Have you seen it? There is something new in the third-grade garden—a worm farm for making compost! Sunflower Sentry Garden received a generous grant from Zero Waste Marin to build a system that includes six wooden stands and environment bags, thousands of worms and a large blue canopy to protect the wigglies from weather extremes and rain.
My Nutrition-Science students set-up six worm home environments. They filled the large canvas bags with moistened cardboard, shredded newspapers and compost for the bedding. Several kids whipped up a tasty batch of worm stew (compost mixed with organic food scraps supplied by Chef Guillaume) and spread it on top. Lots of little hands carefully moved the worms to their new homes and covered them with a cardboard top to keep things dark and moist. And no, you won’t find worm stew on the chef’s lunch menu.
The first harvest of rich compost is expected in July—just in time for our late summer planting.
The stands were a favorite with the kids that pretended they were telaporters.
Shredding newpapers was great fun and very messy.
Worm stew will keep our wigglies strong, healthy and happily making compost.
Gently lowering the bag of worms down to their new home.
“What are they doing?” “Are they moving?” “Look, there is a huge clump of worms over there!”
All of the bags have zipped netting tops for best air circulation.
Perfect worm environments–and they come in different colors–red, green and purple.
The kids of Sunflower Sentry Garden have decided to expand their chicken family of hens by incubating and raising baby chicks in the classroom. In addition to their life-cycle studies, the students will learn about the genetics of their chicks and see if they can determine their breed and heritage. Each step will documented here in the garden journal.
First Stop: The Woolley Egg Ranch
Early Tuesday morning, I piled two student ambassadors from Anne Siskin’s third-grade class into my yellow Jeep and set off for the local egg ranch to purchase eight fertilized eggs.
The rancher showed them the four main coops with different breeds of hens and roosters and introduced them to a beautiful turkey hen, a two-week old pigmy goat and his mama and lots of sheep. They also saw a lama but learned it wasn’t social and took its job of protecting the sheep from coyotes very seriously.
The hens and roosters are gorgeous with all their amazing features–but–they smell really bad.
Meet the baby pygmy goat. He’s only two-weeks old.
Group photo–Barbara and the kids.
Sheep smell too!
When taken to the ranch’s small store, their eyes grew big with all the packed eggs—over two-hundred from the day before. The rancher let them hold two large eggs from the turkey they had just met moments ago.
Then she opened a carton with their eight fertilized eggs marked by coop so they could study the genetics as their chicks hatched.
The kids were so excited and realized that these eggs were their future babies. They carried them very carefully to the Jeep and protected them for the ride back to school. This was the beginning of a most exciting adventure in learning.
The third-graders were thrilled when their ambassadors arrived with the fertilized eggs. Now it was time to program and set-up the incubator—and place the eggs in it. Are you ready?–21 days to hatching!
The incubator holds seven eggs so why did we get eight? Everyone thought that Goldie, the hen might sit on it and hatch herself a baby chick. Did she? Stay tuned.
Blackie affected many young lives over the last five years. Two fifth-graders who helped move the hens and chicken coop from the upper school garden to Sunflower Sentry several years ago came to her memorial and noticed that there was no sign to mark her grave.
What to do? They removed Blackie’s name sign from the coop, attached a wooden stake and carried it to her grave.
The kids found the perfect place and installed the sign so everyone could find her.
Blackie was very special to both of these kids. They have loved and cared for her since they were second-graders. Today they said their final good-by.
Blackie was memorialized today by all of her friends..
Since today is St. Patrick’s Day, the kids donned festive hats and necklaces then gathered for a special egg breakfast in the MPR before walking down to Willow Creek where Blackie is buried. The kids filled their little wagon full of wild strawberry plants, garden tools and scores of wildflower seed balls. They also carried their very special decorated box filled with loving notes, poems and drawings to place next to her.
Everyone gathered at her grave and shared their special memories with this wonderful small being.
Blackie helped teach the kids so many life lessons. Perhaps the greatest was that we are all connected and must respect each other. In return, we find and share great love that becomes the joy that fills our hearts and souls.
Two leprechauns on their way to say, “good-bye” to Blackie.
Blackie loved red, ripe and juicy strawberries so her little friends decided to plant them around her grave.
Planting strawberries made the kids happy. Blackie–wherever she may be above is probably watching them grow.
Are you watching, Blackie? These kids really love you.
Happily digging the hole to bury their beautiful box full of letters, poems and drawings for Blackie.
Blackie always knew that she was loved by the kids and she loved them.
Getting ready to throw scores of dirt balls filled with wildflowers seeds to make Blackie’s grave beautiful with color and joy.
I love you!
I hope that your soul rises so high
So, so far up
into the heavenly sky
and I’m almost positive,
that your heaven will be
a patch of strawberries,
and an orchard of apple trees
And best of all,
Elvis Presley will be there too
Singing Sweet Dreams Baby, just for you
That’s what I think,
your chicken heaven will be
and if I’m wrong,
then never mind me!
