25 May

In the Garden

Chickens have come to D-E!  Middle School problem-based learning (PBL)
invites students to tackle a complex, real-world problem and work
collaboratively to realize authentic solutions.  In D.I.G., a 7th and 8th
grade elective, students proposed adding chickens to the vegetable
garden ecosystem as a method of organic pest control and a source of
organic fertilizer.

The project has spanned several years, and several groups of D.I.G.
students, as they first discovered the City of Englewood town
ordinance would need revision to allow the keeping of backyard
chickens.  Students worked together to revise the ordinance for
presentation to the Englewood board of health and later, after the new
ordinance was passed, to solve myriad other problems that raising and
keeping chickens presents.  This spring, the 7th grade DIG class
presented their idea to Dr. De Jarnett and, after addressing some
additional problems he brought to their attention, received permission
to buy a chicken license for the school.  They are moving forward
now with plans for a permanent coop to be built inside the fence at
the Nettie Louise Coit Teaching Garden.

As part of their project, The DIG students have wanted to raise
awareness among their peers about some issues connected with chicken
keeping and sustainability.  For example, they have learned that
eating eggs from pastured chickens supports more environmentally
healthy and more humane agricultural practices than choosing eggs from
conventionally raised chickens. To bring some of their learning to
other students, Mrs. Christoph invited the class to present short
talks, or “chicken minutes” during Monday Morning Meeting.  DIG has
also posted a “pop up art show” next to the temporary coop in the
Umpleby Garden, where we are keeping the fledglings for the next week.

We invite community members to drop by a visit the show! The chickens
will leave campus for the summer but will return to benefit students,
and the garden, in the fall when they move to their permanent home in
the Nettie Coit Teaching Garden.

Note:  We would welcome any parents interested in supporting the
chickens by sharing their care on weekends and school holidays!
Please contact Tasha Urbanowski at the DE parents association Garden
Project urbant@d-e.org.


14 Feb

Going Green

Contributed by Grade 6 Dean Tasha Urbanowski

One of the easiest ways we can all “go green” is to compost our food waste.  If we just throw them away, food scraps clog landfills and add to greenhouse gas emissions — and we waste valuable nutrients that could be going back into the soil in which we grow new food!

Earlier this month, the MS Garden Club assembled a new compost bin to enable us to get back to saving our scraps in a temporary location during construction of the new MS building.  The temporary location is visible from the cafeteria and so helps remind students and faculty of the value and routine of composting.  It also creates the opportunity for an US graphic design class to work on an interesting project: signage that will further the educational objective of school compost bins.

Cafeteria staff save vegetable bits left over from the salad bar preparations, and students on lunch duty and the Upper School’s Environmental club dump these, coffee grounds from the faculty coffee station, and some post-tray waste (such as banana peels) into the “ComposTumbler” every day.

Garden Club notes that, while they are a bit of a nuisance to set up, the metal bins make composting — and especially turning the compost to help it decompose evenly — neat and quick.  Students can dump waste after lunch, spin the bins, and still get back to class on time.  We are proud to be making our own fertilizer for the school garden and to be helping the cafeteria maintain its green restaurant certification by managing some food waste in an earth-friendly way.

15 Dec

In the Garden

DIG students problem-solved how to deconstruct our Umpleby garden beds using “simple tools” — such as a lever — and teamwork The master plan for our campus includes new construction on the current site of Umpleby Hall.  Although that construction is several years away, the DIG students are already planning for the eventual relocation of the Umpleby beds to the Nettie-Louise Coit Garden up the hill.  The problem includes taking apart the old beds and saving the soil inside the beds — created through years of composting lunch scraps and carefully maintaining the microscopic life and fertility within the soil — but also reconsidering the layout of garden beds in the new location and the future uses of those beds.  We expect to be doing a lot of measuring, debating and head-scratching in the months to come as we continue to work on this project.