Spring is finally here!

Our garden is full of growing peas, radishes, lettuce and kale.  Ollas are installed and have already been filled several times.  Outdoor education has been in place at Leschi for almost two full school years.  Unbelievable that we’ve been able to keep this going.  We couldn’t do this without our wonderful parent volunteers: Juli, Sophi, Jana, Kim, Regina, Helen, Eirik, Kari and our amazing community volunteers:  Morgan, Green Plate Special, Haley and Thomas and all the volunteers they’ve brought with them.  This has been an amazing year.

Parent resident photographer Daniel Chercover will be taking pictures of our classes in action later in May when there will be celebratory events (salad making).

Thank you to all supportive of our outdoor education efforts.  This is a very unique program that relies on volunteer effort and support alone.


Connecting to the natural world via a scavenger hunt

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Our IslandWood AmeriCorps outdoor educator, Haley Rutherford, taught three 1/2/3 and 2/3 classes today 3/12/2015.  The classes were Barber, Snyder and Tsutikawa’s.  Students went on a scavenger hunt through Peppi’s woods looking for slime, tunnels, certain types of plants.  After returning to the garden, students planted edible flowers such as Nasturtiums and Pansies.

I cannot describe how excited Leschi’s students are for outdoor ed.  Without fail, every time I’m in the hallway, I have atleast one or two students ask me when the next garden/forestry lesson will be for their class.

I am proud of our community and parent volunteers for making outdoor learning a priority and making it fun for the students. Above are some pictures of our students learning about the natural world around them.  Thank you Haley and Thomas of IslandWood, Brian and Laura of Green Plate, Leschi parent volunteers Juli, Sophie, Jana, Helen and Kari.

Kicking off the spring 2015

Green Plate Special garden educator Laura Waltner kicked off the spring garden season with Leschi’s 4th/5th grade classes (Ms. Deese’s class) by building pea trellises in preparation for our first planting. Using bamboo, twine, and sticks, the students worked together in groups to create the strongest possible trellises to give lots of support to our pea vines. We talked how pea vines climb up a trellis using tendrils.  By the end of class, our trellises were ready to install in the bed where peas will be planted in just a few days. In our end of class discussion, students said the keys to building a good trellis were “tying strong knots,” “building a good frame,” and teamwork.

Ms. Deese's 4th/5th graders hard at work making trellises for pea planting!

Ms. Deese’s 4th/5th graders hard at work making trellises for pea planting!


Spring is here!

Spring planting with Leschi Elementary’s students will begin Friday March 6.   Volunteers have been busy preparing for spring and exciting new collaborations with community volunteers have been created.

Community collaborators include Green Plate Special (http://greenplatespecial.org/), a Seattle based nonprofit who’s mission is to inspire and empower youth to experience food in new ways through gardening, cooking and eating together, and IslandWood.  Green Plate has provided two teachers Brian and Laura to teach garden education to our 4th/5th graders.  Islandwood has provided two teachers, Haley and Thomas, to teach outdoor education to three of our 1,2,3 and 2,3 classrooms.   Haley is an AmeriCorp volunteer at Islandwood who comes back to us after teaching outdoor education in the Fall and Thomas is an IslandWood graduate student.

Other exciting news is that Leschi Elementary was awarded a $2000 grant from Whole Kids Foundation of which $1500 will be used to fund an outdoor educator for Fridays.  Parent volunteers have already recruited an amazing outdoor educator, Morgan, who is finishing up her master gardener certificate and comes to us with a passionate interest for teaching gardening and cooking to elementary students.

For parents of 5th through middle schooler aged kids, Green Plate Special recently released information about summer camps for those out there looking for a great camp for their 4/5 graders.  See http://greenplatespecial.org/.

All outdoor educators come to us with enthusiasm, a passion for teaching and a passion for connecting children to their natural world.  We are extremely lucky to have found them!

Parent volunteer coordinators Kim Blakemore and Jana Robbins will continue to work with teachers to integrate routine outdoor education opportunities into the school day as well as assist outdoore educations in delivering of the curriculum.

Thank you to Principal Claytor, the PTA, parent volunteer Juli Hudson and to our new outdoor educators for making outdoor education happen at Leschi.   Thank you Leschi Community Council for their continued support.

Below are some pictures of our recently spruced up garden where one of our tasks was to install beautiful ollas which will serve as our irrigation system for the summer.   Read more about ollas at http://drippingspringsollas.com/

If interested in helping with outdoor education at Leschi Elementary contact Kim Blakemore, kblakemo@uw.edu.

Happy Spring 2015!

Transplanted ollas will help keep our plants happy in the summer.

Transplanted ollas will help keep our plants happy in the summer.

Tulips are growing in this unseasonably warm winter of ours!

Tulips are growing in this unseasonably warm winter of ours!

Green Plate Special teacher Brian Robbins built thiis amazing herb spiral using bricks.

Green Plate Special teacher Brian Robbins built thiis amazing herb spiral using bricks.









December update – Goodnight Garden

Our garden is going to sleep for the winter months.  It has been a fruitful (no pun intended) first quarter of the school year.  Many thanks to our community volunteers for helping us teach outdoor education to all of our classes.  Specific accolades go to IslandWood AmeriCorps volunteer Haley Rutherford for teaching four 2nd/3rd grade classes, Green Plate Special staff Laura and Brian for assisting Mondays in teaching 4/5 graders and to parent volunteers Kim Blakemore, Jana Robbins, Julie Hudson and Sophi Kimura for being rock solid volunteers every Friday.    Thank you to the teachers and students for making outdoor education happen during the school day.

