The Long Overdue Update

It’s been some months since anything has made its way to this World of Wide Webs, but that is not in any way indicative of inactivity in the garden or Outdoor Classroom. There is lots to report from the fall and winter…It’s hard to believe we are only 3 weeks away from the Spring Equinox.

The late fall/early winter was filled with 8 awesome weeks of classes with older students (3rd thru 5th grade).

3rd graders  learned about Arthropods, adaptation, habitats  and had fun making art with garden-found paintbrushes, infusing Olive Oil with Rosemary and Lavender, and making homemade herb butter!

4th Graders in Ms. King’s class learned about Native California Plants and planted a Native Garden in the front of the school on Carolina street.

One group of 5th Graders did a nature-based writing unit, drawing inspiration from the natural world for various types of writing; poetry, response to literature, expository writing (“how-to” plant a bulb,  build a mini terrarium etc.) and finally  a ‘food critic’ style review of a homemade garden salad.

Other 5th graders have delved into the awesome, mind-blowing world of Vascular Plants...students continue to keep me on my toes with their remarkable, scientific and inquisitive questions!

Younger grades began their second 8 week cycle a few weeks ago and have been looking closely at worms, practicing their research skills, and beginning to study life cycles of different garden critters. Kindergartners are sharpening their senses by participating in activities that have them safely and joyfully smelling, touching, seeing, hearing and tasting things in the garden.

Look out for photos from garden class times, nature based recess activities and a new second grade ‘mini food farm’ project soon!

As always, please feel free to contact me with questions, comments, feedback and most especially, an interest in getting involved!

With joy,
Ms. Kate


Garden Stations

**Scroll down for the photo gallery…**

I am so thankful for all of the nitty gritty logistics I learned last year that I find myself constantly using this year!

And one of those is that ‘Garden Stations’ are my best friend! Especially when it comes to class time with our younger grades.  And by stations I mean various activities setup in different areas of the garden that students can choose from. Some activities are routine, practiced and familiar and thus don’t require a lot of adult support, others are new, more technical, or more materials intensive and thus require more teacher direction or supervision.  Depending on the number of adults present (usually just the classroom teacher and myself though we are very open to parent volunteers, hint hint– and sometimes have the bonus of a para-educator out in the garden with us) there is usually a combination of these independent stations and the more guided one/s.  Not only does this make doing an activity like planting carrot seeds with 1st graders more realistic, it allows students the chance to feel independent, trusted and like they really are the gardeners and care-takers of the space.

We always begin class in the gathering area where we greet each other, maybe sing a song, read a book, have a ‘Science Talk’ or a general discussion about any number of things. Sometimes there is a whole group activity planned, or something that will happen in 1/2 groups with a ‘switcharoony’ in the middle, but often times, we go straight to our stations. I usually give a demonstration of whatever new activity will be offered (usually something connected to our group discussion) and then students are called to come up and make their choice.  Sometimes we rotate through each station, other times students know that they won’t have time to do everything so they must choose thoughtfully!  While I work with a small group at at time planting, cooking, making art or investigating something brand new, other students choose from things like:

The Stump Circle– where there could be a drawing project (leaf rubs, ‘what Fall looks like’ etc) using clipboards, colored pencils, crayons

Watering– with younger students we use a watering system learned from other school gardeners where we fill 5 gallon buckets and place them throughout the garden. Students then dip small watering cans or ‘rainmakers’ (ie yogurt containers with holes in the bottom) and water each plant.

Exploring or Garden Detectives- students go in search of insects, cool leaves, treasures…with a Magnifying Glass or Bug Box

Digging- in the ‘Digging Area’

Garden Library- Find a shady spot and a pal and enjoy a book!

Harvesting- if it’s something straightforward like cherry tomatoes or strawberries.

Check out the photos below of students at work in Stations throughout the garden!


