Ribbons At the Common Ground Fair

The Troy Howard Middle School went to the Common Ground Fair on September 21st . There we won lots of Blue, Red, and Yellow ribbons. We won 27 blue ribbons, for first prize. 29 red ribbons, second prize, and 16 yellow ribbons, third prize. We had a pumpkin that won first prize that weighed in at about 47 pounds. There was also one of our flowers that won first prize. The flower was the Artichoke flower. To get your vegetables and flowers judged you have to drop them off at the judges cabin. Before we left the fair we went back to see how many ribbons we won and saw what places our vegetables and flowers got judged at, then you can take all your stuff back home. Or in our case back to school. The Troy Howard school won a total of 72 ribbons this year.

Greenhouse goes bird crazy

Our large heated greenhouse has the front door open during mild weather.  We occasionally have sparrows visit for a short time and in the spring hummingbirds love to come in to sip from the petunia flowers.  If they get trapped there is plenty of water and food until the door is again open and they are released.  Last week during a teacher workshop I was giving tours and a large bird flew in which I assumed was a curious seagull looking for compost scraps.  The big bird made several swoops around the greenhouse (with teachers ducking) before we realized it was a red tail hawk.  We have no idea what she was chasing but it made for a great tour!

Sweet potato success in marginal gardening year

Back in March we purchased Japanese sweet potatoes from the Belfast Co-op and placed them in soil to sprout.  In early June Makayla took cuttings from the sprouts, stuck them in a raised bed and covered the bed with row cover.  When the plants grew so they were forcing the row cover we removed the cover and let them spread.  The plants were healthy all summer, with little or no insect damage.  Just before the fair in September we dug three for the fair and were disappointed the they were still fairly small.  For some reason we still won a blue ribbon!  Two weeks later we dug the whole mess and were surprised to find large tubers growing in the middle.  Below is the evidence.

Students demonstrate seed saving at Belfast Farmer’s Market

Three Ecology Academy students and a Food Corps volunteer went to the Waterfall Arts building to demonstrate saving tomato seeds and sell a little garlic and rosemary.  The markets goers loved the demos and all the garlic.  A great time was had by all!



Katie, Jacob, Olivia, Olivia and Cranky ham it up at the Market

Artichoke flower our pride and joy!

In a previous post we wrote about our overwintered artichokes and successful harvests.  We left a large choke to flower and Jean English, editor of the MOFGA newspaper, took a picture with her expensive camera.  Check it out.

Common Ground Fair a success for the Ecology Academy

We spent the day at the fair on Friday (Sept. 21) and by all accounts the kids had a blast.  The day before the fair I took a group to enter our 80 vegetables and flowers in the exhibition hall.  Despite some tough judging we received 30 blue ribbons, 30 red ribbons and 20 yellow ribbons.  The picture below is the 8th graders displaying their ribbons.

Artichokes look great

Of the 8 artichoke plants we transplanted into one hoop house 7 took hold and are now flourishing.  We now know that they must be transplanted before the cold weather (from the outdoor garden) and allowed to root well before winter.  No row cover was needed.  As of yesterday several plants already had small artichokes.  We look forward to delicious artichokes during this summer’s garden camp.

Heavy rains deter students from planting THMS garden

In the past several weeks we have had around 12 inches of rain in the Belfast area.  Our heavy clay soil lying underneath our amended clay loam holds water longer than any garden I have ever worked in.  After every rain episode we need at least 4 days before students can reenter the garden without compacting the soil or being sucked in and losing their boots.  We got a one day break twice in the last two weeks and planted all the corn, tomatoes, peppers and brassicas. We planted the dry beans and potatoes under less than perfect conditions with an elementary school group.  Hopefully next Monday we can plant the heirloom beans, squash, pumpkins and all the other odds and ends needed for next fall.  Tuesday is the last day of school so we are cutting it really tight!

A dreary day at the farm

Row cover experiment a success

Row cover on raised bed

Two classes of seventh graders planted adjacent raised beds with mixed greens in mid-April.  They covered one with row cover and left the other exposed.  Five weeks later weeks later we uncovered the bed with row cover and took pictures.  The difference was amazing.  The covered bed was way ahead of the exposed bed and the plants were healthier.  The questions began to fly and I attributed the difference to trapped heat, insect protection and protection from the heavy May rains we experienced.  I was glad the difference was so dramatic and I hope I made an impression on future gardeners and farmers.