Outdoor education will be taking a temporary break during the months of January and February.  During these months, coordinators Kim Blakemore and Jana Robbins will develop outdoor education curriculum for the remainder of the school year.

Kim and Jana sure have learned a lot since the beginning of the school year, not only about our natural world but about children’s natural curiosity for it.  We adults and children are constantly learning in leaps and bounds and through the children’s eyes, we see the world in all is magical glory.  The natural world truly is an amazing laboratory.

To all – we wish you peaceful, restful, nourishing and magical winter break.  We look forward to the rejuvenation received during the break and to outdoor education in the spring and to all the new adventures in store for us.

Kim and Jana

October/November update

Our little lettuce leaves, radish and turnips are growing but seem to have reached their maturation.   Definitely an experiment that the students will no doubt provide some interesting theories on.  Ms. Staab’s class planted some native edible plants out near the front of the school:  thimbleberry, oxalis, evergreen huckleberry.  The oxalis has some tasty green leaves that have the flavor of sour apple.  They will serve as a very nice ground cover!   Ms. Deese’s class did a test run in building trellises using twine and large twigs.  Wow, the creativity was amazing!  Can’t wait for spring and another trellis project.  Ms. Behrand’s and Ms. St. Clair’s class have learned all about the dichotomous key and why it’s so important.   K-3rd graders have been busy learning about insect inhabitants, worms and their importance to our soil, planted native plants in the Peppi’s woods and just have a constant fascination of all that is creepy and crawly.

Kim submitted the grant proposal for a $2000 Whole Kids Foundation Grant.  Will hear in March 2015 whether or not it is funded.  Thank you to Jen Beatty, Rhonda Claytor and Pam Johnson for assisting in writing the content.

Leschi Community Council has purchased six ollas  (see below picture) for our school garden that can be used for irrigation over the summer.  Thank you LCC for such a generous purchase!

Easy to install!

Late winter and early spring plans are coming together.  Community partner Green Plate Special would like to partner with Leschi to teach garden education/nutrition to our 4th/5th graders.  This will compliment their focus on food science quite nicely!   Forestry walks through nearby Frink Park are slated to occur December and January.

Outdoor education is in full swing and wow, the students and teachers just love it.  Volunteers are always welcome!

2nd year of our school garden!

Hello everyone.  I am happy to report that the Leschi school garden has successfully entered its 2nd year.  Garden education started the 2nd week of school and is successfully moving forward.

Our goals this year include:

  • develop a garden/forestry curriculum that connects outdoor education to classroom learning goals (e.g., common core)
  • offer outdoor education to all sixteen classrooms
  • connect students to their natural world
  • obtain funding to support outdoor educator
  • get kids outdoors, exercising, learning and make education FUN!

Kim Blakemore continues to serve as parent volunteer garden coordinator.  Parent volunteers Juli Hudson, Sophi Kimura, Regina Coleman, Helen Shor-Wong, Jana Robbins and several community volunteers are continuing to generously donate their time and energy to make garden education possible for all sixteen classes this school year.

Thank you to the teachers and Principal Claytor for allowing us to use up class time to incorporate.

Other exciting news is that parent volunteer Jana Robbins will provide forestry education to classes as well.  This was made possible last year but limited to only some classes due to limited volunteer capacity.  This year, Jana and Kim are synchronizing volunteer effort and schedules so that garden and forestry education becomes a school wide offering.  Leschi’s teachers have embraced this offering and have already scheduled their classes for outdoor education for the fall quarter.

Two community volunteers will also work with specific classrooms on focused projects.  Dee is a student studying sustainable eco friendly designs and will be working with the 4th/5th grade classrooms every Monday (during fall quarter) teaching about water conservation, rain catchment and irrigation systems.  Her goal is to get students to build rain catchment and irrigation systems for the school garden.  Haley is a current AmeriCorps student teaching at IslandWood.  She approached Leschi to find out if she could develop and teach a 2nd grade garden curriculum.   She will teach garden education every other Wednesday to four different classrooms (fall quarter).  During the winter quarter, she will develop a curriculum which she hopes to help implement the remainder of the school year.

Other news:

  • Leschi Community Council (LCC) has generously donated $150 toward the school garden.  LCC serves as the garden’s community partner.  Thank you LCC for your donation.
  • Kim Blakemore is currently drafting content for a $2000 grant from the Whole Kids Foundation which if awarded, would provide some funding for a volunteer to help teach outdoor education.
  • Kim and Jana are busily working on identifying and creating outdoor education curriculum that links classroom learning to lessons in the natural world.


  • As always, we could use more parent volunteers.  We have gardening Mondays, Wednesday and Fridays.  If you are able to volunteer in the morning or afternoon or both on any of those days, please contact Kim Blakemore at kblakemo@uw.edu or Jana Robbins at jana_b@earthlink.net.
  • Volunteer work can be done remotely as well.  Needs include grant writing, community outreach, blog updates, supply gathering, community events coordinating (e.g., potential Harvest of spring fair coordinating), communications, general weekend maintenance.
  • Your support!  Spread the word to our surrounding community and to even outside our community.  The more relationships we can build with different communities, the more we can offer.

As you can see, this little “garden” of ours is not so little anymore.  The students and teachers absolutely love it and it has become a bigger classroom than we ever imagined.

To end this blog entry, I leave you with some pictures to enjoy (thank you Daniel for taking these pictures).  Five classes enjoyed planting fall seeds Friday 9/19.  They planted spinach, brussel sprouts, watermelon radish (who knew there was such a thing!), lettuce, moved strawberries to a strawberry patch and transplanted herbs into pots.  It was a busy and fun loving day.

Thank you Leschi for all your support.

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