Back To School

by Sam Doll
Back to School Learning Gardens.

What do you think of when you imagine a classroom? Do you think of rows of desks, educational posters, a whiteboard with a professionally dressed teacher at the front? There may be a few toys or tablets with games designed to teach kids their alphabet or basic math.

That traditional classroom is useful for certain things, like learning grammar and division, but it is really inadequate for teaching kids about the world they live in and interact with every day. This is especially true with food.

Most kids, especially those from low-income or urban areas have very little understanding of what food actually is or where it comes from. Kids learn through their senses, so when they aren’t given the opportunity to actually see and touch and understand how food comes from the earth to their plate, it is hard for them to have a deep understanding of the food system and it is harder for them to make healthy choices. Ketchup has no connection to a tomato and the tomato has no connection to the earth.

We know that good nutrition is linked to higher academic achievement. We also know that gardening has many positive outcomes for children, including better nutrition, social skills, and academic achievement.

That is why school learning gardens are such a powerful education tool. These outdoor classrooms can be installed either on school campuses or remotely and provide a unique, hands-on opportunity for kids to learn lessons in nutrition, science, and community while getting a tasty, healthy snack right from the garden!

One of the biggest organizations pushing for school learning gardens is Big Green. Started by Kimbal Musk, food entrepreneur and brother of Elon Musk. Big Green installs learning gardens at low-income schools across the country.

They provide dedicated garden instructors, so teachers aren’t being asked to do more than they already are and kids are getting information straight from the experts. Started in Boulder, Colorado (BBB Seed’s hometown), Big Green has built learning gardens at over 378 schools in seven states.

At BBB Seed, we are dedicated to educating people of all ages about the benefits of eating healthy, protecting our pollinators, and gardening with organic methods. To get educational materials sent straight to your email, make sure to sign up for our newsletter at the bottom of the ‘home’ page.

 

Grow Your Own Food: Best Return on Investment

by Sandy Swegel

 

There are so many vegetables you can grow in your garden. If only there was enough time. If you have limited time or space for your garden, think about what is the best return on your investment of time and money as well as the best outcome of flavor and nutrition. Three things I grow even if I don’t have time to grow anything else are:

Salad greens.
Loose-leaf lettuces, spinach, kale, chard, and arugula are up and ready to eat in as little as three weeks after planting. You can pick what you need for tonight’s salad, and let the plant continue to grow for another night’s salad. Baby greens and mixed lettuces cost $6 per pound (and up) at the grocery…and they aren’t necessarily that fresh…sometimes they’ve been traveling in a semi-trailer from California for a week already. Grow your own greens to get maximum nutrition and taste for a couple of bucks worth of seed.

Tomatoes.
You’ve tasted one of those grocery store tomatoes that look perfect and taste like absolutely nothing? Enough said. You have to grow tomatoes because home-grown tomatoes taste so much better than anything you can buy. But tomatoes have also gotten really expensive. One or two tomato plants easily save you a couple hundred dollars if you regularly eat tomatoes in your salads and sandwiches. Cherry tomato plants are especially prolific.

 

Herbs.

Fresh herbs are the best way to give oomph to your cooking. They taste so much better than dried herbs and can often star in a simple dish …such as basil leaves served with mozzarella and tomato. Many herbs are perennial (like thyme and oregano) and only have to be planted once. Annual herbs, such as basil and dill produce lots and lots of flavorful leaves.

It’s always fun to grow everything there is to grow, but if you’re strapped for time or space, let the local farmers grow the long-season crops like winter squash, the root crops like onions and carrots, or the water-hogging melons. You’ll be enjoying your own magnificent home-grown healthful salads all season.

Forest Bathing

No, this isn’t a clever way to reduce water usage during drought conditions. “Forest bathing” or as it’s called in Japan shinrin-yoku, has now been clinically proven to reduce stress and improve human health. We gardeners and wildflower lovers have always known this, but the Japanese have perfected the art of shinrin-yoku (There are 48 official “forest therapy” trails in Japan.) And Western Science has documented the effect on humans through clinical research. In its most simple form, forest bathing is just about getting out and simply being in nature…being in the present moment.

An article or book on forest bathing pops up every couple of years…The New York Times wrote in 2010. The current issue Outside magazine has an entire spread: “Take Two Hours of Pine Forest and Call Me in the Morning.”  Outside whimsically describes a forest bathing session: “…You stroll a little, maybe write a haiku, crack open a spicebush twig and inhale its woodsy, sassy scent. People come out of the city and literally shower in the greenery…” Research is documenting that the health effects of forest bathing include reduced blood pressure, reduced cortisol levels, an increase in white blood cells, and an increase in natural killer cells. One study found over a hundred different essential oils in forest air.

Based on ancient Shinto and Buddhist practices, shinrin-yoku recommends a mindful approach to bathing in the forest and focusing on experiencing the forest through all five senses.  If you’re caught up in the busyness of urban life and have to stop a second to try to remember what the five senses are….it’s time to head for the forest!

Related Articles: http://www.outsideonline.com/fitness/wellness/Take-Two-Hours-of-Pine-Forest-and-Call-Me-in-the-Morning.html http://psychologyofwellbeing.com/201112/forest-bathing.html http://www.nytimes.com/2010/07/06/health/06real.html?_r=2&ref=health& http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Forest_bathing http://www.mnn.com/health/fitness-well-being/photos/7-odd-natural-ways-to-boost-your-health/forest-bathing