Water, Water Everywhere

It's a hot summer day, and the water spigot is a hub of activity in the garden. Hands are washed, vegetables are scrubbed, faces are sprayed, and nearby plants are watered. Later, there may be a round of "water limbo" or impromptu running through the sprinkler. 

For students who are initially skeptical about spending time in the garden, water can be familiar and inviting. Getting wet on a sunny day is fun, and giving water to garden plants is often a favorite activity that ends with a sense of pride in helping things grow. Helping students interact with water in the garden can create memories that keep kids coming back again and again.

Water games and watering cans not only invite kids to participate in the garden on multiple levels, but also create teachable moments that make water conservation tangible and personally meaningful to young gardeners. Watering plants one by one can bring up questions such as: 'How do you water plants correctly?' (near the roots!) and 'How much water do plants need?' (about 1" per week for most vegetables). The desire to water plants after a rainstorm can get kids thinking about the weather and its impact on the garden. Rain barrels, drip irrigation, rain gardens, or even remembering to turn off the hose can start conversations about water as a natural resource to be valued and cared for. 

The garden is a living gateway to lessons, both formal and informal, about water and water conservation. We hope this newsletter serves as a starting point! We would love to see pictures or hear ideas of how water plays a role in your school garden, too - contact us any time!


Water Education and Conservation Brief
Water is an essential component of any garden. Attention to its use in a school garden offers opportunities for stewardship, education and fun. This brief provides an overview of how water conservation and education can be integrated into school gardens. It includes types of irrigation systems for your garden, strategies for water conservation, water education activities for the classroom and the garden, ideas for making water fun, and links to relevant resources.
Project WET - Water Education for Teachers - sets the standard when it comes to water education. Project WET provides water education resources, including a Curriculum and Activity Guide for educators around the world. Posters, kids' activity booklets, and other resources are also available via their Water Education Portal. To receive the Curriculum and Activity Guide, educators must attend a Project WET Training. Retzer Nature Center in Waukesha will host a Project WET training on August 18 - see the Events section for more details!
Rain Garden Manual 
This guide to designing, installing, and maintaining backyard rain gardens is the perfect scale for many school gardens. Rain gardens help conserve water by allowing water collect and slowly soak into the ground nearby, instead of running off into storm drains or parking lots. Once set up, they are relatively easy to maintain and provide a wonderful learning station, in addition to adding beauty and interest to your garden. 
Rain Barrel Guide
A nearby building, shed, or pavilion may be the perfect location for a rain barrel, allowing you to collect rainwater and fill watering cans at a later date. This guide provides a nice tutorial on building your own rain barrel. You can also purchase a rain barrel kit to turn almost any large container into a rain barrel. (This kit from EarthMinded is available via both Home Depot and Amazon.) Many gardeners wonder whether rain barrel water is safe for use on edible plants. While the answer may depend on your roof location and type, we found this study and this article to be helpful guides.
Drip Irrigation Education & Supplies 
Drip irrigation is an effective way to provide much-needed moisture right where plants need it most - at the roots. It also helps save on water loss from evaporation, and is a unique way to teach about water conservation. Although up front costs can be larger than other watering techniques, equipment can be used year after year. DripWorks is a great company for drip irrigation beginners. They offer excellent educational resources, including this drip irrigation planning guide. They also offer a 10% discount to schools for most orders over $50. (Speak with a customer service representative to access the discount.)
Educating Young People About Water Curricula Database 
This online database provides assistance for developing a community-based, youth water education program. These resources target youth and link educators to key community members to build partnerships to meet common water education goals. Users are encouraged to forge links with community partners and identify community or school-ground natural settings where students can practices and reinforces skills taught in the classroom.


Events ... visit our Events page for more

Project WET Training
August 18, 2016

Project WET (Water Education for Teachers) is hands-on activities to learn about water designed and tested by teachers. Best of all, Project WET is fun! This workshop will focus on storm water and how it impacts the environment. The $25 workshop fee covers all program materials, morning break and beverages, and the project WET guidebook—please bring your own bag lunch. 

