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School Life

Our Garden

"...the land may turn out to be the only real story there is for us...Our food comes from the dank, muddy earth, the oxygen in our lungs was recently inside a leaf, and every newspaper or book we may pick up is made from the hearts of trees that died for the sake of our imagined lives.
Barbara Kingsolver

 Ms. Nestor and her third and fourth grade students  were out in  the garden  this month, doing some weeding and prepping of  beds before planting lettuce, beet, carrot, cucumber and radish seeds, and some Morning Glories which will provide beautiful flowers very soon!
It is May, and planting time is upon us! Our Sixth and Seventh Grade science students have been busy getting the garden ready for planting. Weeding and basic garden bed clean up were the first items on the agenda.
English studentsunder the supervision of English teacher, Kelly Devine, are planting a "Shakespeare Garden" with flowers and herbs mentioned in verses from his plays.  Students will be creating signs for each plant with quotes from the plays they come from. 
"A rose by any other name would smell as sweet"
 Romeo and Juliet 
"There's rosemary, that's for remembrance.  Pray you, love, remember."
"A violet in the youth of primy nature, Forward, not permanent-- sweet, not lasting.                                    Hamlet
 Students prepare a bed of flowers and herbs that are quoted in Shakespeare's plays- A time-lapse video. 

SIXTH GRADERS cleverly came up the most efficient way to collect sunflower seeds from the enormous sunflowers in our garden.  They turned the head of the sunflower over and gently rubbed it along the metal - slotted table. Classmates put their hands under the table to collect the seeds as they fell from the sunflower and through the table.  Sunflower seeds were abundant and students did a great job of problem solving!
Kinder students spent time in the garden planting soybeans.  They also walked around the meadow near the garden and examined trees to determine whether they were conifers or deciduous.    
Fourth Grade students were the first to get out into our garden this fall, accompanied by Lower School science teacher Lee Nestor.  Focus was on our very full and varied herb beds.  Each student prepared a brown paper bag for drying herbs by punching holes in it.  Herbs were picked and will be dried out for use in the winter months.  Students first "tasted" the herbs with their noses and then took a nibble from each leaf.  They compared red and green leaf basil, recognizing that the red was milder than the green. When students later closed their eyes for a blind taste test, they were able to correctly identify both varieties of basil.  


Students also tried some sage, rosemary, thyme, mint, parsley, and sorrel- everyone’s favorite.  The delicious contrast of sweet and sour tickled their taste buds.  Scarlet runner beans were also tried.  It was a "wow" moment when children popped open the bright green bean pods and giant red beans peeked out.  Each child got to pick a tomato, and a zinnia flower to take home, along with the memory of a lovely experience in the garden.   



After long months of snow and low temperatures, the ground has finally thawed and planting time will be upon us soon.  A planned garden work day in April had to be cancelled due to poor weather, but Upper School science teacher, Kerry McQuarrie, and Lower School Spanish teacher, Lori Pantaleo, did some preliminary work in the garden, removing dead plants and creating two lasagna beds with rich compost made from our lunch waste, and straw.
Upper School students in grades 6-8 spent time in the garden weeding, raking, pruning and putting down landscaping material between beds to discourage weeds. A thick layer of mulch was then placed over the material.  Eddie Matthews, from our building and grounds crew, created a raised bed for our strawberries. This will make it easier to harvest the berries and to keep pests away. 
Pre-K has one bed, and teacher Linda Howarth has a variety of seeds picked out.  Kindergarten has one bed and they are planting kale.  First grade has one bed and they are planting carrots and radishes.  Second grade has two beds and is planting two varieties of leaf lettuce.  Third grade has two beds and is planting beets, carrots, radishes, and leaf lettuce.  Fourth grade is planting sweet peppers, cucumbers, tomatoes, onions, and leaf lettuce. Seeds have been purchased for 2nd through 4th grades.


