The Process of Growing Food – Diary of a CITY Farmer

By:  Arwen Louie, 5th Grade Ms. Mertz’s Class

Growing vegetables in my school garden to sell for my 5th grade classroom CITY project was a fun and valuable experience that taught me a lot about how difficult it is to grow food that are actually good enough to sell.

CITY, a hands-on learning project for us students to learn about entrepreneurship and functions of a city, is a very popular program that the 5th grade class do every year here at Sycamore Canyon School.  Each one of us had to take on a “job”, either by running a business selling what we’ve made ourselves, or by providing a service (like being a taxi driver) that would be utilized and paid for by the people in the CITY.

When I first thought about what I was going to sell, I had a lot of trouble deciding what I should make ( I already knew I wanted to own a shop, not sell a service). I finally decided on making bags and had already made them when I heard that I could get a plot and plant vegetables in the school garden and sell those for CITY.  I said to myself,” Why not?”  I could save these already-made products for the next CITY and try this instead.  In no 20161021_134510time,  I was in the garden with 3 other 5th graders who also decided to do this. The person who was helping us, Mrs. Phylicia Bulmer, told us a little bit about the vegetables we were going to plant, how to plant them, and the organic fertilizer we would sprinkle around our plants. There was 2 different types of lettuce starters and 3 different types of radish seeds to choose from. I chose to plant Romaine lettuce, Batavian lettuce, Cherry Belle radishes, and Easter Egg Blend radishes. We even did a soil test and found out that the soil lacked nitrogen.

I checked on my crop once a week and the next time Mrs. Bulmer came, there were 2 of us there.  Mrs. Bulmer showed us how to thin out our radishes so they would have more room to grow big, and we sprayed fish emulsion on our plants (fish emulsion has a lot of nitrogen in it).  The last time Mrs. Bulmer came, I was the only student there. I sprayed more fish emulsion on my plants and then she presented 4 baskets for me to borrow to display my crop for sale.

20161104_150448I felt good when the week for CITY arrived.  My signs were all finished and my prices fixed by Wednesday. I was definitely ready for the actual CITY day on Friday.  All I needed was to harvest my vegetables, and that was to be done on Thursday after school to ensure my crop’s freshness. Thursday came and school seemed to take forever! Finally, school ended and I dashed to the Edible Lab. I harvested my lettuce first. Wonderful! Then came the radishes. Oh no! The radishes were too small to sell. The ones I had picked had bulbs less than an inch long and some had no bulbs at all! Luckily, I had the other products I was planning to sell before I decided to sell lettuce and radishes. Quickly, I made signs for those items and got rid of the radish signs.

Friday, City Day. Mrs. Mertz let us set up our store during recess.  My neighbor had gone to a different area to set up her game booth, so I took advantage of the empty desk. I set up the 2 baskets I had brought and then propped20161209_111443 up the Romaine and Batavian lettuce signs next to the basket with the lettuces.  At the other basket, I propped up the sign for the bags, and put in it the bags I had made. I also had milkweed seeds to sell, so I put them in the middle of the 2 baskets with the sign for milkweed seeds behind it. I put out the holiday special bag and the bag that was being raffled out at the front of the booth. CITY opened for business and I began selling my goods. My lettuce sold quickly.  The bags went next.  Some milkweed seed packs remained.  In the end, I had made exactly $3,960!

Even though my radishes didn’t work out, I had a great time and I would definitely do this again.


Manna Project – Winter Update

By:  Sonceriae Armstrong, SCS Garden Nutrition Educator & Manna Project Coordinator

These last few weeks have finally brought some crisp fall weather!  Unfortunately we had to reschedule a couple manna project sessions due to rain and wind.  It’s not very often our Southern California children learn to be flexible with nature’s rhythms so there was still a lesson learned! Ricky Bordagary and I are looking forward to hosting the students of Mrs. Hollins, Mrs. Taillon, and Mr. Hoyle before winter break.

I hope  you were able to join with friends and family to celebrate an abundant harvest on Thanksgiving. Perhaps you ventured to one of the many local farms that were featured during farm day November 5. If you missed it this year not to worry it is an annual event! In the meantime you can check out our local farmer’s markets. is a list of in season produce you may want to pick up:Acorn Squash Ÿ Asian Pear Ÿ Broccoli Ÿ Brussels Sprouts Ÿ Butter Lettuce Ÿ Butternut Squash Ÿ Cauliflower Ÿ Chinese Long Beans Ÿ Crab Apples Ÿ Cranberries Ÿ Date Plum Ÿ Endive Ÿ Garlic Ÿ Ginger Ÿ Grapes Ÿ Guava Ÿ Hearts of Palm Ÿ Huckleberries Ÿ Jalapeno Peppers Ÿ Jerusalem Artichoke Ÿ Key Limes Ÿ Kumquats Ÿ Mushrooms Ÿ Passion Fruit Ÿ Pear Ÿ Persimmons Ÿ Pineapple Ÿ Pomegranate Ÿ Pumpkin Ÿ Radicchio Ÿ Sunflower Ÿ Kernels Ÿ Sweet Potatoes Ÿ Swiss Chard Ÿ Turnips

Here Today, Gone Tomorrow?

