Category Archives: Children

Sustainable Gardening at School

SC-thumbThe thrill of a sustainable vegetable garden at school is connecting children directly to the food they eat. As I write this, I’m mindful of the images of devastation from Typhoon Haiyan as it created havoc in the Philippines. We are in the midst of global climate change, and storms like this are becoming more and more common. A school vegetable garden can’t solve everything, but it can re-orient our children and ourselves to growing local, healthy food. This choice can reduce our carbon footprint.

There are three sustainable vegetable gardens in my life: House at Pooh Corner, The Montessori School, and our home garden. Each of these gardens includes at least one compost bin that provides nutrients for the growing flowers and vegetables. As I strive to lead the gardens at the two schools, I benefit from the garden expertise of my husband Phil. Among other things, Phil starts many of the vegetables that are planted at school.

School gardens teach the connection between growing food and our plate. Children experience the vegetables in their natural environment before they get washed, cut and prepared. Students can explore the whole process: seed, planting, growing, harvesting and eating. A bonus is collecting seeds this year to plant next year.

At House at Pooh Corner, a preschool, we focus on cherry tomatoes, radishes, green beans and lettuce. These are all vegetables that can be picked and eaten right away. You don’t even need to wash them (well, do wash the radishes). So the children’s experience is hand to mouth. Pick the lettuce, taste it. You’d be surprised at what a picky eater will try if they get to pick the vegetable from the plant. When there is abundance, make a salad or steam cook the green beans.

At The Montessori School, in addition to common vegetables, we also have an herb garden, and have had success with strawberries, potatoes, zucchini, zinnia flowers and peppers.


In both schools, the children help with the compost bin. Children collect food waste from their own snacks or lunches, and add the food to the compost bin with a layer of greens (yard waste) and browns (dried leaves or shredded paper). Months later, the children help to sift the nutritious soil, putting large pieces of compost back in the bin, and adding the soft, sifted soil to the vegetable garden.

One of the joys of gardening is helping to figure out how to use the harvested food. Some uses are obvious: salad or eating raw green beans, radishes, tomatoes and peppers. Other uses educate and stretch children’s knowledge. Zucchini can be used in a recipe right away, or it can be shredded and frozen for making zucchini bread in the winter. This year at The Montessori School, we harvested an abundance of potatoes that were made into mashed potatoes and roasted potatoes.

The point of a sustainable garden is to connect children to the food that they eat. Planting, growing, harvesting, and eating create joy and wonder for a growing child. They won’t forget their experiences in the garden.

Watershed Education, Science Enrichment and Birthday Parties

SC-thumbAs the Fall season of 2010 is starting, consider your sustainable choices, and your connections to your community.

Increase to two best habits, and let two unsustainable habits fall by the wayside. For instance, I’m choosing to drink more water, eat more vegetarian meals, eat less sugar and to connect face-to-face rather than only over the internet.

I’m excited to hear that more municipalities are recycling plastics #3 to #7, as well as #1 and #2.

I discovered that shredded paper is not helpful to the recycling process, so I’m considering increasing the amount of craft paper that I make in order to use the shredded paper we produce. Another option is to add the shredded paper to our compost.

My work as a consultant to the Philadelphia Water Department is extremely exciting and rewarding. The enviroscape watershed model is a great stimulus for watershed information. At public events (see the calendar) and with classes at schools, the visual polluting of the water is dramatic.

My frequent talking points are:

  • rainwater goes down storm drains on the street,
  • pick up after your dog,
  • clean land makes clean water.

There are multiple free educational opportunities via the Philadelphia Water Department. Contact me if you want to increase your school’s watershed education, either in the classroom or with field trips to PWD locations.

Sustainable Choices is also expanding in other ways. The Montessori School (TMS) in Dresher, PA  is increasing outdoor explorations of their property, and the township park beside TMS with be provided with consulting services and education. The House at Pooh Corner is increasing science exploration in its preschool class.  Both schools are excellent matches between my skills and their specific requests. The opportunity to work with exceptional teachers who want support in developing their scientific skills is also very rewarding.

The third area of expansion and exploration with Sustainable Choices is with Birthday Parties or “one time” events. I look forward to a fall birthday party this coming weekend, and wonder how to expand this potential educational opportunity. What a joy it is to encourage appropriate nature exploration in local parks.

It’s going to be a great year!