Growing School Gardens – a free, online learning community

The Growing School Gardens community is co-hosted by, the Edible Schoolyard Project, the National Farm to School Network, and Life Lab. “This free online learning community is a place for educators, gardeners, parents, and community volunteers to come together to share information and resources on how to start and maintain a school garden, and integrate it into the curriculum, the life of a school, and the local community. The community hosts free monthly webinars and live chats with leaders in the field that are highly engaging and interactive. Online discussions provide an easy way to continue the conversation and share ideas and experiences with peers across the country, and around the world.”  Click here to access the site and learn more about upcoming webinars and how to join the community.



Engaging science lessons brought to you by your local


Winter in the school garden is a perfect time to learn about our local birds. Set up a bird feeding station and watch students curiosity and interest soar!

Our friends at Bird Sleuth are working with us to educate and engage children and families in citizen science and the pleasures of wild bird feeding and bird watching! A free download perfect for elementary educators is available: these easy-to-use activities will help you teach science content year-round through the birds that visit. 


Secrets of the Oak Woodlands: Plants and Animals among California’s Oaks S

In a book rich in illustration and suffused with wonder, author Kate Marianchild combines extensive research and years of personal experience to explore some of the marvelous plants and animals that the oak woodlands nurture. Acorn woodpeckers unite in marriages of up to ten mates and raise their young cooperatively. Ground squirrels roll in rattlesnake skins to hide their scent from hungry snakes. Manzanita’s rust-colored, paper-thin bark peels away in time for the summer solstice, exposing sinuous contours that are cool to the touch even on the hottest day. Conveying up-to-the-minute scientific findings with a storyteller’s skill, Marianchild introduces us to a host of remarkable creatures in a world close by, a world that “rustles, hums, and sings with the sounds of wild things.”
Kate Marianchild; Illustrations by Ann Meyer Maglinte


Free Compost Tea Brewing Starter Kit from Synergy Agricultural Products

Synergy Agricultural Products would like to donate a 5 gallon Compost Tea Brewing StarterKit to all SGN member school gardens. Kits come with 5LPM air pump, brew bag,  air hose, air stone and chlorine remover.
School provide the 5 gallon bucket.
Synergy will even deliver the compost tea starter  kit and talk to your students about  the microbiology  found in compost teas!
Contact Mike Lewis to arrange for your starter kit!!
Not a SGN member school yet?
It’s free and easy! Just sign up on the School Garden Network  home page.
Member schools receive discounts with participating merchants and discounted workshop fees!!



Here is a wonderful set of  cards that provide information about bees done by Jessica Rykken for the Encyclopedia of Life . EOL provides global access  to knowledge about life on earth!



Santa Rosa students’ garden harvest goes to school lunches

Santa Rosa High School agriculture students headed to their garden in northern Santa Rosa early Tuesday morning to harvest watermelons, tomatoes and other produce destined for the plates of other Santa Rosa students.

In a twist on the farm-to-table movement, the students this year are learning to grow produce that will end up not in fancy restaurants but in grade-school cafeterias.

“I think this is a great way to show Santa Rosa our hard work,” said 12th-grader Takota Tuinstra, 17, as she pulled weeds from a pumpkin patch in the early-morning fog. “Other schools don’t have an opportunity to grow their own food, and maybe we can inspire other kids.”

She and other environmental horticulture and viticulture students were harvesting vegetables planted by a summer class of 15 students, who got credit for spending about 150 hours tending the 1.5-acre garden located between Highway 101 and Old Redwood Highway near Cardinal Newman High School.

They did so under the guidance of Riggs Lokka, the school’s new agriculture teacher, who decided to expand the garden, turn it into a year-round operation and focus on sustainable growing techniques.

Senior Kayla Bower, 17, was one of the students who spent their summer mornings planting and tending crops. She wants to become an agriculture teacher herself and said the experience was gratifying.

“I really wanted to see the farm get better,” Bower said. “I liked being able to see the plants grow from the beginning.”

The result was a bumper crop of cucumbers, squash, melons and peppers by the time school started. The program donated food to the Redwood Empire Food Bank and sold some to local restaurants, but Lokka still was seeking other uses for it.

When Debi Batini, director of career pathways for the school district, saw the amount of food the students were harvesting, she suggested selling some to Child Nutrition Services, the district’s food provider. Child Nutrition Director Bryan Nyberg jumped at the opportunity.

“It all came together really well,” Lokka said. “The students are very excited about it. They get a big grin on their face to know they’re producing not only something they can eat, but that their peers can, too.”

Nearly two decades after famed chef Alice Waters launched her pioneering “Edible Schoolyard” garden and kitchen project at a Berkeley middle school, the examples of schoolchildren growing or preparing their own campus meals are legion.

The first-ever garden supply deal for Santa Rosa City Schools comes as the country as a whole — with notable figures like first lady Michelle Obama carrying the flag — has put greater emphasis on the health of school lunches.

In 2010, the Healthy, Hunger- Free Kids Act set new nutrition standards for school lunches, such as requiring whole-grain pastas and breads and more fruits and vegetables, and provided federal funding to help make it happen.