Special Report by Michaela Maher, Jr. Reporter, Miss Retan’s 6th Grade Journalism Class

If people love native animals such as Red Frogs, California Condors and Channel Island Foxes, then why are they becoming extinct mainly due to human activity?

On May 20, 2016, Sycamore Canyon’s fourth graders participated in a special educational workshop hosted by the US Fish and Wildlife to better understand our local wildlife that are threatened and endangered, and learn how to help save them from becoming extinct.

The workshop consisted of four stations that the students rotate through; environmental scientists, biologists, and representative from the Santa Barbara Zoo staffed each station. The focus was specifically given to four native wildlife once endangered but now on the road of recovery (California Condor, Channel Island Fox, California Red-legged Frog, and the Red-eared Slider). One station specifically talks about co-existence with the wildlife in our backyard.

At the California condor station, students listen to the biologists explain how the California condor is endangered and what we can do to help them. There are two main threats to condors; micro trash and lead. Micro trash, such as bottle caps and plastic, kill condor chicks that end up choking on the trash their mother tries to feed them. Students also learned that condors are scavengers, which mean they eat dead animals. Dead animals shot by lead bullets ingested by condors can cause severe illnesses for the condors, leading to death for the animal. The biologists helped kids realized that copper bullet alternatives, instead of lead, should be used to prevent further condor deaths by lead poisoning.

At the Channel Island Fox station, lead by the Santa Barbara Zoo representative, students learned about how the endemic Channel Island Foxes became listed as endangered specie, and the success of its recovery from 15 to over 1,000 today on the Channel Islands due to the hard work of many people. This year the foxes are being considered for removal from the endangered species list.

BREAKING NEWS! Once Nearly Extinct California Island Foxes No Longer Endangered

There are many threats to the California Red-legged frogs, including removal and damming up of fresh ponds, and polluted water. Another threat is pets that people set loose in the wild that can eat the frogs. The scientists at this station explained that everyone has a chance to make a difference by saving water, not polluting, and by not setting loose, or release, pets in the wilderness.

Instead of talking about the endangered species that may be far away from us, the biologists at the Native Backyard Wildlife station talked about all the wildlife that is right here in our community. One of the animals we see here are rattlesnakes. The biologist educated the students on ways to prevent getting injured from snakes, especially if we are in nature and hiking. Some of these ways were to listen to your surroundings, stay on the trail, and pay attention to where you are walking. More importantly, never pick up a snake! The second lesson students learned at this station are not to use rodenticide for rodent control. When a rodent eats rodenticide, it not only affects that one rodent, but also any predator that will eat that poisoned animal and become poisoned as well. Most importantly, the biologists informed the students that we all have a positive role to play in our environment, especially when we live so close to nature.

Thank you to our wonderful presenters for bringing this workshop to our school.

Remember, these animals are endangered, not extinct. There is still time to save them if we take on the correct actions that affect the animals all around us.

Sounds of Africa

By:  Terry Kazen, 1st Grade Lead Teacher

First graders were delighted by the sounds of Mr. Marcus Brown, Wooden Roots West African Instruments and Percussion, as well as the beautiful voices and instruments of the Sycamore Canyon Middle School Band and Choir in the Garden.  Students learned about the making of an African drum and then enthusiastically clapped along to the catchy rhythm while Mr. Brown entertained the crowd. Later Mr. and Mrs. Palomino introduced the middle schoolers who sang and played inspiring tunes from African.  It was most education and enjoyable for the first graders to wrap up their African study unit with this magnificent music assembly in the garden.

Peru At the Garden!

Reported By: Sia Joshi, Jr. Journalist, 6th Grade Miss Retan’s Journalism Class

Edited By: Marivic Marko

Peru came to the Sycamore Canyon Garden on April 20th, 2016, in the Culture At the Garden event. This event was especially unique with some special visitors, the alpacas.

All the students had a chance to learn about the special geographical features of Peru. These features included, the Amazon River, the deserts, the glaciers, and much more.

The children also learned about cooking in Peru and all of its delicious spices. At this station, traditional Peruvian drink was available for everyone to sample. This refreshing drink had a pinkish color and was made from purple corn, cloves, cinnamon, pineapples and more. It was called Chicha Morada.

