Garden Project Certifications


First Annual Book Fest in the Garden

By: Ericka Norman, Sycamore Canyon Middle School Junior Reporter

On June 8th, the Sycamore Canyon School PTSA held their first annual Book Fest in the garden. This event was similar to a book exchange and was a replacement for the Spring Book Fair. Sycamore families were asked to donate gently used, unwanted books so students could have the opportunity to read books over the summer.

There were many unique elements in this event, which made it truly special. To begin, the name “Book Fest” was created to sound entertaining in order to motivate kids to attend. The event name gave the impression of a ceremony, or festival. Also, book bags were provided for everyone, so students could carry as many books as they wanted, each with a stunning logo included. The designer of the book bags made the logo a circle to represent wholeness and added a whimsical factor to make it resemble a coffee mug stain. Additionally, beautiful custom-made bookmarks were given to the students as they entered the garden. The purpose of the bookmarks was not only to encourage children to read, but to remind students of local libraries and other resources for reading. Better yet, students could relate to
the bookmarks because some of their exquisite artwork was presented on them. The handy bookmarks helped emphasize the theme, “Reading will Open Doors to the Universe.”

To add, the event was incredibly organized. Each grade level took turns picking their books at lunch recess. Books were sorted by grade level and genre so students could find what they wanted more easily. Volunteers did a magnificent job displaying the books which sparked the students’ imaginations. The kids were curious and surprised because they didn’t know what to expect and were mostly excited about the idea of free shopping! There were approximately 1,600 books donated and surprisingly, there were no more than 10 books remaining at the end. This proves the success of this new event!

One thing to note, the kids at Sycamore Canyon School have extremely high reading levels and the higher grades had trouble finding books at their level. Next year, the PTSA is going to get middle school books donated, so everyone can have the opportunity to find books at their reading level.

All in all, the goal of this event was to get kids excited about reading books in the summer, which was no doubt accomplished. This event would not have taken place if it wasn’t for the continued support and dedication of Sycamore families, PTSA, school staff, and volunteers. As a result, this is what makes Sycamore Canyon School an exceptional environment for students.

Editor’s Note:

Last but not least, a big THANK YOU to our parent volunteers:

  • Book Fest Planning Committee: Melissa Mulhall (event chair), Leanne Norman, Jo Louie
  • Volunteers: Alia Matthews,Betty Kuang, Charlie Geist, Debbie Margolis, Jen Lunney, Mackenzie Smith, Maea Benton, Namrata Dutta, Paola Paris, Victoria Stephen

Photos by: Jo Louie & Jen Lunney

July 2022 Free Native Narrowleaf Milkweed Plants for the Community!!

The Ventura County Agricultural/Weights & Measures department has partnered with the Santa Monica Mountain Fund to provide thousands of Native Narrowleaf Milkweed (Asclepias fascicularis) plants to our community at no cost! Check out the event details in the graphic.

The sale of Tropical Milkweed (Asclepias curassavica) is no longer allowed in any nursery or retail center in Ventura County due to its recent reclassification as a B-rated noxious weed. Homeowners are encouraged to remove tropical milkweed from their gardens.

For more information visit or call our Agricultural/Weights & Measures Office at 805-933-2926.

Ventura County- Agriculture/Weights & Measures

Santa Monica Mountains Fund

Condado de Ventura-Español

Opinion Piece: Native Plants and Why They are Important

By: Cally Prescott, a concerned 5th grade student

Native plants are very important to the areas we live in. Did you know that there are more than 32 native plants in California? It is important to grow native plants here. Restoring native plant habitat is vital to preserving biodiversity. By creating a native plant garden, each patch of habitat becomes part of a collective effort to nurture and sustain the living landscape for birds and other animals.

To start with the Beardtongue (Penstemon), California has many different species of it. These amazing flowers can differ in many different colors. These are also one of the most popular

flowers among the community of native gardeners. As well as being important for the environment they also make great land decorations for your garden and terraces. Along with making your garden look beautiful there are some plants that keep away bugs, such as mosquitos, and other creepy crawlers that might harm your plants. One of the most beautiful native plants that keeps away bugs is the Marigold. You may ask me “How does a Marigold keep away bugs?” Well, the roots of the Marigold produce a certain kind of toxin that kills root knot nematode, as well as other harmful nematodes that feed on plant roots. As well as being very beautiful and one of my favorite flowers, the marigold also attracts helpful insects

like ladybugs, bees, parasitic wasps, and hoverflies.

