The one-legged garden sink 

"Gardening is such an experiential learning process, I think it's a huge advantage to figure things out and learn right along with the students - they kids see you problem solving and that's really meaningful. Just jump in." - Joy Schelble
At the Goodman Youth Farm, we are lucky enough to have a three-basin sink for washing dishes in our outdoor cooking area. The sink basins are perfect, but the legs...leave something to be desired. Last spring, one of the legs just fell right off. In summer, we lost a second leg, and had to prop our sink up against the edge of our garden shed. I asked the facilities crew about welding, but no luck. Shortly thereafter, the third leg fell off. It was time for some serious problem solving.

Since welding was out, wooden legs were next on my list of potential solutions. My carpentry skills were, at the time, sub-par. (Read: I really had no clue what I was doing.) But I had an idea. I sketched out a plan that would allow our legless sink to nest into a wooden frame, and went promptly to The Home Depot.

"I'm trying to build...this," I said, pointing to my pencil sketch and picture of the sad looking sink on my phone. I returned with a collection of 2x4's and a little more confidence. The next day, I worked with our visiting high schoolers to put together the frame. There was a fair amount of head-scratching, but in the end, our sink stood tall and sturdy, and even had its own wheels. The students felt proud of their handiwork. I was excited to tackle more garden problems. 

Since then, I have helped students build shelving units, miniature hoop houses, work benches, a chicken tractor, and an aquaponics systems. I learn more each time, right along with the students.  

"Build your own" can help school gardens improve their outdoor learning spaces, save money, and provide an additional pathway for hands-on learning. It is also a great way to get new students involved in the garden, or engage returning students in a new way. I have heard many inspiring stories from schools - including the story in this newsletter - about how they have connected with the tech ed or woodworking department in their school system to complete garden building projects that are creative, functional, and meaningful to students.

We have included plans for a number of garden building projects in this newsletter for students, teachers, and garden leaders who are ready to jump right in. We encourage everyone to try their hand at a hammer, but also to use building projects to continue to connect the garden throughout the school and community. Whether you reach out to a group of students, a neighboring school, a parent volunteer, a local non-profit, or another community resource, whoever is involved will hold a special place for your school garden in their heart every time they walk by and remember, "I built that." 


Work bench plan: 
This simple work bench plan can be used as-is, or as a base plan for projects such as shelving, produce washing tables, market carts, etc. Includes cut list for the lumberyard in case you don't own your own saw!
Cultivating Safety
This booklet contains guidelines to help adults teach children and teens how to work safely in the garden. We liked this one so much, we wanted to share it again! 
Cold Frame Manual 
This easy-to-follow booklet walks you through the entire process of building a cold frame for early spring or late fall harvests in your school garden. 

DIY Bike Blender: We found this Bike Blender Instructable that give a great step-by-step guide for this project. Or, check out our pdf of up-close photos from UW Extension Iron County's homemade bike blender (see the success story below)! 
Wheelchair accessible raised bed plan:
Make your garden accessible to people of all mobilities by building this raised bed "on stilts" that allows those in wheelchairs a chance to get their hands in the dirt. 
Garden Cart Plans
This building project requires some past experience with DIY projects, as well as use of a circular saw - but we couldn't pass it up! Garden carts are extremely handy for toting around tools, compost, or heavy harvest loads. Starting with an old bed frame, this is also a great up-cycle project.

Events ... visit our Events page for more

Farm to School Census 
Due date: May 29, 2015

Does your school participate in farm to school activities? Make sure it gets counted! The USDA is seeking updated information through the 2015 Farm to School Census now. This is an important tool for gathering information about the state of the farm to school movement to advocate for supportive policies from the local and state level to Washington, D.C. Together we're building healthy eaters and strong local economies. Help us show that farm to school is the new normal. 


The Census questionnaire was distributed to school districts through state agencies the week ofMarch 16. School district submissions must be received by May 29, 2015. Make sure your local food purchases, school gardens and other farm to school activities are counted! Visit the USDA Farm to School website for more info. 

WSGI Seeking Evaluation Schools 
Selected schools receive $500 mini grant!

The Wisconsin School Garden Initiative is currently recruiting schools for its final year of evaluation. To add to state and national farm to school data, the project seeks schools currently engaging in some degree of local food procurement and nutrition education to administer a fruit and vegetable survey to fourth and fifth grade students. Schools will also be asked to complete a one-time survey describing their farm to school activities. Participating schools will receive a $500 mini-grant to use toward school health initiatives.

Contact Beth Hanna or Alex Wells with interest or questions. 

Growing Minds: Garden Course for Educators July 20-24, 2015 

This professional development course uses hands-on, inquiry-based instruction that emphasizes the garden as a teaching tool for K-12 teachers throughout Wisconsin. Held in Community GroundWorks' award-winning Troy Kids' Garden, there is room to be inspired, generate ideas, and gather resources for your own youth garden.