More information and registration
Register by August 10
Great Lakes Great Apple Crunch
October 13, 2016

CRUNCH! We can't wait for it! We're so excited to celebrate National Farm to School Month with our friends at Farm to School by biting into a local or regional apple this October! Sign up (it's free!) to be part of the crunch, and receive a guide to sourcing local apples, event promotion materials, and more. This event is fun, and is a great way to promote (or begin) your Farm to School program!

Sign up to CRUNCH!
NAAEE National Conference
October 19-22, Madison, WI

Madison, Wisconsin has been chosen as the location for the 2016 North American Association for Environmental Education Conference! The conference theme is "From Inspiration to Impact." Join other Environmental Educators as this national conference comes to Wisconsin!

Learn more about the conference

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

Garden Joke of the Month

What do you call a duck that's afraid to get into the water?

Click here for answer

Donald Samull Classroom Herb Garden Grants

These mini-grants provide $200 in "seed money" for teachers of grades 3 through 6 to establish an indoor or outdoor herb garden for their school or classroom. Applications are due October 1, 2016. Apply here.
Farm to ECE Trainer Positions

Community GroundWorks is hiring two Farm to ECE Trainers! The Farm to ECE Trainers will develop and share materials promoting the best practices in farm to early care and education (ECE) through its Growing Capacity for Farm to Early Care and Education project, funded by a grant from the W. K. Kellogg Foundation.

Click here for a detailed job description, supplement questions, and application instructions. Deadline to apply is August 31, 2016.

Success Story: Troy Kids' Garden

A group at the Troy Kids' Garden shows off their produce, bouquets, and homemade garden snack! Thank you to Nick Berard for use of this photo.

Troy Kids' Garden: Learning about water, and so much more!

When Becca Brokaw opens the tap on the rain barrels at the Troy Kids’ Garden, curiosity surrounds her. “So, that comes from the rain from the sky?” one student asks, before toting an orange watering can out to the garden. Less than ten yards from the garden’s young sweet potato plants, two simple barrels collect rain water from the corrugated tin roof of an open-air shelter.  In addition to filling watering cans, the 55-gallon barrels can be connected to a short hose to water nearby plants, if the water level is high enough. “The kids think it is such a cool concept that we can save rain to water the garden,” Becca, who is spending her second summer at the Kids’ Garden, reflected.

Becca is one of 14 education interns and volunteers who help visiting students connect to the garden and surrounding natural areas through activity stations such as tending garden veggies, making pesto on the bike blender, digging for worms to feed to the garden’s three chickens, fort-building in the nearby forest, creating garden art from natural objects, and climbing trees in the garden’s beloved mulberry grove. Visiting students, ages 3 to 14, roam freely among the stations, which change weekly.

“I think the Kids’ Garden gives kids a space to be themselves and have fun exploring,” Becca told me. “Their days are often so structured, and to have the chance to go about the garden and make the day what they want…it makes it a place they want to come back to.”

And they do come back. On the day I visited, almost-sixth-grader Shay was visiting with her summer camp from East Madison Community Center (EMCC). Shay has been coming to the Kids’ Garden since the spring of 2014.

Shay told me she has learned to use smaller buckets to water her plants, so that she gives each plant what it needs, but not too much. “I started using that technique at home with my dad, because we have a little garden there, too,” she said. Shay also recalled the early spring, before garden waterlines were turned on for the season. “We had to learn to use just a little bit because they had brought the water from somewhere else,” she said.

Leah Kutschke, a group leader from EMCC, said that for most of the students she works with at the center, “being in the Kids’ Garden makes them aware of how much we need water, and how it connects to how we get our food. They also get to learn how heavy water is when we carry it in watering cans to the garden, and are so proud to see and taste the results of their labor.”

Students at the Kids’ Garden also learn how important water is for their bodies. When I asked Shay what she had learned about water this summer, her immediate response was, “that you have to stay hydrated, especially when you’re gardening and you’re sweating a lot.”

In the hot days of July, visits to the Kids’ Garden often start out with group games such as water limbo, water musical chairs, and freeze tag with a sprinkler added in for good measure. Although this water does not make it onto garden plants, the experience of interacting with water in this way helps students relate positively to the garden and want to come back. “It really brings about that fun energy we hope to create, especially because a lot of our students don’t have the chance to get wet every day,” Becca reflected. “It’s something they remember.” These memories, one hopes, will help create lifelong gardeners who relate to water as an important resource for both plants and people.