This summer brought a bumper crop of vegetables!  Faculty members took turns tending the garden during the summer months, watering when needed and keeping the weeds under control.  The summer harvest included tomatoes, purple beans, onions, arugula and other leafy greens, strawberries, edible flowers, herbs, zucchini and much more.  

When students returned in September, Lower School science teacher Lee Nestor, got our children into the garden right away.  First graders gathered tomatoes, kale and beets.  They also tasted a variety of herbs:  sage, parsley, sorrel (a favorite, sour though it may be!) and mint.  Some were even adventurous enough to try beautiful nasturtiums, an edible flower!  They got to smell lavender and learn that, apart from being dried and used in room fresheners or soaps and lotions, its lovely fragrance can help one to sleep better.

Third and fourth graders went into the garden to harvest the carrots, beets, tomatoes and kale they had planted in late spring.
Our second graders went into the garden to look for insects.  They were able to observe how the color of an insect helps it blend into its environment and become "invisible" to potential predators.  Children found caterpillars, ants, praying mantids and even a walking stick!

Meanwhile, Upper Schoolers did some garden clean up and harvested vegetables as well, under the guidance of Upper School science teacher, Kerry McQuarrie. 

In late September, faculty and Chapin Grows Green
 Committee members Mary Jo Thompson and Lori Pantaleo attended a school garden tour sponsored by OASIS (Organizing Action on Sustainability in Schools), of which Chapin School is a founding member.  Attendees visited the Lawrenceville School farm, and the Community Park and Princeton Junior School gardens and learned how these schools are integrating garden lessons across the curriculum.


Chapin's garden is back in business!  After a very long hiatus due to the construction of the new Lower School building, which prevented access to the garden, we are finally able to return and get back to growing tasty and nutritious foods. The garden remains unchanged except for the re-positioning of the entrance gate on the fencing that surrounds the garden.  
The heavy snowfall during the winter months worked its insulating magic, and the kale and spinach seeds that were planted in the fall by our Fifth Graders have sprouted and are growing fast!  In no time at all these greens will be available for Chef G.'s salad bar and other purposes.  (Chef G.s' kale/craisin/onion salad is a particular favorite of Chapin's staff and faculty.)  Our strawberry plants are loaded with blossoms so we should have a good crop, unless the birds get to them first! Last week, Fifth Graders were in the garden planting arugula, bush beans, and radish seeds for harvest later this spring.
Upper School science teacher and master gardener, Kerry McQuarrie, created two "lagasna beds" last fall.  A lasagna bed is a planting bed created by layering organic materials, such as cardboard, vegetable and fruit scraps, newspapers and hay.  Our lasagna beds had all winter to "cook" and have created rich soil where the tomato and eggplants we grow this summer can thrive. 
Last week, our kindergartners planted radish, carrot and Swiss
chard seeds in starter pots and kept them under grow lights.  The seeds have sprouted and will be transferred to beds in the garden in the coming weeks.  In the meantime, they have been out in the garden spreading fresh soil to prepare for the planting of these sprouted seeds.  



Construction on the new Lower School building has begun! The removal of trees from the playground area and ongoing excavation have resulted in the placement of safety fences around a large area that includes the Lower School playground and our garden. We still have access to the garden beds and our Fifth and Pre-K classes have been out recently to tend their beds.  For students, there is the extra excitement of watching the big machines work, digging and moving dirt while they work in the garden!  



Our Fifth and Pre-K students have been out in the garden and the cool weather crops planted early this fall are doing well.  Many are ready to be harvested.  We have ripe kale, spinach and lettuce. Chef G will use the kale to make his fabulous fresh kale/onion/craisin salad. Students and faculty alike have become big fans!


Pre-K went out to the garden to look at the greens they planted earlier in the year. The kale and spinach were ripe and students tasted each of them. Pre-K will harvest a large bunch and make a salad to celebrate Thanksgiving. Children enjoyed trying sorrel and parsley and they were a little surprised to see buds and some new fruit on our strawberry plants! Before leaving the garden, the children examined the other beds of lettuce and discussed the many varieties there.





