Student Activities

Even when classes are not in session, there is always something in the making here at the 24th Street Garden. Weeding, planning, prepping, planting, these tasks are just a few of many that must be accomplished to maintain the garden and to run our interactive classes. With our amazing and tireless group of volunteers, we have been able to accomplish so much at the garden!

Last week, we all experimented with a new project: Seed Bombs. We wanted to create an activity that would bring the garden to the students, and seed bombs do just this. This activity also teaches our students about seed identification and seed dispersal. With these seed bombs in hand, students are armed with the power to transform the world around them by beautifying vacant plots of land on the schoolyard, while taking ownership and pride in their community.

Our Seed Bombs

Rolling the adobe clay, dirt, and seeds together in the palm of our hands, we felt like revolutionaries making these seed bombs of peace and propagation.  You can join in on the fight too! Make your own by following the recipe below or come make some with our students at our Garden Workday THIS Saturday, February 11th, 2012!

Here’s the seed bomb recipe:

5 parts dry red clay

3 parts dry organic compost

1 part seed (the smaller the seed the better)

1 – 2 parts water

Step one: measure out three parts of dry compost or soil. This provides a growing medium for your seeds.

Step two: measure out five parts of dry powdered clay. Once mixed with water, the clay will hold the seed balls together.

Step two continued… I use Red Art clay, which I get from a pottery supply store. It’s cheap, food safe, and feels great to work with.

Step three: Add one part seed.

Step five: Roll the seed ball mix into balls 1-2 in. (2.5-5cm) in diameter. Be prepared to get messy!

Step six: Set aside to dry on wax paper for a few days before storing or using.


The kids at 24th Street Elementary are back in full swing here at the garden. We’ve been discussing the seasons and getting into what it means to be winter in Southern California. Winter in Los Angeles can be a confusing time since we aren’t wearing down coats or out building snowmen. So how do we know that it’s winter when the outdoor thermometer reads 70?  Luckily for us we can look to the garden for clues with a little game we like to call, Garden Guess Who.

This is what winter looks like at 24th Street Elementary.

Let’s get started with this clue: It is dark green, has a bumpy surface and long leaves. It looks like dinosaur skin but definitely doesn’t taste like it! It is delicious in a salad. It likes to grow during the winter. What could it be?!

Dinosaur Kale!

The kids then break up into teams and use their own observations about the garden to come up with clues for each other. They walk through the orchard describing the bare trees; they huddle around the thick stalks of the Brussels sprouts and look to the papery petals of our Iceland Poppies. They are taking inventory of what is growing (and not growing) in the garden during winter.

At the end of our game, we gather together to talk about their garden discoveries, and to be given their final clue.

Clue: It is oval, has a smooth surface and is small. It is in the Citrus Family and has an orange colored peel but is not an orange. It grows in the winter. What could it possibly be?!


They scan the garden and quickly spot the orange-colored jewels, all pointing excitedly to their discovery, “Miss Laila, over there! They’re over there!!” We walk over to the ripe fruits and after chanting the word, “Kum-quat! Kum-quat! Kum-quat!” we begin our harvest. Each student holds their kumquat high in the air until everyone has one and then the countdown begins. “Three! Two! One!!” Their eyes are bright with surprise, “It’s sooourrrr  and SWEET!!” “It tastes like candy!” Can you guess who loves kumquats?

Autumnal Equinox, you have arrived with such grace and style; I hardly saw you coming! But it is true, today is the first official day of Fall and I am so pleased that it is here. And even though we are still wearing t-shirts and shorts around the garden, I can certainly feel there is magic in the air.

That lovely shift of the seasons changing is ever present in our fruit orchard. Apples are in season! They are ripe and ready and are desperately wanting us to enjoy them (I’m not entirely sure that last bit is true but like to think it is!).

This afternoon we had Ms. Lam’s kindergarten class come in for the first time. It was wonderful watching them get oriented in the garden. We learned the garden’s cardinal rules and promised, hands over hearts, with fervor, to respect each of the rules that protect both us and all that live in the garden. We went on a guided scavenger hunt and stood next to purple flowers, the red leaves of chard, aging corn stalks, youthful cornstalks and finally, we scattered about to find the tallest plant in the garden — the sunflower.

The Sunflower Tower

 Each item we found was touched gently, smelled, and fully appreciated. Children are so wonderful. Ms. Lina taught them the 6 parts of the plant song which brought them from teeny, tiny seeds to full grown plants, and with all the might of their little bodies, they lifted their arms as leaves and said, “leaves!” and stood taller as their plant-bodies grew taller. I could have sworn that there were children blossoming all over the place! That may have been the best part of the day but we still had to harvest those apples that were begging to be enjoyed. And with that, Miss Cassie taught them what it meant to harvest, and they hopped their ways over to the apple orchard where they each got to harvest an apple.

Orchard Hops

We sliced them up and there they sat, attentive and patient, for their little slice of heaven. We took a moment to appreciate the fruit and discussed what it smelled like, what it sounded like (the ocean!) and what we thought it would taste like. Then the crunching began, the oooohs and mmmmms were quick to follow. Success!

Happy New Year everyone! GSF hasn’t been blogging over the last few months, but that doesn’t mean we haven’t been busy in the garden. In fact, there’s tons to tell you about and get excited about for 2011!