P.S. I miss you soooooo much!
The kids chose to bury their letters, poems and drawings next to Blackie so that she would go to the next world feeling very loved.
All of this love needed a special box that would keep their paper messages dry and safe. They chose one of plastic with a tight-fitting lid that they could decorate with brilliantly colored permanent Sharpies. As they drew, they wondered if someone 100 years from now would dig up the box and read their love notes. Would they still be dry? What would the person think? Would any of them still be alive to tell them about the kids that created and buried the messages?
Humans in the future will feel and know their love.
Ready for the messages.
Each kid added something to the design.
Working together to make it beautiful.
Start with a heart then add flowers, stars, chickens, Blackie and designs.
You can’t look until he is finished drawing. Close your eyes!
And now to the lid.
The kids of Sunflower Sentry Garden learned an important lesson while grieving Blackie’s loss this week—active empathy. As they gathered in the coop to share their feelings, they noticed that Goldie and Brownie were depressed and huddled deep under the coop. Remember these hens sat with their sister during her final hours and guarded her body until one of their caretakers arrived to help.
The kids learned that Blackie, Goldie and Brownie had never spent a day apart since arriving in Ms. Siskin’s third-grade class as newly hatched chicks five years ago. They played, laid eggs, dug for worms, took dirt baths, sunned themselves and loved each other to the fullest. Now, Blackie was gone.
One student that helps feeds the chickens each morning became very worried and wrote a beautiful note of concern:
Dear Goldie and Brownie,
I’m so worried about you girls. Is it because your sister died last night and you will not go out of the coop?
She took her card to the coop door and called for Goldie and Brownie to come out. Surprisingly, they did and she read it to them. The hens began clucking lightly and started eating a bit. The student was thrilled.
Earlier this week, one of the seventh graders that helped raise the three sister hens came to the coop and told the younger kids lots of sweet baby stories. We learned that Blackie was a happy girl that loved to run about, crawl up their arms and over their laps. Goldie was also very active but Brownie, true to form was very quiet.
As the kids listened, they understood why Goldie and Brownie were so sad. They all made a special effort to cheer the girls up with loving words and bits of lettuce, tortillas and handfuls of scratch. Slowly, the hens came out into the playpen with Sunshine and Peanut. Before long, Goldie flew up into the wheelbarrow and sunned herself when we got a break from the rain.
The children of Sunflower Sentry Garden have learned that all living things are connected. They have distinctive personalities, love and grieve the loss of those they care about—just like humans.
Sweet Dreams Blackie
Blackie: Dinosaur mode. Blackie says, “”I want to kill with hugs”.
I am sorry for your loss. You were a great friend to me and the chickens.
I am bossy but I love you.
I am sad that you died. We love you. Love,
I remember when I first met you. I will miss you. Love,
Why? War is BB.
You are the best chicken ever. Blackie, I liked you the best. I am so sad that you died.
Strong willed, brave, bold, proud, kind, gentle, quiet
If you were there, I would never know. So quiet. So gentle but brave as I would know. I adored you from bottom to top. You got your way but thought. Nothing would stop you. Nothing would hurt. So sly, so thoughtful, making your way as I knew you would.
I love your eyes, your feathers and your heart. You mean a chicken’s world to me. I love you. I miss you ever so much. I’m sooooooooo sorry Blackie. I miss you and I love you. I will always remember you and I hope you feel the same way about me. Goodbye.
My heart after (band-aid)
My heart before. Sunshine. Peanut. Brownie. Blackie.
As dark as the midnight sky. As calm as spring flowers. As sweet as a candy cane on Christmas Eve. I miss you from the bottom of my heart.
We all miss you so much. When we heard the story I cried.
We love you, Blackie.
You have been my favorite chicken in the coop. I’ve always written with and about you in Chicken Scratch. I hope you had a wonderful life.
Beautiful. Lovable. Amazing. Courage. Kissable. Intelligent. Elegant.
See more love tomorrow.
The children of Sunflower Sentry Garden are very sad with Blackie’s passing. They decided to write and draw messages of their love to take with her. We’ll post their love over the next few days.
Blackie. Sunshine. Peanut. Goldie. Brownie
Blackie was a very special chicken because she always loved all of the students that came close to her. Blackie was a friend, a good friend. And Blackie was a good leader! Blackie led a good life.
I liked everything about you. You are one of my favorites. I wish you were alive. To also sing a song to you.
Note: Barbara and some of the children always sang Roy Orbison’s Dream Baby to Blackie. She loved sitting on Barbara’s lap with her face in the sun–lightly clucking as she listened.
You have been really nice to me and I will be happy for you.
Chickens singing, Sweet Dreams Baby when no humans are around.
Good by, Blackie. Chole. I love you Blackie.
You were a good girl, Blackie. Blackie, I loved picking you up. It made me feel happy.
See tomorrow for more love.