 Welcome to another year of garden news!  Although we are only beginning the month of October, a lot of activity has already been going on in the garden in both the Lower and Upper Divisions. 

Children entering the garden the first weeks of the new school year were treated to a profusion of beautiful flowers: zinnias, marigolds, butterfly bush blooms and edible nasturtiums, to name a few. A few of our more adventurous youngsters tried a peppery nasturtium and quite liked the taste! They even found a few late season strawberries.




Pre-K students enjoyed sowing and watering their newly planted spinach and kale seeds. They also had a grand time pulling scallions to take to Chef G.

Our Fourth Graders have also been out to the garden. Recently they cut or dug up and tasted a variety of our vegetables and herbs, including standards like tomatoes, carrots and green peppers and a few less well-known foods as well; scarlet runner beans, nasturtiums, sorrel, lemon grass, rosemary and thyme. An herb and vegetable feast!


We now have two sturdy green work tables in our garden so that students engaging in nature-related lessons can get a dose of fresh air and Vitamin D while they work. Many thanks to Mike, Dave and Gustavo for their help assembling these heavy tables.






Fifth Grade students spent some time in the garden in late September planting cool weather vegetables lettuce and kale. They also harvested lots of carrots for Chef G!




As the weather warmed in mid-May, the garden was abuzz with activity! 
Garden elective students worked hard putting down cardboard to prevent weed growth and covering it with wheelbarrow after wheelbarrow of mulch.  They planted a variety of herbs as well as lettuce, kale, spinach, Swiss chard, cucumbers, peas, carrots, peppers, tomatoes, eggplant, radishes, lavender and asclepius.   
Pre-K planted kale, spinach and Swiss Chard in their bed. Students went  worm hunting and then brought worms inside for two weeks. Students loved watching them built tunnels in the soil inside their clear hamster cage before releasing them back into the garden so they could continue their important composting work!
Kindergarten planted seeds for a pollinator bed and collected bamboo reeds to make bee houses.

After their trip to Howell Farm, where they learned how to prepare the dirt for planting, First Graders sowed a variety ofseeds, including radishes, which are already big enough to eat!

The culture of Native Americans is studied in depth in the Third Grade.  Our students emulated a farming practice of these peoples by planting a Three Sisters garden; corn, beans and squash.  Corn stalks served as support columns for the beans to climb, and the wide squash leaves provided shade, which kept the ground moist and prevented weeds.  An  ingenious way of creating a mutually beneficial growing environment!    
Fourth Graders planted an edible flower garden which included nasturtiums (pictured here), calendula, borage and anise hissop, among others. 

Chapin began composting snack and lunch waste after Earth Day and even Pre-K students are doing their part to help reduce trash and create rich compost for the garden. 


Lower School
In conjunction with their unit on the farm and garden, Pre-K planted spinach, Swiss chard and kale seeds indoors before spring break.  The seedlings that sprout will be transplanted into the garden later this spring.  Pre-K students will be drawing pictures as they observe the changes of seeds to seedlings and eventually to mature plants, and they will make a booklet describing the process.  Pre-K will then taste the fruits of their labors by making a salad.  Yum!
In April, Kindergartners will be going out into the garden to clean their "kinder garden" bed.  The pollinator kit that Chapin won from Mercer County should arrive shortly.  Then students will start the seeds from the kit indoors and later transfer them to their pollinator bed. Kinder plans to grow fava beans, carrots, peas and radishes this spring.  Students will even learn the names of the vegetables and some basic gardening words in Spanish.  Stay tuned for a spring bilingual voicethread!
Upper School
Fifth Graders are making their own compostable pots and will begin to plant seeds in them in early April.  The process involves soaking newspaper in water until it becomes a pulp and then lining the inside of used paper/plastic cups with the paste. 
Once dry, the cups are cut away, leaving pots that eventually decompose and release carbon into the soil.  Fifth Grade students will spend five to six weeks in the garden during their science unit on plants.  
Sixth Graders have been composting their food waste using our beautiful newly built compost bins.  Our thanks to Mr. Matthews and the winter trimester garden elective students for their efforts!