Bed with  cover

Bed with no row cover

Students removing row cover

Garlic way ahead of schedule

We planted four varieties of garlic last October in our beautiful clay loam soil.  Early signs of green shoots began when the snow usually covers the garden.  The kids had to coax a few through the shredded leaf mulch but they were going gang busters by the end of march.  Now the porcelins are two feet high almost blue and the racamboles are a beautiful shade of light green in comparison.  We hope to harvest 1000 heads this summer and our prediction is that it will be earlier in July than usual.

May 20 garlic looking good

Mother’s Day rush cleans out hanging petunias

The kids started in January planting tiny seeds of three varieties of hanging petunias.  The first transplants were made in late February and single plants were placed in 10 inch hanging pots at the end of March.  The regulars begin to come into the greenhouse the beginning of May to hold their favorites and by yesterday most were gone.  This is an annual ritual at the THMS greenhouse and a real diversion from the vegetable only greenhouse we usually run.


Petunias hanging in greenhouse

Tomatoes are ready to go

This year we started 73 varieties of tomatoes, two varieties of tomatillos and two varieties of ground cherries.  Most of the varieties are heirlooms which were brought by Mr. Thurston from Medomak Valley High School.  They are the spotlight of our annual plant sale and will be sold out by the first of June.  At one dollar per plant it is quite a bargain!

Ecology Academy composters of the year!

Our Academy has been awarded the composter of the year award by the Maine Resource Recovery Association.  Mr. Thurston accepted the award at point lookout in Lincolnville.  He also presented a slide show of the operation to the association.  We are really proud the gains we have made this year in creating enough compost to cover our entire operation.

City of Belfast donates leaves to the cause

Michael and Rick stand on "leaf" mountain

Every fall the city of Belfast sucks up leaves from piles in the city and disposes of them.  As students of the Ecology Academy we feel this is a huge waste of valuable organic matter.  We therefore teamed up Bob Richards, the head of Belfast Public Works,  to have leaves dropped off directly at the middle school.  The leaves serve many uses: mulch for the summer garden, tilled in early spring they are great organic fertilizer and carbon for the compost bins and worm bins.  As you can see from the photo we have collected enough so local residents can come and load up leaves for their gardens.  The nutrient value of leaves is well-known (Plant_Nutrients_in_Municipal_Leaves.).  Between the school and local residents we hope not a single leaf will go to waste in Belfast!

Swiss Commas- I mean Chard. (EDITED BY RICK WYMAN, THOROUGHLY)

     So, back to the obligatory blog. Today (January 25th For the illiterate masses) we decided to write about the swiss chard, (no, Breann and Mr. Thurston aren’t the stars of this, contrary to the picture) which is still growing back from our last harvest, which was sold to the local Co-op as usual, sadly I was not involved and neither was my critic who is sitting right next to me at the present (“YOU NEED MORE COMMAS!”).   That aside, our class hasn’t been doing much in the garden, regretfully.  Even worse than that, most of the class is focusing on the “arts”, be it visual or otherwise.   As for today, most people are doing a bit of carpentry , or cleaning the rabbit cages.   The latter which I’m happily not involved in.   Sadly, my editor wasn’t involved either, so I’m stuck with him. Mr. Wyman says I am hilarious, which I am. (Rick claims himself to be a stalker by the way, and tries his hardest to act funny, please laugh at him.)

Troy Howard Middle School Trails In Construction

Were working on the trails because they were a mess before but now there starting to look better. It will take 1 or 2 months, it will be hard because of the snow. We also have to build a bridge so you don’t get your feet wet. When we are done and when you want to walk you will be able to enjoy it without falling or getting wet. You will be able to walk in peace and get to enjoy nature, there’s a nice little stream you can check out and be able to look for bugs. In these photo you can see that there still work to be done. Were working as fast as we can but there will be upcoming delays.  When you want you can walk to the YMCA because it’s right down the trail along with other trails.  If you don’t want to walk on the trails you can check out the green house, the pond, the chickens, the bunnies, the compost bins, and the other trails.  There are a lot of fields if you want to explore.   And there’s plenty of wildlife to check out.

solar collectors

The three Solar collector projects had to be put on hold again after a plowing incident. We are putting up posts to keep it from happening again.