Here’s a quick recap of what we’ve been up to:

The summer harvest was astonishing, with over 800 lbs of produce either harvested by families or donated to the Greater West Hollywood Food Coalition. This was just a normal week’s bounty:

To help us figure out what to do with all of the beautiful tomatoes, Shaila, the cafeteria manager from next door, taught us to make her family’s chutney recipe:


3 lbs ripe tomatoes, roughly chopped

1 yellow or brown onion, thinly sliced

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1 tbsp sugar

1 1/2 tsp “Panch” spice (parts cumin, fenugreek, nigella seed, fennel seed, and black mustard seed)

1 tbsp vegetable oil

Salt to taste (about 1 tsp)

Put tomatoes in a medium pot over medium high heat with 1 cup of water. Boil for 10-15 minutes until they have broken down into a thick sauce. Add more water if it gets too thick. While the tomatoes are cooking, heat the oil in a saucepan over medium high heat. When hot, add the spice mixture and let it sizzle for about 15 seconds. Then add the onions and garlic and stir frequently until they’re cooked and starting to turn brown. When the tomatoes are done add the spice and onion mixture, sugar, and salt. Stir well, taste, and adjust the seasoning. This will keep in the fridge for 3 days.

We also had many garden visitors over the summer, including some very talented recent 24th Street School graduates that came back to take care of the garden and document the abundant wildlife that descends once school is out!

We experimented with sheet mulching on our two circle gardens to prep them for pumpkin planting and couldn’t have been more pleased with the results. We read lots of different pieces of advice about sheet mulching and the various ingredients you need, but we used what was available and affordable (free composted horse manure, 4 alfalfa bales at $9.99 each, and two straw bales for top mulch layer at $7.95 each). Once we got the materials together all it took was some dedicated volunteers and a bit of elbow grease to create a deliciously fertile bed.  No digging required!

Since we planted the seeds in mid-July they weren’t ready for Halloween, but by Thanksgiving we’d grown 42 pumpkins the size of basketballs or larger in 650 square feet!

We dissected lots of pumpkins and learned all about the different parts of the pumpkin plant

made Jack O’Lanterns

and decorated

The school year started off with a burst of activity as we got into our Fall programs. To start off the Fall 2010 Slow Food Cooking: Seed to Table program we had a chef training day in which chefs from all over the city came and learned how we plant, harvest, and cook food fresh from the garden 6 times a week with every student at the 24th Street Elementary school. Jenny Cook, who started the program with GSF two year ago,  made a delicious garden stir-fry:

We’ve continued to create some deliciously healthy


and in some cases exotic

dishes that introduce students to cooking fresh garden produce and teach them to make healthy and delicious food…

…done lots of different observation activities including scavenger hunts

and contrasts and comparisons…

…planted out hundreds of seedlings tirelessly sourced and delivered by the indomitable Mud Baron…

…and had lots of wonderful visitors like Ann Grodin who very generously gave us a worm bin, set it up, and has been coming back regularly to show different students how it works. The worm bin has become one of the more popular items in the garden and students have started bringing in scraps of food from home to feed them.

And we can’t forget the fantastic students from SMC’s Sustainable Works program, who come out to the garden every Friday and spend three hours working in the garden!

But most of all it’s been the hundreds of families and other volunteers that show up to our monthly workdays and weed, water, plant that keep the garden looking beautiful.

Stay tuned for reports of what’s happening in 2011. It promises to be a very busy season of new programs and partnerships but we will do our very best to keep you up to date! Happy Gardening!

Even though I’m always there in the garden, I’m always constantly blown away with all the activities surrounding me. Last Friday, I ambled over to a group of 4th and 5th graders saying “un, deux, trios…. TRIOOOUS, no, no, triOUS!” Because believe it or not, we teach French in the garden! Once a week, Virginie, our volunteer French instructor, comes in and teaches French to very eager students in our garden. What a better way to learn than to sit outdoors under the blue sky?  They won’t just be learning the language, but in the future, they’ll be learning about cheeses, French heirloom plants, and much much more!

Virginie stressing the correct way to say the many, many tougher words in French.

It looks like we have 5 future college students who will be studying abroad in Paris!

Side note: If there’s something you think you’d like to teach in our garden, please feel free to email me. You can also comment and I’ll be sure to contact you. Some great ideas are storytellers, music instruments, art, languages, writing, etc. Let us know what you can offer!

Volunteer Angelina Lai  digs a hole to collect different types of soil samples for a lesson about soil. This is not an easy task!

IMG_2856Everyone is excited to learn about the different layers in our soil! Using scientific terms, Angelina explains that soil is organic matter, which means that it is made up of living things. She explains that organic matter is different from inorganic matter, which is composed of minerals.

IMG_2851Students get their hands dirty as they observe the different properties of each container soil. They observe the color, odor, and texture of the soil samples and record their observations. Students hypothesize which layer of the earth each sample of soil comes from.

IMG_2852Some students notice that that certain soil samples smell clean and fresh!

IMG_2840Then the class discusses their findings with volunteers Angelina and Eileen. There are a lot of observations to share!


Ali Bhai, GSF’s project director, and students composting

As a result of some of our awesome volunteers from work day, we have massive piles of compost steaming in our compost area. Key word: steaming! We always encourage the kids to understand how composting works and how the process works. A local food distributor is giving us a weekly giant heap of rotting green produce so that we have a steady supply of green waste.

Last week, we took the opportunity to talk to the kids about composting and the importance of it. The kids were able to feel and see the steam rising from the center of the pile. We had a discussion about where they thought the steam was coming from and how the food turns into soil. Then they broke apart bags of spinach and turn the compost pile.

Thinking about talking to your kids about composting? Here are some questions that helped spark our discussion:

  • Why is it important to compost?
  • What do you think is the insects’ role in the composting process?
  • Why is there steam coming out of the compost pile?


You know you’re a gardener when you think compost is hot…

get it? get it? HOT? ahahahahahha- I know, garden humor’s terrible.

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