Planting Inquiry Seeds…

The first two weeks of classes in our Starr King Outdoor Classroom have been joyful, explorative, sunny and snack-filled! They have also offered students the chance to adjust to the routines of our outdoor space, to explore and familiarize themselves with the various areas of the garden, and to begin to sharpen, hone, and exercise their inquiry skills.

I tell students that I want them to enter the garden with ALL five senses ready to work. I often tell them that we will be putting our ‘scientist hats’ on (many of them are already on to the fact that they are actually ‘wearing’ their scientist hats all the time anyhow…) I ask them to wonder and question, notice, observe, ponder and predict.  I like to set these expectations, and this culture of wonder, from the very beginning of the year. Though children are perhaps the most naturally inquisitive creatures on earth, it is surprising how quickly they can be conditioned to aim only for the ‘right’ answer rather than feeling comfortable pondering or wondering openly.  One of the things I love about the new Common Core and Next Generation Science standards is that they honor and give great value to inquiry as a necessary skill to develop.

Anyhow, I digress- and I promised pictures! So…here are some images to give you a glimpse into these first two weeks. Most sessions involved some sort of ‘open exploration’ setup that students could engage with as a way to get those inquiry juices flowing. After looking at a collection of familiar and novel tools or a wide array of seeds, or a pile of wrinkly, sprouting potatoes, we’d come back together as a group and share observations, questions, conundrums, predictions and usually laughs. My favorite quote of last week was, “hey this thing (old, wrinkly, sprouting potato) looks like a grandpa’s face with seeds inside!” Apologies to the Grandpas…but that’s some great descriptive language for you!

So far, and this is my intention for the entire year, we have ended each class with a small snack- either directly from the garden, or from somewhere nearby. It is always plant-based and we always talk about what plant part we are eating, where the seeds are if it is a fruit, and how it tastes. The school garden has offered cherry tomatoes, cucumber, strawberries and mint and we’ve supplemented with melon and nectarines from other growers. The most common question afterwards is, “can we have seconds?”

If you are interested in helping out during an Outdoor Classroom lesson (either your child’s class or another classroom) please let me know! kate.hubbell@gmail.com

With joy,

Ms. Kate

Here We Are Again!

Happy September to each and every one of you Sweet Souls!

I figured the final hours of Labor Day are as good as any to dive in and welcome you all back to Starr King’s School Garden and Outdoor Classroom. As we begin September, SK students and teachers have already nestled two full weeks of the new school year into their harvest baskets.  So as the routines, rituals and rights of each classroom begin to sound a steadier rhythm, we are finally ready to open the doors to the Outdoor Classroom once again.

And oh, how ready it is to receive them!

Check out some of the garden projects and green schoolyard progress that happened over the summer:

Going into the second year of the Outdoor Classroom program and my second year here at Starr King, I am thankful for the insight, experience and reflections I have collected from year number one.  My goals for this year are two:

1. To provide students with experiences and instruction that connect them with the natural world and allow them to find inspiration, joy and a reason to care about these natural spaces- small and large!

2. To collaborate with and support classroom teachers in using the garden and the outside world to support standards, content and curriculum in ANY subject.

A Bit about Scheduling…

Classroom teachers were given 3 choices in regards to how they would like to use the Outdoor Classroom with their students this year and how they would like to collaborate with and be supported by me in doing this.  In this way, we are trying to value everyone’s time and still create the opportunity for each student to have some type of experience in the Outdoor Classroom this year. Below are the 3 options that teachers chose from this year:

A ) Collaborate with Kate on 1 or 2 units this year spending a total of 4 sessions (30min-1 hour) in the Outdoor Classroom. These can be scheduled to coordinate with a specific unit (ie pollination, trees, area/perimeter, Meso-American history etc.) or a specific standard/skill (journaling, observation, measurement etc.)

B ) Classroom teachers bring their students to the Outdoor Classroom every week in 8 week cycles for a total of approximately 16 sessions (2 cycles) throughout the year.