Temperature drops below zero at the garden for the first time this year

The temperature at the garden this morning was -2 F.  Luckily the snow cover has kept the frost from creeping into the hoop houses.  They will get to a balmy 60 F + today and by noon the spinach, frozen last night,  can be picked by noon.  The heated greenhouse is 48 F but will rise to the mid 80 s on this clear sunny day.  This is what we have to go through to eat local greens in the state of Maine.

Following is a picture of the garden from the web cam on this fine morning.

I got the privilege of taking pictures of Troy Howard Middle School’s Green House and blog about them. The Green House is very important to Troy Howard because it helps us get food to munch on while we are eating in our own cafeteria. Hope you enjoy the pictures!

The Pond!

The beautiful Troy Howard Green House Pond!

Solar Power

I got the coveted privilege of writing a blog/post for the T.H.M.S Garden, so here goes.

So, what shall my first blog post be about? None other than the outdoor kitchen’s temperature, and nothing more. At the time (since this post was written many days after) it was 60+ degrees and standing against the bone chilling winds and the <10 degree weather. Though, this post is a bit lackluster and bland, so here is a fancy picture of the thermometer and outdoor kitchen on that day.

Local volunteers beautify chard beds

Local volunteers  Amy Campbell and Sally Demeter work on beautifying the greenhouse every Tuesday.  Their first order of business is to clean up the chard beds by weeding and cutting out unusable leaves.  When finished they fan out to prune, pinch and spruce up every plant in the greenhouse.  They are a valuable pair all year and we salute them!


Travis digs up giant rosemary plant

Travis with awesome rosemary plant

Each year the kids take rosemary cuttings to grow plants for sale.  Extra plants are planted in the summer garden, allowed to grow, and taken out as large plants for sale.  Some just keep hanging around the greenhouse and garden as this plant displayed by Travis.  We had to use a dolly to get it out of the garden.  What a prize!

Artichoke study underway

Artichoke prepared for overwintering

Yesterday a group of dedicated middle school gardeners transplanted seven first year artichoke plants into our hoop house.  We had great success with artichokes this year harvesting over fifty California size artichokes from ten plants.  The summer taste testers gave them all the thumbs up.  Since artichokes are perennials and not hardy in Maine we are hoping the hoop house will provide the climate for overwintering.  Temperatures will be recorded this winter and detailed records will be kept.  Check the blog for updates.

Record worm casting harvest

Last week we began digging out the worm castings in the hoop house and sifting them through one half inch hardware cloth.  As several kids used a hoe to help the castings through the screen other students collected worms from the screen and returned them to a bucket for later use.  In the end we collected two full trashcans of castings!  These will be used in the greenhouse as fertilizer in our soil mix.  The worms were returned to the bin in the hoop house along with any large pieces of uneaten organic matter and the process was started for this school year’s food scraps from the cafeteria.

Students use screen to sift worm castings

Late blight visits our beautiful garden

Late blight has once again forced us to remove all our tomatoes.  Spores blew in on the western end of the garden and proceeded through our 75 tomato plants consisting of 50 varieties.  This is flash back to 2009 when late blight came on earlier and wiped out most tomatoes in the area.  We are still waiting for others in the area to report but we seem to be the first.

Late blight is caused by the same organism which caused the potato famine in Ireland in the 1840’s.  When the kids arrive at school our history teacher will show them the few remaining plants and cover a unit on the famine.

The organism is still considered a fungus but it has some unusual properties like swimming down potato stems to infect the tubers.  Infestations of tomatoes seems to be the major problem for home gardeners in Maine.  Here is a Cornell web site which covers the biology very well.  http://www.longislandhort.cornell.edu/vegpath/photos/lateblight_tomato.htm

Cool Webcams Now Operational !

Thanks to a generous donation from Dave Perloff we have two webcams operating in the greenhouse and garden.  The link is http://www.mediamaine.org/webcam/thms/index.html.  We are still working out the kinks so be patient.

