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Imagine A World…

“Imagine a world, in which all children grow up with a deep understanding of the  life all around them.  Where obesity is reduced through nature play. Where anti-depressants and pharmaceuticals are prescribed less and nature prescribed  more.  Where every school has a  natural play space. Where children learn of the joy of being in nature, before they experience its loss. Where they can lie on the grass on a hillside for hours and watch clouds become the faces of the future. Where every child and every adult has a human right to the connection to the natural world and  shares the responsbility for caring for it.”

Richard Low, author of Last Child in the Woods.

“Nature Deficit Disorder”

Happy New Year from

The Earth-Kind® WaterWise Demonstration Garden

 on Joe Field Road. 

We hope you will take steps in 2013 to cure Nature Deficit Order.

 Book a trip our garden!

Excerpts from the Great American Campout website and American Academy of Pediatrics: 

  • An “indoor childhood” hurts bodies & spirits.
  • Today’s kids are more likely to “tag” a friend on Facebook than outdoors in a game of “freeze tag.”
  • Kids today run from school to activities to sports w/ barely a minute to catch their breath.  Loss of free time can contribute to stress, anxiety, & depression in children. (American Academy of Pediatrics)
  • Studies show being outdoors is the perfect anecdote.  Time in green spaces reduces children’s tension levels & enhances their social interactions, helping them to feel more connected to self and others. 

Learning in the Garden 

Sources cited:

  • Growing Food LiFE Curriculum Series
  •  Botany on Your Plate (Univ. of CA & NGA)
  •  Math in the Garden (Univ. of CA & NGA)

A Grace Academy Student Enjoying Learning and Nature At The Demonstration Garden

Using a garden helps teach the core concepts to diverse learners in an untraditional setting and grow into a relevant teaching tool. 

Simple truths about working w/ students in a garden setting: 

  • Students can better understand their environment by exploring it and hone their knowledge and skills while doing so.
  • An “outdoor learning center/classroom” creates a destination, a reason to outdoors.
  • Enhancing the outdoor learning center creates a schoolyard habitat: “If you build it, they will come.”
  • Students become stewards, stakeholders, creators by having a stake in planning and sustaining a school garden.
  • Gardening fosters teamwork, builds community, encourages sharing and understanding which in turn, creates decision-makers and problem-solvers.
  • Gardens are multi-sensory environments; students can use all of their senses to observe, predict, and understand how the world works.
  • Connections are created w/ the natural world & our region’s uniqueness.
  • Interdisciplinary learning is possible – connects Math, History, Language Arts (journaling, botanical names/Latin roots), Creative Arts, Social Sciences (bio-diversity and interdependence in plant and animal communities as in human communities), Life Sciences (nutrition, healthy choices, life skills). 

A garden setting is ripe for inquiry learning, doing & thinking rather than learning a set of predetermined facts by rote.  Einstein said the most important thing is to never stop asking questions.  Knowing how to find answers to those questions is every bit as important as knowing the answers.  

Since the early 1970s, research on how students learn Science stressed the importance of starting instruction based upon student perceptions & experiences.  In other words, you start w/ what they know or perceive to know and make meaningful connections between new knowledge and existing knowledge.  What teachers need to remember is children build their ideas over many years of explorations.  They tend to hold onto these ideas/beliefs tenaciously.  Time and countless repetitions (in large groups, small groups, or individually) are needed for them to examine new evidence, new explanations and new ideas and draw meaningful connections w/ their preexisting knowledge.  For new concepts to take root, they must make sense and fit into the students’ experiences that have been created outside the classroom. 

Unfortunately, Science is taught by “rote learning.”  No consideration is given to what science ideas students might bring to the classroom.  To cultivate meaningful learning of real world concepts, we need to draw upon their experiences, whether the experiences are misconceptions or incomplete learning, & connect the content currently being taught to their world. 

Science in the Garden can encompass the following concepts:

Humans rely upon a world of complex systems – the Earth, its ecosystems, its food systems.  Human activities impact our natural world for better or worse.  In a garden, students can grow food while maintaining a living lab.  They can investigate & monitor weather changes & the impact on a garden ecosystem.  Or, they might study decomposition, observe life cycles (seed to food, egg to butterfly), or see how matter and energy flow through ecosystems (the process of food production and the release of energy). 

Math in the Garden: allows students to hone their mathematics knowledge and skills to carry out investigations in the garden environment.  This is an untapped source of patterns, comparisons, problem-solving, measurement, number operations, Algebra, Geometry, and data analysis. 

At the base of all of this is Journaling, keeping an account of the natural world around you. Your Journal will be a guide, developed over a period of time, of noticing and noting changes, monthly and seasonally, of life cycle events.


“Nature Is My Life”

Journaling is an integral component of the educational program offered by the Demonstration Garden.  Our Nature Journals, made from recycled materials are constructed by our student visitors and  personalized to reflect their connections with the garden.   A 5th grader from West Dallas Community School proudly proclaims, “Nature is My Life.”  Her journal became her memory book of observations, descriptions, illustrationsand  connections; a special way of carrying a piece of the garden home with her.

Annette and picture by Starla

Why Keep A Nature Journal?

   West Dallas Community School Student Journaling During A Recent Field Trip

  Marcel Proust once wrote, “The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new lands but in seeing with new eyes.”  A garden journal can be the “new eyes” for the novice as well as the seasoned gardener. 

