Friday, December 2, 2011


The 1st, 2nd, and 3rd grade students at Spooner Elementary have been learning all about the world of worms. The students worked in groups to create mini worm bins. The worm bins will be kept at the school during the winter. During this time the students will collect food scraps from the hot lunch to feed the worms.
Worms are wonderful composters and help recycle by turning our food waste and garbage back into useable soil and incredible organic fertilizer. The fertilizer will then be applied directly to the garden in spring to help us grow a greater harvest.

The students not only got a chance to touch and feel the worms but also learned the important role worms play in our environment. During the last part of the lesson students explored the origins of foods, specifically cheeseburgers. By deconstructing the different parts of the cheeseburger they got to see how soil makes their food. They also discussed the ways which nutrients are passed from the soil through plants and animals and onto each of us through our food. Worms are easy to care for and are a wonderful way to recycle food waste. To learn how to build a worm bin, visit:

Growth Through Recycling

In the beginning of the school year the 4th grade High Five students planted wonderful herb seeds. The herbs have grown through out the fall and look great. As they got to large for their containers it was time to replant them. The students created self-watering planters using 2-liter bottles thanks to a donation from Viking Coca-Cola in Rice Lake. The students cut the bottles in half, inverting the top of the bottle into the base. Using a string and coffee filters they created a planter in the top of the bottle. The students were then able to replant their herbs in the new planters using indoor potting soil. During the construction of the planter the students learned about the role of osmosis and learned how water moves through the soil. The herbs (chives and dill) the students planted will now grow through the winter in front of a window. The project is a great example of how we can reuse items that might go in the trash. It is also child friendly because when the base runs dry they can add more water allowing the plant to get the moisture when it needs. Herbs grown indoors not only add beauty but are extremely healthy.

To find instructions on making your own recycled planter visit:

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Garlic Planting

We often think of spring as the time to plant. Some plants, specifically those grown from bulbs need to be planted in the fall. The students from the elementary and middle school got a turn at planting fall bulbs this past week. Thanks to the help from some wonderful volunteers, Rudy and Sharon Kessler, the students planted garlic and learned about the important role garlic plays in our diet.

The students first prepared the soil by loosening it and then making sure it was nice and level. This was done with bare hands, a great way for the students to "play" in the dirt. They then each took a turn planting a clove, with the roots facing down, by pushing it into the loose soil. Once a few rows were planted the garlic was covered with a 6 inch layer of leaves, keeping the soil warm during the winter months. This was topped off with some pine branches to help hold all the leaves in place. It was a wonderful opportunity for the students to learn many aspects of planting and taking care of the plant beds. The middle school High Five students also had the opportunity to plant garlic in the middle school garden. Each of the incredible cloves planted will be harvested next August when they become a nice large bulb themselves.

The students learned that once the garlic is harvested it is hung in a dry place with open air flow. This way the garlic dries out and is ready to be used. Garlic is often added to many of our pastas, pizza, and dishes but as we learned from the Kesslers can be prepared in many ways. It can be roasted to make a sumptuous side dish, or added to vanilla ice cream, or used in baking cookies! The students particulry loved the garlic cookies and ice cream the Kesslers brought to share.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

What's Growing in the Grow Cart?

Herbs, the fourth grade students planted a wonderful indoor herb garden in the grow cart. While the cold Wisconsin weather keeps us from enjoying a walk through the garden. An indoor herb garden will liven up the halls. While the beautiful green plants are appealing to the eye, the smell of fresh herbs will perk up the nose.

The students planted two groups, the first coming from our school gardens where they grew through out the summer. These herb plants were split and some moved indoors. The students had an enjoyable evening learning how to split plants, replant them, and the difference between outdoor and indoor (sterile) potting soil. This group included: mint, chocolate mint, italian (flat leaf) parsley, thyme, sage, and basil. What a blast it will be to harvest the herbs for recipes during the fall and winter months.

The second group was planted from seed. We can't wait to watch them grow, in the first week we have already gotten wonderful sprouts. Once the plants become large enough the students will replant them in individual conatiners to take home and use. Winter will be much tastier with the addition of these incredible herbs. The students also planted some zinnias to have an even more colorful fall.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Notes from the Garden Harvest

During our garden clean up we encountered a few interesting items notable to students and adults alike. While we composted most of the inedible plant parts, not all made it in the bin. The tomato plants, for one, quickly found there way into the trash. Having been hit hard by blight due to a warm and very wet summer, we made sure the diseased plants did not go into the compost. It is important not to compost diseased plants as many disease causing fungi can survive through the winter.
We also found a stranger in the garden... Queen Anne's Lace, Daucus carota, also called wild carrot. Though it is edible just like the domesticated carrot, it becomes too woody for consumption as it matures. Weeds are not wanted in any garden but in this case it offered us a wonderful teaching tool. Over the summer students were encouraged to try many new herbs, vegetables, and fruits from the garden. Some students became incredibly adventurous eating almost anything they found. Enthusiasm and curiosity may be a wonderful thing but can lead to dangers. Our edible friend, Daucus carota, though not particularly tasting, is not dangerous. Poison hemlock, Conium maculatum, an invasive plant that has spread across the northern states, can be deadly. This is why it is important not eat any wild plants unless you are an expert in discerning their species. While this is worth while advice for any student, it is wise to heed by all.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Garden Harvest and Clean Up

With the cold nights that were on the way the 4th Grade students spent part of their day harvesting and cleaning up the garden. The weather may have been cold on the hands but it was with warm smiles that many of the students picked most of the remaining vegetables. They enjoyed digging up the potatoes, carrots, radishes, and beets. Picking beans, tomatoes, peppers, and so much more. A total of 67 lbs. and 9 oz. of vegetables were harvested from the garden today alone. We are still calculating the total amount of vegetables harvested through the year. Much of this went back into the school lunch program while the remainder was delivered to Indianhead Community Action Agency. With help from our wonderful volunteers and excited students the day was a great success.

The students got an incredible opportunity to taste many of the vegetables harvested. The carrots, peppers, kohlrabi, and lemon cucumbers were a great hit. Some of the more adventurous students even tried the carrot tops, which are often added to salads. They also took the time to stop and smell the herbs, and try some of them as well. The ground cherries quickly became the star of the show and were fairly well picked clean by the end of the day. A few students stayed behind during their recess period to help finish weighing the vegetables.