Life inside our winter greenhouse

The snow is piled high outside our heated greenhouse but it is spring inside (on some days, summer).  The thermostat is set at 46 F inside our greenhouse for obvious reasons (hint: it is heated by oil).  We discussed this several years ago and decided to steer a course towards greens which tolerate a cool greenhouse.  These include our main crop of chard (which is sold to the school kitchen, Belfast Co-op and drop-ins).  We also grow mixed greens:  arugula, mispoona, tatsoi, various mustard greens, kale, lettuce, spinach and much more.  On sunny days the temperature rises into the 90s even though it is 15 F outside (the fans will be operational again toward the end of March.  They are now sealed off and covered with plastic to keep out cold drafts).  This allows the kids to open the door and allow for some much-needed air exchange.  As they walk in I say “welcome to Florida”.  We are looking into a new thermostat for our backup heater so we can experiment with dropping the temperature lower than 45 F.

Think Spring-PLEASE

As another weekly storm drops a foot or more of snow on the garden and greenhouses we are starting our “Think Spring” campaign.  We already know the groundhog has been good to us so we thought a little positive thinking would be nice also.  Enjoy the pictures of what is to come!

















































The Bee’s Knees

Thanks to Christy Hemenway and Goldstar Honeybees we now have a top bar bee hive in the garden.  Christy has placed it here for demonstration and it has been successful up to this point.  The most recent update from Christy was that our bees had a good chance of surviving the winter.  The kids love to drop down the hatch in back for viewing the bees in the hive.

Check out Gold Star Honeybees website http://www.goldstarhoneybees.com

Check out more info on top bar hives  http://www.goldstarhoneybees.com/shopcontent.asp?type=wax

Seventh graders pose with top bar hive

Grace Slams Geobee!

Grace and friends display medal in Social Studies class

Grace Bagley, Ecology student extraordinaire, won the school wide Geobee today.  Her amazing win allows her to continue in the competition beyond the middle school.  We are all very proud of her accomplishment.

Donated plug trays make real difference in greens production

Jennifer Pierce of Waldo donated tons of plug trays and flats from her old business for use at the school greenhouse.  We use the trays to start all the greens grown in the raised beds.  This has been found to be a very efficient use of space and seeds.  The beds of greens are extremely neat compared to direct seeding.  Below Martina displays a tray of spinach grown for transplanting.

Price insulation blows in fiberglass in Kitchen ceiling

Thanks to our stellar math teacher and his connections with Price Insulation Co. we were able to have fiberglass blown into the ceiling of the outdoor kitchen to an R value of over 40.   Glen’s wife’s cousin, Travis, was an excellent teacher showing us how the equipment works and discussing the benefits of fiberglass over cellulose.  We are now putting up the space age vapor barrier (moisture goes out but not in) and will begin the process of boarding the ceiling by week’s end.

Dakota and Stuart look on as Travis fills the cavities

R. H. Price trailer used for blowing in insulation

Master gardeners get shredding!

Master gardeners Sally Demeter and Amy Campbell brought a leaf shredder to school on their regular work day and proceeded to shred part of our massive pile of leaves dropped off by the good people of the Belfast maintenance crew.  The shredded leaves will be used for mulch and composting food scraps in the large bins.  We are always grateful for the added carbon to garden and compost!

Outdoor kitchen gets indoor facelift

Thanks to Chase Mcintyre’s father Gary’s excellent carpentry skills the 8th graders were able to make great progress on the outdoor kitchen during the 7th grade Schoodic trip.  Gary spent the week donating his skills and tools to help finish the interior of the kitchen.  Robbins Lumber donated some beautiful lumber (thanks to the connections our stellar social studies teacher , Jeff, has with young Jimmy) including clear tongue and groove pine and trim boards.  We are grateful to Gary and Robbins Lumber for their generous help.


Nelson Boys Deliver the Poop!

In our never-ending quest to add nutrients and organic matter to the garden Cooper Nelson and his father James have donated 12 yards of cow organic matter.  The kids have already used it for the fall garlic beds as well as the hoop houses.  We would like to thank the Nelsons for their support!


Cooper by pile of precious poop





Incredible Summer

We have not blogged in a very long time so this is a quick note to say we are back in business!

The summer of 2010 was the best gardening year in the program’s history.  Here are some highlights:

1.  We harvested over 50 huge artichokes

2.  Japanese sweet potatoes were huge (from co-op potatoes we sprouted)

3. Our gourds molded into their fish and frog forms nicely.

4.  1000 pounds of produce given to cafeteria and many more pounds sold to community or given to soup kitchen.

5. 65 ribbons (45 blue) at the Common Ground Fair exhibition hall.

We will remember this year for a long time!


