for posting selfies. Instead, they witness people of the science community using it to both have fun and learn at the same time. On of my students’ favorite parts of this year’s tournament is an obsession by those following to measure every species in “stoats.” A stoat is a small weasel species found in England, and one of the scientists writing the battles jokingly referred to a volcano rabbit as weighing 2.5 stoats. Now every species is introduced in kilostoats, millistoats, etc.

    Students are also building crucial vocabulary skills, like altricial, sympatric, and ungulate. This tournament is demonstrating how the context of science can be influenced by social media into a dynamic and fun learning tool for communication. Students come in each morning with new information about their favorite species in the tournament or some connection in their own learning to the mammals in the competition. I have overheard numerous debates in the hallway about why the porcupine is so much stronger than an anteater or how it will be possible for the tiny polecat to defeat a mountain goat. In class, we also have meaningful conversations about the anthropocene epoch and the true extent of how humans are affecting these species.

    Currently, the tournament is in round two. More than 25% of the students are doing better than me with their brackets and enjoy letting me know this, teaching me humility while I defend my bracket choices. I am usually one who likes a good underdog, but this year I am sticking to a number one seed going all the way - #TeamPolarBear!

     

     

     

    Carrots & Beets, Beets & Carrots: Evergreen students expand their palates.

    Flavor Day Fridays Food Tasting events are intended to offer all of our students an opportunity to try new food flavors and textures.  Today's event starred two root vegetables, one that most kids love (carrots) and one that is a new or often, begrudged, vegetable (beets). Smothered in olive oil, red wine vinegar, and olive oil, sprinkled with sea salt and rosemary, then roasted...these two become something savory and wonderful.

    Roasted beets and carrots prepared at home by parent volunteers for our "Flavor Day Friday" School Wide Tasting Event

    Roasted beets and carrots prepared at home by parent volunteers for our "Flavor Day Friday" School Wide Tasting Event

    Kids throughout the school tried this roasted root vegetable dish and learned respectful ways of responding to a new food, or one that they think they "don't like".  

    Kindergarten uses the "Thumbs Up, Thumbs Down" protocol to respond to questions about the tasting experience.  

    Kindergarten uses the "Thumbs Up, Thumbs Down" protocol to respond to questions about the tasting experience.  

    We'd like to share a special thank you to the following farmers, businesses and parent  volunteers who actively support edible education at Evergreen. Without their enthusiasm and hard work, we couldn't do what we do as well as we do it!

    Thanks to...

    Matt at Second Spring Market Garden for selling us a whole bunch of amazing carrots with hardly any notice.

    ASAP and the Growing Minds Cooking Stipend grant program for funding this cooking project.

    Mother Earth Produce for donating the beets.

    EarthFare grocery store for  donating tasting cups for our food tasting events.

    Parent Volunteers: Molly Pritchard, Allie Schantz, Rosetta Starshine, and Melanie Derry for preparing the recipe at home.

     

    Why do we do food tasting in school?  ...in case you are wondering, check out this great Op Ed piece from the NY Times about the far reaching positive effects that regular “food tasting” experiences can have in the lives of our students.

     

    Field to Feast: Chop it, Cook it, Wrap it!

    In this trimester's Field to Feast after school club, our theme is Chop it, Cook it, Wrap it!  Students will be learning various chopping and cooking skills and preparing healthy dishes all within the theme of "wraps".  Just think about it...there are SO many things that are fun to eat that are wrapped up: sushi, enchiladas (with made from scratch tortillas, of course), egg rolls, crepes, hand pies, and so much more!

    Field to Feast students chop vegetables for filling our Thai Noodle Lettuce Wraps

    Field to Feast students chop vegetables for filling our Thai Noodle Lettuce Wraps

     

    This week we learned how to cut our vegetables into "matchsticks" to prepare the filling for Thai Noodle Lettuce Wraps.  This takes a lot of knife control and caution and the kiddos did amazingly well. Kids piled their lettuce wraps high with fillings and smothered them with peanut sauce. Delicious!
     

     

    For more information about Evergreen's Field to Feast afterschool clubs, go to the Evergreen Everafter Clubs & Sports webpage.  Remember, Evergreen's afterschool clubs are open to the public!

    Our Campus as a Learning Laboratory: Citizen Science at Evergreen

    The idea of wilderness needs no defense, it only needs defenders
    — Edward Abbey

    How better to engage our hearts and minds to be defenders of our Earth than by becoming intimate and familiar with it?  Citizen Science is the  means for engaging students and community in ongoing scientific monitoring  projects.  Audubon's Annual Bird Count and BioBlitz happenings all over the world may Citizen Science activities you are familiar with.  

    This winter, here at Evergreen, we are working in partnership with park rangers and educators from the Great Smoky Mountain National Park to designate areas in our fields and woods as ongoing study sites for Citizen Science projects.  In the spring, we will launch a number of monitoring activities, teaching students and teachers across the grades how to collect data in our plots. 

    The data we collect will, over time, help us better understand the relationship between organisms and the changing climate.  This is the science of Phenology.  Students will monitor many plants and animals, collect and record data and compare past records to learn  about how organisms in our environment are influenced by seasonal  and climatic changes.  

    Which birds visit our campus? When? Can we find aquatic or terrestrial salamanders near our stream? What types of macro-invertebrates live in our leaf litter?  When do the wildflowers bloom? When do the trees bud experience leaf color change and drop their leaves?  These are all examples of questions that our study plots will help us to explore.

    Stay tuned for more information about Citizen Science activities on our campus and ways that you can participate.

    For more information, contact Marin Leroy, Environmental Education Coordinator

     

    Pies, Pies, and more...Pies!

    Edible Education at Evergreen is a whole new experience now that we have an established classroom kitchen space and an oven. Specifically, the experience is round, crusty, sometimes sweet and sometimes savory... It's all about the PIE in here these days!

    Leif making dough
    Leif making dough

    On our first day together, we explored how flour, butter, salt and water can come together to form the perfect flaky pie crust, or the perfect pasty play dough, depending on a few very important factors.

    On week two we dove into a huge pile of apples, picked just the day before down in Henderson county.  These fresh apple varieties all had different flavors and textures and students blended them together to create their very own perfect apple filling.

    We learned that it takes some special knife skills and a lot of practice to slice, peel, and core apples. But, we worked together and got it done.  And then came the task of learning how to roll our the dough, filling it, cutting it and pinching the edges.  Again, harder than it looks!

    apple pies in oven
    apple pies in oven

    But, here they are!  An oven filled with delicious apple pies ready for baking...a bit imperfect in presentation, perhaps, but not bad for a first try at it.  I was quite proud of these pie makers.  Pie making is tricky business!

    Week three began with a lesson about how to use a food processor to "cheat" and make a homemade pie crust REALLY fast (and delicious).  We made a savory tart crust, with a bit of cornmeal and an egg, rather than milk or water. While the crusts were chilling, I presented the kids with the challenge...we were going to make CSA Pies!  We had just received our CSA box from Terra Preta farms and the challenge was to create pies using just these ingredients.

    the csa spread
    the csa spread

    So, we sauteed and caramelized and roasted to prepare our ingredients: oven roasted eggplant, sweet potato, and zucchini, caramelized onion, garlic sauteed greens, with a sprinkling of cheese of course. And, oh yeah, how about those eggs!  A few kids made quiches.  Look at these beauties!

    CSA Pies
    CSA Pies

    Students gobbled up their pies with a side of salad greens tossed in olive oil and lemon juice.   Afternoon snack doesn't get much better than this.