Although it has been a relatively quiet time in the garden itself these past few months, much has been going on behind the scenes.   
Upper School students have been spending time during their winter trimester garden elective with Mr. Eddie Mathhews, our maintenance team's expert carpenter, building trellises to surround our garden compost bins.  Cold boxes have also been built to allow us to lengthen our growing season with plantings of cool weather cruciferous crops, such as kale, arugula, cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower. 


Elective students are also growing kale and spinach in miniature greenhouses made from plastic milk jugs.   The added benefit of these greenhouses is the useful repurposing of plastic.  Finally, Mrs. McQuarrie's room now houses a worm composting bin, where students can observe how food waste is turned into rich soil through the efforts of these useful creatures.  And speaking of worms.....

Kindergarten recently completed a science unit about earthworms.  To see what they learned, click here to listen to their VoiceThread.  


Kinder students are composting too. They throw their snack and lunch  scraps into a compost bin in Mrs. Thompson's room, and use garden tools to add dry leaves and turn the mixture. Our young ones have also planted some wildflower seeds in compostable pots. 


In early November, garden elective students spent time planting more spring bulbs- crocuses and Siberian iris. We expect a beautiful and colorful spring next year when the blooms from these bulbs beak forth.
Fifth Graders harvested their bounty of delicious greens, planted earlier this fall.
Kindergarteners were thrilled to watch the growth of fall vegetable plantings in the garden.  They harvested the kale and Swiss chard they had planted, and made a salad with their very own ingredients. They made crispy kale chips too! For many, this was a first taste of these leafy greens and the children enjoyed them.  Our nor'easter provided the opportunity for them to learn about snow cover and how it insulates dormant plants.

Click here
to watch a voicethread about our Gardening Journey!

And speaking of storms....
Our garden was truly tested late this fall, when it was pummeled by two powerful storms. 
Hurricane Sandy took a toll on a number of Chapin trees. Not all of our garden fence was spared when a pine tree fell on one corner of it, but our young butterfly bush survived when tree limbs fell on either side of the plant, sparing it. Its wire cage, alas, was not so fortunate. 
Right on the heels of the hurricane came a winter mix of rain and very wet snow which snapped a number of tree branches around the garden.  Once again, our butterfly bush made it through the storm and did not break under the weight of the snow.  Our beds got a natural winter blanket to protect them too. 
Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.

Read more:Post Office Motto —
Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.

Read more:Post Office Motto —

And our butterfly bush is still there!


Kindergarten News

Germination of radish, bean, mesculun and kale seeds on wet paper towels and cotton balls, and their subsequent transplanting into cups of soil kept our kindergartners busy in September. The observation of these seeds in the classroom integrated nicely with the children's science unit on Foss trees.  It provided them with the chance to compare seeds from deciduous trees found in their neighborhoods and the seeds they observed in class. Students also made their first foray into the garden where they planted kale, broccoli, Swiss chard, and spinach plants.  Since then, some of our youngest ones have been measuring, comparing, and graphing the growth of these plants each week.
  The beginnings of our butterfly garden.
  A late-blooming butterfly bush!
Our gardening elective is off to a strong start, with a crew of 26 willing and eager Upper School students! The crew was busy in September doing some much needed weeding and pruning of overgrown plants.

Along the way, some delicious orange and white carrots, cucumbers, peppers and eggplants made their way into Chef G.'s kitchen. 

Elective participants planted over 40 daffodil bulbs in and around the garden over a period of several days, learning in the process the requirements for bulbs (position and depth). These sunny harbingers of spring will be a welcome sight next April.  Apart from their delicate beauty, daffodils have the added quality of not being attractive to deer, an important consideration in choosing them!
Fifth graders plant some fall lettuces, peas and spinach during one of their science classes.
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