Geranium is a genus of 422 species of flowering annual, biennial, and perennial plants that are commonly known as the cranesbills. It is found throughout the temperate regions of the world and the mountains of the tropics, but mostly in the eastern part of the Mediterranean region.

Sweet Alyssum

scientific name- lobularia maritima.

Sweet Alyssums are usually white with pink or purple. Height is up to 1 ft and the blooming season is early.
They are not invasive, endangered, edible or medicinal. The Sweet Alyssums native range is in Southern Europe. They can be gown in regions all over North America. The zones they can be grown in are 3 through 9, perennial in warm regions and grown annually during colder regions.

How to Grow:
The soil preference needs to be adaptable. And the need to be in an area that has full sun to light shade. Average moisture, well drained.

Used all over the world as a fencing flower for flowering borders. Since blooming is quick the Sweet Alyssum
is useful in meadows before growing tall.


Family-  Tropaeolaceae

Species- Majus
Also called Indian Cress, Mexican Cress, Peru Cress and Jesuit’s Cress.

Grows a lot in Bolivia and Peru.
Nasturtiums name comes form the Latin word meaning ‘’‘Trophy’’ or ’’ sing of victory’’

Plant was first discovered in in in the sixteenth century  Peru and Mexico.

Rabbits hate Nasturtiums and keep away from them.
Nasturtiums are put in some salads.
To some people they are spicy.

Growing info
In one pack of seeds that about 25 seeds.
Space out 8-12 inches apart.
If you are in the freezing temperatures plant in after the frost.
If you live in the mild southern climates you can plant them in the fall.
needs a lot of water.
If you have too rich of soil then you will have move leaves then flowers.
They grow 6-12 inches tall.

Flowering Tobacco

Nicotiana alata
Flowering Tobacco is an annual that enjoys sun to partial shade.
It can grow up to 36-48 in.
the spacing of the flower is 15-18 in.
its blooming times are Mid Summer, Late Summer, /Early Fall.
Its dangers are that if any and all parts that are ingested will harm you
Blooms repeatedly and its blooming color is White.
Other details:
 Average Water Needs; Water regularly; do not overwater
Propagation Methods:
 By dividing rhizomes, tubers, corms or bulbs (including offsets)
 From herbaceous stem cuttings
 From seed; sow indoors before last frost
 From seed; direct sow after last frost
Seed Collecting:
 Allow pods to dry on plant; break open to collect seeds
 Properly cleaned, seed can be successfully stored
Nicotiana’s lovely tubular blooms attract hummingbirds with their colors and gardeners with their evening fragrance.

Mexican Sunflower

Mexican Sunflower, Tithonia Rotundifolia

Fast Facts: The Mexican sunflower is a member of the Asteraceae family. It is also known as the tithonia. Mexican sunflowers grow to a height of 5 to 6 feet. Most specimens are between 3 and 4 feet wide. Dwarf versions are also available that reach a height of only 3 feet. The Mexican Sunflowers pedals are usually red and orange. The flowers resemble daisies and are approximately 3 inches across.

Needs lots of sun well drained soil likes hot weather.

How to grow it

Things you need:

Bypass Pruners

Compost Makers


Garden Hoses

Garden Spades

Garden Stakes



Step 1 Choose a site with average to poor, well-drained soil in full sun.

Step 2 Plant seeds directly in soil after your region’s last average frost date. Or start seeds indoors six to eight weeks earlier.

Step 3 Thin plants to about 2 feet apart.

Step 4 Keep soil evenly moist, but don’t overwater – this flower likes it a little on the dry side.

Step 5 Trim faded flowers to promote longer blooming.

Step 6 Fertilize every 8 to 10 weeks, or work in a slow-release fertilizer (or plenty of compost) at planting time.

Step 7 Tear out and discard plants in fall, after frost fells them.


Common Name: Common Sunflower.

Scientific Name: Helianthus annuus

Where it’s from: The originated from the U.S.

How to grow it: Sunflowers are really easy to grow. You can plant them in the ground or in a pot in your house. They always grow toward the sun.

Interesting Facts: [Scientific Name] Helia means sun and Anthus means flower.
One sunflower has up to 2,000 seeds in it. There are sixty different kinds of sunflowers.   The common sunflower can grow 3 to 18 feet. It only requires 90 to 100 days to grow. There are two kinds of sunflower seeds. There are black seeds and striped seeds. Oil is made from black sunflower seeds. Snacks are made from the striped seeds. The sunflower is the state flower for Kansas. There is only one flower to each stem.