But Santa Rosa City Schools started even earlier, buying local produce as much as a decade ago, nutrition director Nyberg said.

What began at that time with the purchase of Walker Ranch apples has expanded into partnerships with several local farms, including Bloomfield and Gabriel farms, he said. Nyberg estimates that as much of a quarter of the food he purchases comes from farms and food producers within 100 miles of Santa Rosa, and he’s hoping to continue expanding that share.

“Every year, we’re picking up more and more farms,” he said. “It’s all about the students. Kids deserve better.”

Nyberg said he spends about $100,000 a year on local produce. His overall food budget for the year is a little more than $2 million.

The result doesn’t much resemble your grandmother’s school lunch of mystery meat and Jell-O. Dessert is a local apple or fruit cup; salad bars are a staple; and last year, that quintessential school lunch item, the Tater Tot, was replaced with healthier potato wedges.

The produce from Santa Rosa High School’s farm will make its way onto that menu, Nyberg said. The heirloom tomatoes might be sliced and placed in sandwiches, the lemon cucumbers and Easter Egg radishes likely will end up in the salad bar, and the basil could be incorporated in a tomato or pesto sauce.

Nyberg says he keeps an eye out for deals on canned goods and staple items so that he can spend more on local produce. He’s paying full price for Santa Rosa High’s vegetables, he said.

“I’ve taken advantage of excess foods out there, which save me money so I can spend more when Riggs (Lokka) comes by with a cart of produce,” he said.

The proceeds will buy supplies for the agriculture program, Lokka said.

Nyberg said of the partnership, “We’re really thrilled. The whole thing is full circle.”

BirdSleuth News!!

Professional Development That’s Fun!

We love introducing educators to birds and our wonderful resources. Where ever you are, join us for one of our free “Feeding our Feathered Friends” webinars or take our popular “Soar through the Standards” online course. With the help of our Ambassadors, we also host a suite of in-person workshops around the country. Check our events list to discover the opportunities available near you. We know you’ll learn something, and enjoy it too!

Back to School Savings

We’re kicking the school year off by offering 10% off our most popular kits. Use code B2S10 in our online store to get your discount on any of the following:

  • Afterschool Investigators: Nature Detectives  Bring science to life with fun hands-on activities perfect for informal settings.
  • Most Wanted Birds  Discover bird diversity, get outdoors, and connect math and science by participating in the eBird citizen science project.
  • Habitat Connections  Learn about your local habitat and connect to the Cornell Lab’s citizen science projects… then take action on your schoolyard to help migrating birds.

Teens using binoculars, Jennifer Fee © Cornell Lab of Ornithology

Get a Grant! Binoculars & Funding

We’ll help you improve habitat and monitor birds on your schoolyard. You can win a Habitat Hero mini-grant for up to $750 thanks to a sponsorship from Pennington®  Wild Bird Food, and our sponsors at Celestron® optics are allowing us to award high-quality binoculars to help with citizen-science monitoring! All you have to do is share your existing actions on the BirdSleuth Action Map.


Steele Lane Elementary School’s Thriving Garden Program

With the fabulous support from our community, Vicki’s Garden at Steele Lane Elementary School has been able to upgrade the infrastructure and teaching program this past year. While our program has improved student contact time and curriculum, we are also very excited about the help we have received from Sunrise Rotary. While we have had support from many organizations, our support form Sunrise has been pivotal. We wish to thank them for our new seven planting beds, four new picnic tables, new shade structure and a replaced shed. These projects could not have happened without them. In addition, all of these community organizations helped make these projects (and more) happen:

Sunrise Rotary

School Garden Network of Sonoma County

Slow Food Russian River

Whole Kids Foundation

Freidman’s Home Improvement Center

Home Depot

Benjamin Moore Paints

California Association of Family Farmers

The National Heirloom Exposition

Steele Lane Enrichment Foundation

and the Steele Lane Elementary School staff and administration!

 Steele Lane Garden Before


 Steele Lane Garden After


Free Downloadable Nature Journaling Curriculum

Free Downloadable Nature Journaling Curriculum by John Muir Laws

The second edition of the acclaimed curriculum, Opening the World Through Nature Journaling, is now available as a free download. The curriculum now includes more great kid tested sketching activities, poetry writing, and more detailed tips on drawing in nature (you will love the material on drawing plants). This is a great resource for teachers, outdoor leaders, and home school parents.

BlueBarrel Offers Discounts to Schools for Rainwater Catchment Systems

Based right here in Sonoma County, BlueBarrel provides the tools, materials and educational resources for installing the BlueBarrel Rainwater Catchment System.  They can provide varying levels of support from materials and instructions for Do-It-Yourself projects, to integrated programs led by BlueBarrel’s founder, Jesse Froehlich, that include a classroom component and a full-day hands-on installation workshop.  Jesse can design custom programs for students of any age, working with teachers to emphasize aspects that reinforce core curriculum.  Between materials recycling, smart use of water resources and a hands-on education that ties together many subjects, the BlueBarrel System is a win-win for students and the environment!  Visit their website for more information. You can also view a sample program outline and the discounted pricing structure for schools by clicking on BlueBarrel School Program.