     Formal or casual, a journal is a reference tool.  It can be used in myriad ways and function as: a means for planning and reflecting, as a memory book, showcase or diary, an informational text, or even created as a web blog.  In My Texas Garden, a Gardener’s Journal, Dale Groom writes that you can use a journal to track the evolution of the garden as well as the gardener.  Through diligent record-keeping, you can track your garden’s growth and your personal growth as a gardener:  successes and failures, preferences in plants and seasons, the impact of the weather, environmental conditions in your garden.

     In its most basic form, a garden journal tracks daily or weekly observations, the weather that day, what’s been planted and/or transplanted, any other garden notes.  Make notes for planting dates for seeds and plants, planting information (spacing, germination, thinning, blooming and harvest dates), suppliers and sources, and cost information for seeds and plants, fertilizing dates and types, soil conditions and types, light and exposure, pests and diseases/problems and solutions, weather information (rainfall, temperatures, frost dates), wildlife observations. 

     A garden plan drawn on graph paper with ¼ inch grids uses a 1inch=4 feet proportion.  Include photos from different times of day and seasons, sketches and diagrams.  All of these are important for the garden in its present state as well as for future plans.  


Garden Based Education

Benefits of Garden-Based Learning
“Gardening enhances our quality of life in numerous ways: providing fresh food, exercise and health benefits, opportunities for multi-generational and life-long learning, creating pleasing landscapes and improved environment, and bringing people together.

Garden-based learning programs result in increased nutrition and environmental awareness, higher learning achievements, and increased life skills for our students. They are also an effective and engaging way to integrate curriculum and meet learning standards, giving young people the chance to develop a wide range of academic and social skills.

Garden experiences foster ecological literacy and stewardship skills, enhancing an awareness of the link between plants in the landscape and our clothing, food, shelter, and well-being. They also provide children and youth with the time and space to explore the natural world–something that can occur rarely in today’s era of indoor living.” (excerpted from Cornell University, the garden based education blog.)

Last week we had 54 kindergarten students from Providence Christian Academy in our gardens learning about chickens and eggs, veggies and herbs, compost, and observing our gardens full of Monarch butterflies, ladybugs, and bees.

SIlky Hen At The Demonstration Garden Field TripMeet Opal, named for Judy’s Aunt Opal. 

 Opal is a Silkie with black skin and bones and 5 toes instead of the normal 4. She is a wonderful brooder and mother.

Moms And Children FromProvidence Christian School Enjoying Our Visiting Chickens

Eat your veggies! We let the children take home the radishes they picked and they fed the radish tops to the chickens. 

Radish Harvest For A Kindergarten Boy From Providence Christian School

Enthusiastic future vermi-composters!

Red Wriggler Worms and Providence Christian School Students

We are still booking fall field trips.  The Gardens and our Dallas County Master Gardeners are always ready to teach in the garden!

Fall-What’s Not To Love?

What’s my favorite season? Easy peasy. FALL. Jacket wearing, college football cheering, leaf rustling, turkey roasting, Halloween mini-Snickers sneaking—Fall!

This lovely autumnal season is so much more than pulling up summer-scorched annuals and popping in mums for a few weeks.  At a time when northern gardeners are closing up shop for the winter, Texas gardeners have realized that the fall months may very well be the best time of the year to plant.

Think about it.  A Sweet Innocent Perennial you might plant in the spring is just being lined up for the furnace blast of summer from late May through August.  It’s hard to even survive—much less thrive–in temperatures in the 100s, no rainfall, and nighttime lows that hover in the 80s.  But if you’re a savvy gardener and plant that same Sweet Innocent in the fall, you’ve tucked it in when the future holds cooling temperatures and more frequent rain.  Voila.  Plant Success.

Most plants will put on a fall flush of growth and bloom in fall weather conditions.  Roses can be spectacular in the fall, often with blooms more vibrant than spring or summer.  Trim roses back now, fertilize, and give a deep soaking to promote bloom.

Raised Bed with carrots, radish seeds and trowel

If you’re planting a fall school garden with kids, it’s time to get busy.  If you want a warm season garden, plant bush beans and pinto beans by seed until September 15.  Be sure to baby your seeds; they need to be kept moist until they sprout and are established. 

Dallas County Master Gardeners Busy With Fall Gardening

Fall is Prime Time for cool season crops, those vegetables that love a nip in the air in November and December.  Plant beets, spinach, lettuce, and carrots by seed now through October 15.  Kids love transplants; they’re veggies in miniature.  Plant broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, and cauliflower transplants now through late-November.  Mustard greens, Swiss chard, spinach, parsley, leeks and kale transplants can be tucked in the garden from September 15 through the winter.  (Harvest your warmer season crops in late October, then plant cole transplants for a continued harvest.)

Spring flowering bulbs can be a fun thing to plant with kids.  Purchase your bulbs now when nurseries start stocking bulbs, but wait on planting them until soil temperatures cool significantly, for us in mid- to late-November.  Daffodils are probably your best bet with kids.  They are dependable, don’t require pre-chilling (like tulips), and some will naturalize.  The Southern Bulb Co. in Golden, Texas  is known for propagating old varieties of bulbs, often found in deserted homesteads. 

The best reason to garden in the fall is to enjoy it.  Your garden is filled with new blooms and growth.  Pests have taken a vacation with the cool temperatures.  So nibble a bit of early Halloween candy and enjoy the season.


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