French Marigold

Scientific name is Asteraceae.
The height is 6-12 inches. Width between each other is 3-6 inches.
They need to be in the sun for about 6 hours a day.
They are a good flower because the bees and butterflies can get pollen from them.
They bloom around mid summer to early fall.
They don’t have any predator because animals don’t like the scent.
The bloom color is dark red, orange, reddish orange, gold, and bright yellow.
They need a lot of water because the sun will suck the water out.
But don’t over water them.

Morning Glory

Name: Morning Glories

Scientific name: Ipomoea purpurea

Where is comes from: First originated in China

How to care for it:
Fairly versatile and can grow in any type of soil.

Found in waste ground, roadsides, railroads.

They like the sun and are easy to grow.

Freeze the seeds before you plant them.

They are attractive to birds especially humming birds.

Morning glories need a fence or a tree for their vines to climb.

Wait until most of the suspicions of frost are gone to plant them.

In China it was used for medicinal uses because of its laxative property of its seeds.

If you Soak it in water for a couple of weeks you can make wine.

Interesting Facts:
-They can grow up to 20 feet tall.

-Morning Glories can be toxic if you eat them.

-September’s birth flower.

-leaves are heart shaped

-Prone to rust, fungal leaf spots, stem rot and wilt.

-Can easily become a test in the garden.


There are 20 different spiecies of zinnias they grow 6″ to 3′ there is a veriety of very bold beautiful colors. they are rounded flowers as you can see in the picture there are also dwarf verieties. the state flower of india is the zinnia. the sybole of the zinnia is lasting love, goodness, and thoughts of abstnt friend. the meaning of the zinnia depends on it’s color. zinnia is a small flower found in the america south west. this flower lives for only a year. Mrs j c darnell clames that her zinnias grow 8 feet tall.

The name for this flower is: Zinnia

The scientific name- Zinnia

Zinnia’s like the warm weather and they are easy to grow.

The Zinnia Elegn’s are originated in Mexico.

They bloom from mid summer to frost.

First you plant them from seeds and then water right after you plant them best time to water is in the morning

When they are partly grown mulch them to keep in the water.

The zinnia came from Mexico. People have been planting them since 1520. They were named after a Johann Goffried Zinn.

Maine School Garden Day at THMS May 1

2010 Maine School Garden Day
Troy Howard Middle School
Belfast, ME


9:00 – Registration (In the garden weather permitting)

9:30 – Orientation – Introductions – Welcome – Jon Thurston
– Willie Grenier – Maine Ag in the Classroom Executive Director

10:00 – Student Presentation – Slides and garden tour

11:00 – Concurrent Sessions – (pick one)

– SCHOOL GARDENS 101 – All the information you need if you are just starting your school garden project… Liz Stanley – Knox-Lincoln Cooperative Extension Educator

– NOW YOU’RE HOOKED, WHAT NEXT? – For school gardeners that are past the first steps and now need to know he next steps… Heritage Seeds, Special Projects and more… Neil Lash – Medomak Valley H.S.

12:00 – Lunch – Sandwiches & Salad – Susan Shaw Catering
Browse resources & networking – exhibits and taste testing
Bee Keeping, Worm Composting, Apprentice Gardener Program, and more…

1:00 – Integrating Math & Language Arts into the Garden Project
Glen Widmer, Jeff Lovejoy & Jason Bannister – Troy Howard teachers that have developed units centering on the garden project.

1:45 – Integrated Pest Management – Kathy Murray, Maine State Entomologist – Learn secrets
to control pests with beneficial insects… new lessons coming for your classroom!

2:30 – Jon Thurston – Season Extending Greenhouses for Schools – Jon’s students are
growing food for the cafeteria year round, and not in heated greenhouses. Learn his
secret and how you can do it on your budget.

3:15 – Wrap up & CEU”S awarded

Spring Chick arrives for School Garden

Chick was hatched by broody hen!