Although this flower has the name weed in it is very beneficial to us and our gardens. The milkweed is known for attracting butterflies, and also the common milkweed, which has mauve-colored flowers, is another type familiar to many people. One of the traits of most species of milkweed is that they produce a milky sap, which can be seen oozing out of the plant if a leaf is torn. In bygone generations, this sap was thought to help get rid of warts, moles and other unsightly skin conditions. Fibers that result from crushing the plant’s dried stalks were also used by Native Americans to make strong ropes.

We all know that California is as dry as a raisin (or some parts) and therefore cactuses who have grown in California for years have thrived based on their dry living conditions. The plant that I am talking about is called the Prickly Pear. The prickly pear has bright red and yellow flowers that bloom into the fruit that grows on this tall succulent called prickly pears. And yes, the fruit is edible. Just make sure to watch out for the spines.

It is very important to protect our natural resources and native plants so if this article convinced you to at least plant or support something that helped the environment.

Editor’s Note: California hosts approximately 6,500 species, subspecies, and varieties of plants that occur naturally in the state, and many of these are found nowhere else in the world. Following are resources to learn more about native plants:

SCS Art Scene

In celebration of our first ever Book Fest in the Garden, customized book bags, as well as bookmarks with student art works from Ms. Bilson’s art lessons, will be given away at the event.

For the bookmarks, a total of twelve artworks (shown below) has been selected. Together, the pieces showcase the diverse and unique talents here at Sycamore Canyon. We are so excited to incorporate this artistic aspect to Book Fest!

Opinion Piece: Climate Change

By: Cally Prescott, a concerned 5th grade student

Everyone has heard about the icebergs melting, unique species going extinct, and the beautiful coral reefs such as the great barrier reef. The real name of these catastrophes is called Climate Change. And the real reason is how we can stop promoting climate change.

To start with, what is climate change? Climate change is an accident created by fumes from power plants, oil spills, and things like plastic waste such as bottles, soda rings, plastic bags, etc. Now I want you to imagine a big iceberg with many animals such as polar bears and ringed seals. Before climate change polar bears had plenty of ringed seals to eat as they happily skipped across the little ice islands. But the problem is that as the icebergs heat up and the seals don’t want to live in a warm environment so instead, they go somewhere else. Unlike the seals the polar bears can’t swim long distances. So, without any ringed seals to eat the polar bear population has been deteriorating. In 1980 there were 25,000 bears counted for and in 2013 the number of bears went down to 20,000.

One of the worst things that is making climate change worse is oil and oil spills. This is because the oil is dug up from the ground by big machines that go deep into earth’s soil that can disturb the creatures that live underground such as ground squirrels, rabbits, or moles depending on where it is. And it doesn’t stop there because it can also affect land animals like coyotes, deer, elk, bunnies, rats, and other living creatures.  This can be a big change for most creatures, when suddenly, they have to get their butts out of there because people are building there.

Now that you know how climate change affects the environment, I should tell you about how you alone can help climate change. We need to help climate change because if we don’t, unless we act immediately to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, we will not be able to eliminate the worst consequences of climate change. First you can encourage your friends, family, and co-workers to reduce their carbon pollution. Join a global movement like Count in on Us, a program, aims to inspire one billion people to take practical steps and challenge their leaders to act more boldly on climate change. Organizers of the platform say that if one billion people took action, they could reduce as much as twenty percent of global carbon emissions. 

Another thing you can do is transport accounts for around a quarter of all greenhouse emissions and across the world, many governments are implementing policies to decarbonize travel. You can get a head start: leave your car at home and walk or cycle whenever possible. If the distances are too great, choose public transport, preferably electric options. If you must drive, offer to carpool with others so that fewer cars are on the road. Get ahead of the curve and buy an electric car. Reduce the number of long-haul flights you take. This is important because electric cars don’t let off fumes from gasoline. Although there is a special kind of car called a hybrid where the car uses both gasoline and electricity. 

If getting power from the sun sounds like a good idea to you then maybe consider getting solar panels because when you have solar panels the energy produced by the solar panels on the rooftops of the building does not emit any poisonous gas like carbon, and hence, it reduces environmental pollution and the greenhouse effect. The fact that solar panels are essential in protecting the environment against pollution has made it environmentally friendly, and hence, it has become the worlds’ best eco-friendly energy source.

Did you know that One-third of all food produced is either lost or wasted? According to UNEP’s Food Waste Index Report 2021, people globally waste 1 billion tons of food each year, which accounts for around 8-10 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. Avoid waste by only buying what you need. Take advantage of every edible part of the foods you purchase. Measure portion sizes of rice and other staples before cooking them, store food correctly (use your freezer if you have one), be creative with leftovers, share extras with your friends and neighbors and contribute to a local food-sharing scheme. Make compost out of inedible remnants and use it to fertilize your garden. Composting is one of the best options for managing organic waste while also reducing environmental impacts. 

