How Does Our Garden Grow? – Part Three

Here is the long overdue update on our gardening endeavours at school.

It has now been a couple of months from when we planted our veggies and some flowers and it’s been a mixed bag of results.

Our raised boxes are doing well. Even though they had to be moved a few weeks ago, the plants have re-cooperated and are lush and green.

In fact we have already had a harvest of string beans. The children cooked them with fresh dill and radish leaves from the garden. The harvest was not big enough to feed the entire school so we added some store bought carrots. The result was a tasty treat of buttery-garlicky bean and carrot salad! The fact that it was from our garden made the salad all the more delicious.

harvesting dill

harvesting dill

A week ago we were able to harvest enough dill to send some home with the elementary children as well!

Dill to take home ...

Dill to take home …

... all packed and labelled

… all packed and labelled

The gourds, yam, sunflowers, morning glory, pumpkin and other plants look happy and healthy.

Under the Teepee

Under the Teepee

The news is not so good with the keyhole gardening patch of the children though!

ALL the seeds that had germinated died due to heavy rains. We put up a canopy above the patch to provide some protection but it came too late. The only plants to survive were the turmeric and lemon grass. Now, we are going to have to start the planting  all over again!

Fortunately, the failed experiment with the keyhole garden patch of the elementary children hasn’t really dampened their enthusiasm.

Instead they have become a little more interested in ‘how’ a plant is looking; are the leaves yellowing, is the soil too wet, is the stem bent? Maybe the timely harvest of the beans helped.

mulching the keyhole garden

mulching the keyhole garden

It has been interesting to observe the children’s responses to the garden over the last couple of months.

Many children have become better observers of what is growing around them. A new bud, a flower that has just bloomed or a tiny fruit that is appearing now catches their attention. They have seen day after day the bean flower’s ovary slowly elongate into a fruit. The first purple bud of the morning glory drew much attention. Funnily the big, bright yellow sunflower growing right next to the sandpit where most of the children play, went unnoticed!!!

sunflower

Today a child guided me by the hand to show me a new ‘chilli’ that she spied growing. It was in fact the tender shoot of yam, all curled up,  just emerging from the soil. This was enough to spark off a walk through the outdoor environment. A group of us walking about and noticing more keenly all that grew around us … the massive banana flower, the young and shiny new leaves, the little dot of a chilli just emerging …

“…what most develops a feeling of nature is the cultivation of the living things, because they by their natural development give back far more than they receive, and show something like infinity in their beauty and variety.”

~ Dr. Maria Montessori

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cooking and healthy eating

Never before have we had so many food choices and never before have we eaten so poorly!

Healthy eating habits are inculcated in the child’s youngest years.

Eating nutritious food together as a family, including children in the preparation of meals, allowing a child to follow her natural appetite in terms of the quantity of food she eats and saying NO to junk food are some of the ways we can inculcate lifelong healthy eating habits.

One way we are trying to encourage healthy eating habits at school is by having the elementary children try their hand at cooking nutritious snacks.

According to studies conducted overseas, children are more prone to eating fresh vegetables and fruit, after a cooking session.

I do not not know if our cooking sessions at school have resulted in children making better food choices in their daily lives, YET. However, what it has definitely done, is generate a conversation of what is healthy and what is not.

In the past  few weeks we have made a beetroot and mushroom salad, a carrot cake (with whole wheat flour) and a healthy version of aloo chaat (Indian potato salad).

The food is served to the entire school.

Besides being a wonderful exercise of practical life, it also provides opportunities to build community.

It is a time when we make our way out into the neighbourhood  to do our grocery shopping. We have become well known faces at the push cart of our neighbourhood vegetable vendor and at the corner store.

The children spontaneously apply the grace and courtesy presentations received. From the “please’s” and “thank you’s” when buying something, to how to serve courteously; how to politely decline a snack and how to respect the declining child’s wishes.

The older children love being the bearers of these gifts of food and the younger children enjoy being the recipients of these gifts.

One never knows how and when a seed will germinate. To follow Dr. Montessori’s advice – let us sow as many seeds as possible and let the rest be the child’s work!

 

Star Gazing

A few nights ago some of us in the elementary had a star gazing session at school.

We left school at the usual time of 3:00pm, but met again after sun down at 6:00pm. The approaching darkness while being at school was terribly exciting for the children.

We started our evening with Tchaikovsky’s nutcracker ballet playing in the background and 14 little hands peeling, cutting and grating, making a yummy winter vegetable soup for our supper. (recipe at the end of this post)

Once soup was ready we made our way to our neighbours terrace, who had graciously offered his view of the night skies, for the evening.

One of our parents had brought along his telescope and we held our breath as we saw Jupiter and four of her moons- Io, Callisto, Ganymede and Europa. We then saw the Orion nebula. Our heads spun with the realization that we were seeing, close up, the cloud that was birthing new stars!

Jupiter and her Moons

We returned to school to the warmth of fresh bread and delicious soup. Though we have many fussy eaters, our soup bowls were empty, with every scrap of vegetable consumed!

Bellies full, we went on a night walk on little cats feet.  We played for a while and enjoyed the falling night. We noticed that Orion had risen further!

It started getting chilly and time to get indoors. The next thing came as a real surprise to us adults, all the children started working!!!

Looking at a star map

One child said as he was leaving, “Today, has been the best day, ever!”

 

HEALTHY WINTER VEGGIE SOUP

Ingredients

3 tablespoons butter

4 – 5 small onions, thinly sliced into semi-circles

5 – 6 cloves of garlic, sliced

4 red, ‘Delhi’ carrots – cut into sticks

4 potatoes, cut into chunks

3 sweet potatoes, cut into chunks

2 packets button mushrooms, sliced

2 chicken stock cubes

3 tablespoons tomato puree

cheese to serve – grated

Method

Heat the butter on a low flame

Toss in the onions and garlic and saute for a few minutes.

Add the potatoes and coat with butter.

Add the rest of the veggies.

Cover all the veggies with water.

Dissolve the stock cubes in a cup of warm water and pour into the pot.

Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover and cook till all the veggies are tender.

ENJOY!