C ) ‘Green Academy’ Pilot Class- Offers a deeper collaboration and integration of instruction between the indoor and outdoor classrooms. This may include things like  weekly visits to the garden ALL year long (30+ sessions) with daily routines, a classroom culture etc. that create regular connections with indoor and outdoor spaces, as well as longer term projects in specific content areas. This is available for 1-3 classrooms initially and will serve as a pilot program for coming years.

 For those classes on the 8 week cycle, we begin with the younger grades (prek-2nd) and Special Day Classes this week and continue for the next 8 weeks. Older students (3rd-5th) will begin their first cycle in late October/early November. Those teachers that chose option A, will bring their students to the Outdoor Classroom several times throughout the year on a case by case basis and in coordination with relevant curriculum!

Always feel free to email me or leave a comment here if you have questions of any sort or the itch to volunteer!

with joy and peace,

Ms. Kate

Come check out some garden oriented delights at the Spring Carnival this Saturday from 11-3 here at Starr King!

Come play in the garden!

Come play in the garden!

We will be tie dying using dyes made from vegetables, blending up our own smoothies using nothing but bike power, making a big salad  from our garden harvest and honoring our green team watering crew who has helped keep our plants and trees alive all year long.

Come celebrate and play and enjoy the carnival AND the garden!

with joy and snap peas,

Ms. Kate

I have been negligent of the blogisphere of late, but I wanted to share with you all a fun lesson that 5th graders took part in a couple of months back.  As they began to delve into a study of mixtures, solutions and beginning chemistry in the classroom, we took advantage of the opportunity to connect this study out in the garden.

Though not home grown in the Starr King Garden, I brought in a couple of large purple cabbages from my local farmer’s market to share with students.  We split into two groups, with a head of cabbage designated to each group. One took on the task of transforming our cabbage into a ‘mixture’ the other into a ‘solution.’

If you need a memory jog about what differentiates a mixture from a solution, you could ask a Starr King 5th grader 🙂 or read about it here.

Our Mixture Recipe, looked a whole lot like a Red Cabbage Slaw Recipe…because that’s what it was!

The Starr King Garden Red Cabbage “Mixture” Slaw

1/2 a head of red cabbage, grated or chopped thin

3-4 carrots, grated

pac choi leaves, stems or flower buds (or other greens) chopped small- scissors work well for this!

Seeds of varying sorts, pumpkin, sunflower etc

And a dressing of:  Olive Oil, Rice Wine Vinegar, Honey, Soy Sauce


Meanwhile, the Solutions Group worked on breaking their cabbage half up into teeny tiny pieces and then submerged them in hot water. Careful observations yielded enthusiastic exclamations as they quickly noticed the water turning an ever deeper shade of purple. As they learned in a later lesson, red cabbage juice can be used as a pH indicator to test whether something is an acid or a base.

We finished class by reconvening as a whole group and eating our ‘mixture’ slaw together. Kids were asking for seconds…truly! Super fun!

sour taste test
The Starr King garden has been alive with sensory explorations these past few weeks. Kindergarten classes have been delving into their 5 senses and we’ve been talking about the various ways you can use all 5 to discover the garden environment. We started the unit with taste tests of local garden goodies, focusing on whether each item tasted sweet, salty, sour or spicy (we skipped bitter this time around). Students tasted a sweet slice of apple, puckered up for a lick of fresh lemon, enjoyed the roasted, salty goodness of sunflower seeds and even ate a nasturtium flower which has a slightly spicy flavor! lemon taste test 2

We have also done a smell challenge with a number of classes where students had the chance to smell different fragrant flowers and leaves from the garden and then attempt to identify them again while blind-folded!

As we talked about the power of our sense of sight, kindergartners compared how a plant looked with and without a magnifying glass and then drew what they saw.
sense of sight worksheet

magnifying glasses 1

magnifying glasses 2
sense of sight drawing

In the coming week we will be getting ready to hone in on our sense of touch and hearing. But as the students are coming to realize, we use most, if not ALL of our senses each and every day we come to the garden!