Family Food Fest
Farm to School Census 
May 17, 12pm-3pm - Madison, WI

This free event sponsored by REAP Food Group will celebrate all things Farm to School! The event will feature games, activities, taste testing, and remarks from local schools. WSGI staff will be there helping to run garden activities. Stop by if you are in the Madison area!

NuGenesis Farm Workshops:

Tasty Tidbits ... of wisdom, fun, and information

Garden Joke of the Month: 
What is a tomato's favorite song?
Click here for answer.

Companion planting guideSomeone recently shared this very visual reference for which plants can be planted together to help maximize space and minimize pests!

Fund Farm to School in WisconsinSign up for this listserve from the Michael Fields Agricultural Institute to receive updates and materials that will help you tell Wisconsin legislators why Farm to School matters. Also check out their Farm to School Action Guide for political advocacy.


Success Story: Iron County School Gardens

UW Extension Iron County: blender bikes, connecting with tech ed, and school garden support

In the Hurley School Garden, the bike blender does more that mix up tasty smoothies and salsa. It gets people talking. Joy Schelble of UW Extension Iron County, who helps run nutrition education programs at the garden, says the modified bicycle provides a place of “humor and community” for all ages and income levels.
“The blender bike creates an opportunity to talk about healthy food and encourage physical activity in a really relaxed way. I noticed that there was a lot more conversation around healthy food if we used the blender bike as the centerpiece of our education,” she said.
Assembled bike blenders – such as those from Rock the Bike – are wonderful tools, but can be pricey. So UW Extension Iron County decided to build their own. Partnering with the Northland College Bike Club, they came up with a low-cost design that put together a re-used bike, another bike’s fork, a roller blade wheel, an external-gear blender from a local thrift store, and what Schelble described as “a really long metal screw.” 
The bike blender has been a useful tool in UW Extension Iron County’s multi-disciplinary approach to community building, which includes garden-based nutrition education for students, and for food stamp eligible families. Since the federal food stamp program does not sanction bike blenders as a tool for nutrition education, Extension partnered with local schools such as Hurley to host programs. Technically, school staff facilitate use of the bike, while Extension agents do the education around it.
In Iron County, where poverty and unemployment rates are some of the highest in the state, food stamps and the tug-of-war between healthy eating and food insecurity is a topic that can be difficult to talk about. “No one wants to be identified as a person in poverty,” Schelble said. But by using the bike blender in the school garden, “we have a space to talk about healthy eating, and moving through some of the barriers to that. Since there is an atmosphere of fun, the sensitivity is lessened. Humor brings dignity and it brings equity.”
The partnership between UW Extension Iron County and area schools provides programming to students via in-school nutrition education as well as out-of-school time opportunities. In addition to Hurley School, UW Extension assists with school gardens in Ashland, Bayfield, Conduit, and Mercer – which currently uses a neighboring community garden for its students – like a kind of regional garden support network. The bike blender seems to bring it’s magic wherever it goes. “What is so powerful is that it creates this space of education, and I realized it could be so meaningful to…students who may not be as receptive to a lecture,” Schelble said. 
At Hurley, many teachers have taken notice of the garden – including the school’s tech ed teacher, who showed up one day asking for building projects for his class. The results were a new shed, farmer’s market cart, and garden gate, all build by students. A second – smaller – bike blender is in the works.
The farmer’s market cart is used often by UW Extension’s highly successful Garden to Market program, which also takes place at Hurley. Garden to Market involves middle school students in all aspects of community food system development, from gardening to food preservation to selling food at the local farmers market.
UW Extension has also helped move school gardens forward in Iron County by providing funding for several teachers to attend the Growing Minds course for garden educators, hosted by Community GroundWorks each summer in Madison. “We hope that when teachers come back they will be champions to help move our project forward. There’s a lot of excitement around it,” Schelble said.
Schelble is just as excited about Wisconsin’s school garden movement as a whole, and the support WSGI has helped provide. “It’s exciting to see what’s happened in Wisconsin in the last fifteen years around school gardens,” she said. “I think we’re in a really great place to say, this does improve student wellness, this does improve physical activity, this does blend with education.”

UW Extension Iron County

Read other Wisconsin school garden stories

Share your garden story #wischoolgardens

Tell the world what is going on in your school garden. Stories help build support for school gardens, and can help sustain your program via community engagement and school pride!  

Share your story.

For those new to WSGI, we couldn't leave out these amazing resources. "Got Dirt?" will walk you through starting a school garden, while "Got Veggies?" will help you implement a garden-based nutrition curriculum.  "Cultivating Childhood Wellness through Gardening" is an online training that will help you establish and utilize a school garden.  You can watch the entire training or select specific chapters.

Find them all here.

Want to see the Wisconsin School Garden Newsletter each month?   Subscribing is a great first step to supporting the Initiative. If you're already involved, don't worry - you can't  double-book yourself on the network list.
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