Peru in the garden also had two fun crafts for the students to work on. Participants were challenged to make pan flutes with pieces of straws that were assembled in descending order. The craft makers had to tape the straws in a line to produce a musical instrument resembling the real pan flute, also displayed at the table. The children could also make a second craft, which was a bookmark. This bookmark consisted of the ancient Peruvian artwork known as “Nazca Lines.” The craft makers here can stamp the bookmarks with whatever Nazca Lines shapes they wanted, and then tie a string around the hole on top of the bookmark. The children loved making these crafts to take home.

The alpacas were located near the back of the garden. These furry creatures were the center of attention for the most part of the event. All the children enjoyed the company of these wonderful animals.

Peru in the garden was filled with many helpful volunteers who took time out of their busy schedules to host this event. A special thanks to all of the volunteers at this event for helping the students of Sycamore Canyon discover Peru and all of its unique characteristics. Peru in the Garden was a wonderful event!

  • Special Thanks to our community volunteers who brought the alpacas and the spinning demonstration to our school: Deborah Low, Alyssa Hamilton, Lynette Halverson and Richard Katus.
  • Click here for Jr. Journalist Michela Maher’s article published in the VC STAR

Photograph by:  Anette Power

Growing Edibles in our Garden

Of all the fantastic Garden activities, nothing stirs more excitement among the students than when it comes to food tasting from right out of the Edible Lab.  Call it social conformity, peer pressure, or simply impulse, but much to our amazement (and amusement), kids of all ages will eat anything if it comes out of the Edible Lab.  Lettuce?  Of course!  Carrots?  Its “da bomb!”  Herbs?  So yummy!  Even raw daikon that were peeled and sliced into chips were mobbed in a mad dash of hands and gobbled down in an instant.  It a bit spicy eating daikon this way, but no one complained.  In fact, most asked for second.  Bet you don’t get that reaction at home!

2016 “Recycled” Scarecrows Competition Result!

In celebration of Earth Month (April), SCS Garden Project partnered with Art SCAEP to educate and inspire our students to help our environment through an upcycle art project.

The students from each participating class at SCS, led by parent volunteers, design and construct scarecrows by reusing recycled material.

The entries we received were awesome!  It was fun, amusing and amazing walking through the Garden looking at the collection of scarecrows.  Parents with toddlers in tow pointed and lingered along the fence line.  Passerby stuck their smart phone through the bars to snap shots at the creations.  Two scarecrows that were completed at an earlier time acted as our ECO Ambassadors and were on display at our local Trader Joe’s store  and the public Library.

With all the wonderful entries, it was a truly difficult task for our judges to determine their favorites.  The judging criteria were based on design concept and creative use of material.  Construction methods was considered as the tiebreaker when needed.

We wish to thank all the entries – they are simply marvelous.

Congratulations to the following creations:

The PTSA Judges’ Choice Award

  • Kindergarten, Mrs. Salute.  Entry #35, Robo the Recycled Scarecrow. Art Docent: Pamela Sheng.
  • 2nd Grade, Mrs. Neshek.  Entry #21, Harry Potter. Art Docents: Marie Turner, Kristi Copeland, Carolyn Bernardino and Gretchen Fish.
  • 3rd Grade, Mrs. Creekbaum.  Entry #20, Mr. Tux. Art Docent: Mr. Neal.
  • 4th Grade, Mrs. Benink/Baron. Entry #1 & 2, Mindcraft Crew:  Creeper, Alex, Bacon &  Hammie. Art Docent: Kelly Dodd.
  • 4th Grade, Ms. Sheridan.  Entry #46, Yard Vader. Art Docent: Roslyn Stewart.
  • 5th Grade, Mrs. Hollins. Entry #10, Candice. Art Docent: Ashley Ing.
  • 6th Grade, Mr. Haver.  Entry #42, Bob the Baller. Student Team: Alex Ramirez, Reese
    Reddemann, Vikaram Tholudur and Brandon Wright

The Garden Committees’ Choice Award

  • 1st Grade, Mrs. Kazen.  Entry #29, Morning Ain’t Pretty. Art Docent: Jo Louie.
  • 4th Grade, Mrs. Murray.  Entry #3, Minion Gardener. Art Docents: Marie Turner and Jo Louie.

Grand Champion

  • 1st Grade, Ms. Cooper.  Entry #27, Iron Lady Puggy. Art Docent: Joni Berg.

All of the scarecrows will be on display at the SCS Garden from April 11th to 15th, with the grand champion becoming a permanent public art installation at the SCS Garden.

click here for the VC Star on-line news article about our project

Photograph by:  Anette Power