The Troy Kids’ Garden, which sees over 1000 student visits each year, shines its brightest in teachable moments. The free-flowing structure and low adult-to-kid ratio opens up almost infinite possibilities for student-driven, inquiry-based learning. While watering plants with preschool and elementary-aged students, education intern Tara Coberly has talked about how plants help filter and clean water as it goes through layers of soil. She also helps students understand the relationship between plants and recent weather, through discussions about how much water plants will need after a rain, or in a drought. “The best moments are when you’re able to do your activity, and the kids are so interested that you can teach them more than you intended,” she said.

Each summer, the Kids’ Garden tries out new water-related projects, often guided by interns’ interest and creativity. Last summer, the garden was home to an interactive “water wall” where kids could trace the path of water through the Great Lakes, and pour water through a series of bottles filled with rocks and sand. This summer, Tara and Kids’ Garden Assistant Manager Alisha David cut a hole in the bottom of a watering can and attached it to one of the garden’s water spigots to serve as a gentle-flow hand-and-veggie-washing station. Underneath the shower of water, there is a large pot full of rocks, which has sparked a number of interesting discussions with kids about erosion prevention. (Tara emphasized that while attaching the watering can to the spigot was challenging, and doesn’t look perfect, the kids love it. “One second-grade boy pointed to it last week and exclaimed, ‘That’s creative!’” she said.)

As they garden, students also receive gentle reminders from staff to help conserve water through simple actions such as going back to turn off the hose before moving on to a new activity. The reminders have rubbed off on thirteen-year-old Isaiah Crabb and Tahji Jackson, neighborhood kids who volunteer to help lead younger students at the garden several days each week. “I think I learned about not just letting the water run, spraying it where you need to,” Isaiah said.

Tahji, who used to attend Kids’ Garden programs with the nearby Vera Court Neighborhood Center when he was younger, made a comment that made me think about the impact of the Kids’ Garden on local kids experience of summer, beyond the topic of water. “Why did you get involved working at the Kids’ Garden?” I said. “Well,” he shrugged, “I don’t’ have anything better to do, other than play video games, and I don’t really like those anyway – I just like to be outside.”

Here’s to many more summers of being outside at the Troy Kids’ Garden!

Learn more about the Troy Kids' Garden in Madison, WI

Read other Wisconsin school garden success stories

Above left: Bouquet making with Becca in the Kids' Garden flower area. Above right: Tara demonstrates her watering can veggie-and-hand-washing station! Bottom left: One of two rain barrels at the Kids' Garden.  Bottom right: Eating raspberries is a favorite summer activity!

Share your garden story #wischoolgardens

Every garden is ripe with stories.  Maybe it is one about the day the first shovel-full of soil was turned over and the garden was underway.  Or about that time a brave rabbit dared to sample lettuce amidst a class of kindergartners partaking in a garden lesson. Each story has the potential to connect others with your garden program. Send us your story idea, or read our garden storytelling brief for tips on collecting and sharing thestories that make your garden program so special.  

Getting Started with School Gardens

Just starting a school garden? We're here to help. Check out these free resources, developed right in Wisconsin. Or, send us an email with your questions! 

Got Dirt? Garden Toolkit: Simple, step-by-step guide for starting a school garden
Got Veggies? Nutrition Education Curriculum: Aligned with state standards
Cultivating Childhood Wellness through Gardening Free online training with chapters on planning, planting, growing, and harvesting a garden with kids. Approved for continuing education hours for child care providers (1.5 hours of Registry credit).

Want to see the Wisconsin School Garden Newsletter each month?   Subscribing is a great first step to getting involved. Help grow the Network by passing this newsletter along to a friend! If you're already subscribed, don't worry - you can't double-book yourself on the Network list.
Like us on Facebook!
Like us on Facebook!
Check out our Pinterest boards!
Check out our Pinterest boards!
Follow us on our website!
Follow us on our website!
Copyright © 2016 Community GroundWorks, All rights reserved.

unsubscribe from this list    update subscription preferences 

Email Marketing Powered by Mailchimp
Forward to Friend