And if this last piece of advice does not convince and or help encourage you to help climate change, I don’t know what will. If you like gardening or know people that like gardening, you may like to try and join them. For example every year approximately 12 million hectares of forest are destroyed and this deforestation, together with agriculture and other land use changes, is responsible for roughly 25 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions. We can all play a part in reversing this trend by planting trees, either individually or as part of a collective. For example, the Plant-for-the-Planet initiative allows people to sponsor tree-planting around the world. And even if it is not trees it could be plants such as fruits, vegetables, or flowers.  Can help save the environment Individuals can also spur change through their savings and investments by choosing financial institutions that do not invest in carbon-polluting industries. This sends a clear signal to the market and already many financial institutions are offering more ethical investments, allowing you to use your money to support causes you believe in and avoid those you don’t. You can ask your financial institution about their responsible banking policies and find out how they rank in independent research.

Opinion Piece: Conserving Water In California

By: Lexi Prescott – A fifth grader who wants to make a difference.

Before I begin, I want to state that some people will look at things such as trash picker uppers in oceans on the internet and say, “Okay, I’ll do it later.” and not do it later, because you might feel bad but want to make a change or you don’t have the time.

Well, I am a normal kid living in California, and I want to make a change with the preservation of water in this state. Most of the wastage of water tends to come from watering plants outside, or taking long showers, or baths, household things, and bathroom usage. Even though some people might think that most water problems come from the consumption of water, as I thought, it doesn’t.

The first way to help water conservation plans is to use clover in place of grass. Some upsides to planting clover is that it will require less energy and time to take care of it, they don’t need much water, it brings in beneficial insects, improves poor soil, helps eliminate weeds, etc. Normally, on Amazon, you can get ¼ of a pound of white Dutch clover for around $8.00. If you do not have access to Amazon, at Walmart, you can usually get 1 pound bags of gallant red, durana, alsike, or Louisiana S-1 clover seeds from $7.48 to $17.77. If you can’t do that either, why not check out Target, where they sell Van Zyverden lucky clovers at $18.00 for the pot as well, hanging, that is. Clover is also prettier than grass because it stays green even with reduced watering. Some upsides to having a clover lawn instead of a grass lawn are that #1, grass needs lots of water, unlike clover, which requires less water than traditional turf grasses. #2, you need to mow your grass weekly, which, if you didn’t know, running a gas-powered lawn mower is hardly eco-friendly. You would only have to mow your clover once or twice in its life, or you could let it grow in growing season, and make your lawn look meadow-like. #3, grass cannot stand heat, during the peak of summer, the grass turns a sickly yellow color, and believe me, it’s not a pretty sight. Clover however, can stand hot temperatures, it is drought-resistant and stays green throughout the summer. #4. Grass needs frequent fertilizer applications; it needs to be fertilized four times a year. That’s a lot of money, time, and chemicals down the drain (and into your local aquatic ecosystem). Clover needs no such things; it can survive without it. #5. Your grass needs herbicides and pesticides, which are not only bad for bugs and good insects like butterflies and bees, but it can also be harmful or even toxic to humans and pets, it can damage the environment too, all while doing a number on your wallet. Clovers will crowd out weeds and want nothing to do with herbicides. #6, Grass seed is expensive, it will cost even more if you’re finding a specific mix, but Clover allows you to set 1$ down for 1,000 feet², it is very inexpensive. #7, why clover lawns are better than grass lawns is because you need to aerate your garden, grass strangles out anything else that is living with it, but clover does it naturally. #8, Grass doesn’t attract helpful insects, unlike Clover, which brings in beneficial insects. #9, Grass attracts harmful bugs and insects, while clover keeps out the harmful insects. Finally, #10, Grass is hard to grow in shady areas, however, clover grows well in shady environments. Clover could be your hero!

Some other ways you can help the water shortage in California could be to save more water in the premises of your own house. By taking shorter showers and taking less baths could lead to a difference in the drought that we are now in. A normal bath wastes about 30-50 gallons of water, and when you are done with it, you drain that ever-so-needed water down the drain. A typical shower in 10 minutes for a shower will use 30-80 gallons of water. If you take a 30-minute shower, it uses about 2 gallons a minute, or 20 gallons for a 10-minute shower. But a standard shower head uses about 2.5 gallons a minute, or 25 gallons for 10 minutes. A normal toilet uses about 2 gallons per flush, it can use 4.5 gallons a minute, (300 gal. per hour, or 6,480 gal. per day.) One more way that you can change is how much water is coming out of your bathroom tap! When you’re using the sink to wash your hands, it can use 1.5 gallons a minute, so washing your hands for 2 minutes would use 3 gallons. You can save water by reducing the amount of water you use each day by not leaving water running while brushing teeth or leaving tap water on when you’re distracted by something or someone else.