Garlic up and Brassicas almost ready

This week the kids will finish transplanting brassicas including broccoli, cauliflower, collards, Brussels sprouts, kohlrabi and cabbage.  The seedlings will be ready for sale around the third week of April which is when we put in ours here in midcoast Maine.  We turn over the soil with a fork, rake in compost and plant.  Immediately after planting we put in hoops of 3/4″ PVC pipe and cover the plants with row cover to keep out flea beetles and keep the plants warm.

The first planting usually coincides with the garlic sprouting through the mulch but this year the garlic was up two weeks ago!  This was a record in my book.

row covers over cucumbershis was a record in my book.

Greenhouse looking hot!

The warm weather has made the greenhouse bust out at the seams!  The chard is bionic, the greens are wild and the flowers are booming.  Onions, peppers, leeks, shallots, celery, celeriac and eggplant have been planted in preparation for the coming gardening season.

What The world Eats

We have been using the book, What the World Eats” as the basis of our math unit and provided us with our essential question: What does the world eat compared to us? This a great book that has lots of photographs, charts and written information about what people all over the world eat for a week. The countries range from the refugee camps of Sudan and Chad to Australia, Japan, Guatemala, Bhutan and the United States. The amount of food consumed by the family for each week is calculated by dollars. The currency of the countries is converted to U.S. dollars.

The standards that we are addressing are to:
Interpret and use percents to solve problems
Understands, selects and uses units of appropriate size and type
Uses graphs to analyze the changes in quantities of linear relationships
Uses graphs and charts for inference

Each student has read and reviewed the book, chose a research topic, developed 5-6 “good questions” and created 2-3 graphs which support the individual research.

Here’s what the kids have to say:

Nolan- “A good question is a question that relates to what you are studying. An example of a good question “What are the top fast food restaurants in the world and why? A good question never has a one word answer. A good question is specific enough to give you good information.”

Bianca- “The book had really good information in it. It helped us learn about how much food all the countries eat and how much it costs every week. The pictures gave us good information because it shows how much food they eat and how big their families are.”

Jana- “This book showed us what fresh and packaged foods are. If you have fresh food you will probably be healthier for you than packaged food. The food that comes from the garden is a whole lot fresher and healthier than packaged food at the store.”

Taylor- “In different countries, people eat different foods based on how much money they have and how good the farmland is. For example, In India, people eat mostly vegetables and some meat. They do not eat beef because the cow is sacred. In the U.S. We eat too much fast food! In Ecuador, people eat mostly vegetables and grains which they either grow themselves or trade with their neighbors for what they can’t grow.”

Nic-”There are a lot of McDonald’s around the world. In Hindu countries, the Big Macs are made from chicken. Japan has 3,857 McDonald’s.”

Thomas- “The U.S Food Pyramid tells you what kind of food groups you should eat and how big of a portion you should eat. For example the food groups you should eat the least of are on the top and the food groups you should eat the most of are on the bottom. Examples of food groups are, fats/oils, dairy,proteins and simple and complex carbohydrates.”

We’ve been working on this project for two weeks now. Each student is creating a keynote with their questions and answers and two-three graphs related to their topic. They’ll also orally present their projects to each other.

Here’s what they have to say about what they’ve learned:

Nolan- “I learned that not everyone eats stuff from their own countries.”

Thomas- “I learned from the Food Pyramid about some of the less healthy foods you eat that are on the food pyramid. You should eat more of the healthier foods than the others.”

Jana- “I learned that many countries have food like ours. Another thing that I learned is that the richer you are, the unhealthier you may be if all you eat is expensive, fat food and packaged food. Whether you eat healthily depends on whether you have a garden or not.”

Nic-”I learned that there are many fast food places all around the world and what different kinds of fast food. Math can be interesting.”

Taylor-”I have learned to think in a mathematical way.”

Jordan- “What I’ve learned is that math can be fun when you’re talking about food. Food can be added, subtracted, multiplied and divided just like a pineapple. Most of the time here, foods are easy to get depending on what you like to eat.”

Bianca-” What I have learned is that some people in the world don’t eat or have as much as we do. In India, they don’t eat cows. They eat chicken burgers instead.”

Helen Nichols- “I love teaching using the modified Socratic Method. . Actually teaching the students what good questions are and what good research is, is vitally important to their success in high school .Learning about how others approach food is something they are all interested in, so the learning is a little more natural for them. I am striving for a balance of mathematical thinking (searching for patterns, similarities and differences. I want my students to be able to be able think, discuss and solve problems through a mathematical lens.