May 2022
FRESH from the Garden
SEL: Lessons from the Garden
I am often amazed at how many life lessons we can learn from observing the garden and how plants communicate their needs. Consider these three unexpected ways that students may relate to plants.

1. Let's start with boundaries. I have struggled with setting boundaries in the past. I was worried about upsetting someone or letting others down, but when I observe the garden and the boundaries set by the garden beds, pathways, as well as fences, I can see that boundaries help to keep the plants safe, healthy and allow for their optimal growth. The pathways keep the plants from being trampled and the fences keep some pests out of the garden. In parallel, setting boundaries in our lives can keep us healthy and allow us to grow. 
2. While plants cannot talk, they certainly can communicate their needs to us through their “body language.” A wilted plant lets you know it needs water; yellowing plants tell us they might need more nutrients; long, leggy plants let us know they are having to reach for the light. A sunflower, leaning over with its heavy, burdensome flower head, might need a little support while it reaches its full potential. Taking a walk through the garden with students and observing the plants and what they are telling us can be a great way to talk about how we also communicate our needs through our body language.

3. Another fun take on this is to observe plants and look for their “personality traits." A cactus could be seen as having a “prickly” personality, while a large tree might be seen as strong and confident. Tall grass might be characterized as “wishy washy” because it goes whatever direction the wind blows.
I have enjoyed sharing Social Emotional Learning Activities with you throughout the school year and encourage you to see what lessons you and your students have learned from the garden. We look forward to sharing a new series with you starting in September; stay tuned for Growing your Soil.
Growing School Gardens Summit
Amy and Doug were presenters at the Growing School Gardens Summit in Denver, Colorado, April 22-25. The conference gathered 400 folks together who are invested in school gardens. Those 400 participants represented 6,000 school gardens utilized by 2.5 million students. Among the attendees were three teachers Amy and Doug have worked with in the Cabarrus County School System. We asked them each to reflect on their experience and offer a key take-away to share with FRESH readers.

Amy Bowman: It was wonderful to feel a part of such a positive movement and to feel a part of something much larger. While it was great to reconnect with friends I have made through various training sessions over the years, my biggest take-away was the new connections I made. I am excited to partner with others and learn how they work with their school systems and hope that will enable us to continue to grow this movement.

Doug Vernon: One of my biggest take-aways from the conference was the reminder of how there are numerous entry points to using the garden. For example, we learned ways to cultivate future engineers in the garden by using trellis building to address several curriculum standards while solving a real life garden problem. 

Megan Charlton: The experience and connections I have made this week are incredible! I can’t wait to build more lessons on tasting into my garden lessons with a variety of foods that do not require cooking! I also learned the importance of connecting with all parties involved in school gardens: administrators, teachers, facilities, etc. 

Jill Staton: It was an amazing weekend to meet others and share excitement about the school garden. I was able to gain ideas, contacts, and other community partners. Presenting all of the great stuff we are doing in Cabarrus County was awesome and the feedback we received was amazing.

Jennifer Caligan: Attending the first annual Growing School Gardens Summit was an amazing experience! While networking with others that share the same struggles, same dreams, and new ideas was a HUGE experience, the takeaway that impacted me the most was how the garden can be used as a social and emotional workspace for students AND staff members. I also was able to dive deeper into how to use the garden to celebrate and promote diversity of the cultures within our schools. I can’t wait to start writing grants when my feet hit the school door tomorrow!
Videos: Growing Sweet Potato Slips, Part 2 & 3
Did you start your own sweet potato slips after receiving last month’s enews? If you missed part one of the process, go back and check it out. In part two, Amy and Doug show you how to harvest the shoots and root them in water, and part three shows how simple it is to plant them in the garden. 

If time slipped by and you didn’t have a chance to grow your own slips this year, check with your local farm supply store or garden center. Slips are often sold as bundles of 25 or 50. Make sure your planted slips stay moist for 3-5 days as they establish roots and you'll be rewarded with a back-to-school harvest.
Hydroponics Equipment for Sale
Main Street Marketplace in China Grove, NC, has a vertical hydroponics system for sale below market value. It has been used for less than a year and is in near-perfect condition. If you'd like to learn more, contact Hope Oliphant at 704-855-2909.
Due to a technical snafu, the March issue of FRESH may have ended up in your Spam folder. If you missed the March issue, you can view it here.

Like teachers, the FRESH eNews will be on hiatus through the summer. If you're looking for garden inspiration (because we know teachers' wheels are always turning), be sure to review our eNews archives.
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Amy Bowman •
Doug Vernon •