Other things you can do to save water in California are to make sure that when you wash dishes, make sure you jam pack it to the brim. Otherwise, you are wasting 2.4-3.5 gallons of water. This also could apply to washing machines too, because they use a whopping 19 gallons of water, which is 5,605 gallons of water per week!

One more way to conserve water could be if you used a low flow shower head. As we discussed before, the normal shower head uses 2 gallons of water per minute, while the low flow shower head uses approximately 1 gallon of water per minute, which uses half the amount of water that a regular shower would use. Considering what I said earlier about using drought resistant landscaping, maybe try to look for Agave, Jade plants, Bougainvillea, Lithops, Blanket flower, Desert roses, Sedum, cacti and succulents, Moss roses, Verbena, Lantana, Wallflower, Oleander, Rock Soapwort, Sage, Poppies, Lavender Cotton, Lavender, Rock Daisy, Globe Thistle, Rose champions, Red valerians, Crown of thorns, Russian Sages, Yarrow, Pineleaf penstemon, Giant Hyssops, Beardtongue, Coneflowers, California Poppies, Purple Fountain Grass, Kangaroo Paw, New Zealand Tea trees, Twinberry Honeysuckle, Pride of Madeira, Trumpet Vines, Catmints, Artemisias, Licorice plants, Veronica, Aloe, Artichokes, Palo Verdes, Geraniums, and Wild Lilacs. This is only 45 of them, and there are still many that I have not yet said, but I will spare your time.

Please consider saving water in California to have more of that freshwater for drinking, rather than household use or plant watering. Thank you for listening, and don’t forget, anyone can make a difference, no matter who or where you are.


By: Jen Lunney, Yoga Instructor

Celebrating the change in season, April yoga brought blooming flowers and lots of sunshine. Following the themes of recent holidays, Earth Day and warmer weather ahead, the focus was on cooling breath work and poses in familiar shapes of springtime: Birds, bunnies, butterflies, frogs, dolphins… Snow melting off strong solid mountains. Seeds sprouting. Standing trees full of young wildlife.

On our first day returning from Spring Break, we welcomed students back with a practice of Pranayama (breath work) and Asana (physical poses).

It was our warmest yoga day yet. Thankful for the umbrellas and trees providing shade over the beautiful outdoor yoga space. The students learned different breath work including bumblebee breath, bunny breath (We are called the Conejo* Valley for a reason!) and cooling Sitali (or, taco tongue) breath…especially nice on such a warm day.

*Conejo: Spanish for bunny rabbit

Our final Yoga session for the 2021-2022 academic year: Monday, May 23rd. Elementary Lunch Recess

Special Thanks to our parent volunteers for their assistance: Alicia Andrae, Srishti Rathore, Mignonne Nieva, Leah Neiderman, Britt Jespersen, and Betty Kuang.

Photos by: Srishti Rathore and Mignonne Nieva

Creating with Recycled Goods

By Ericka Norman

Earth Day is a day where we celebrate our planet’s treasures and reflect on how we can help our planet thrive. We only have one place to live, which is why we must take care of our planet. Here at Sycamore, students learned that recycling is extremely essential to Earth’s health during the Earth Day Workshop in our magnificent garden.

Thousands of recycling materials were provided by CReATE STUDIO, such as paper towel rolls, cardboard, egg cartons, Kleenex boxes, bottle caps, fabric, yarn, you name it! Students from kindergarten up to fifth grade visited the garden and found many stations packed with varied recycling items. They turned scraps of garbage into beautiful new inventions, each a work of art. They designed and inspired those around them, unlocking their full potential of creativity. It was amazing how the youngest kids could turn what seemed like junk into an idea. The playful environment was buzzing with excitement as students used their surroundings to create a special item. Not only that, while the students were constructing things, they would learn about why it is important to recycle. All creations were detailed and well structured. Some inventions included a box made of CDs, a basket with a handle made of yarn, a drum, and an Easter basket. Some students knew exactly what they were going to make, and some students had no clue what they were going to build. But that is the fun part, creating something totally random!

A quote from a second grader announced, “I know what I am doing, but I don’t know what I am doing at the same time!” shows how kids’ imaginations can go a long way when they are having fun, even when they are learning.

This Earth Day Workshop in the Sycamore School Garden truly brought out the best in the students and made learning fun and creative!

💖 A big THANK YOU to our parent volunteers for their assistance at this event: Maea Benton, Charlie Geist, Liz Little, Melissa Mulhall, Jeni Patterson and Clare Scalzo. 💖