Johnson Park Elementary School garden

Johnson Park’s garden program takes place in a protected interior courtyard of the school, where parent volunteers and garden educator Wendy Parker have created a thriving edible garden complimented by busy pollinator areas — in total 10 distinct garden beds.  The garden program runs for four weeks in the fall and ten weeks in the spring.  During those periods, each of the classes, kindergarten through second grade, have weekly half-hour garden lessons and each of the classes. Third grade through fifth grade have bi-weekly garden lessons.  The subjects are multi-disciplinary, but the kids have plenty of opportunities to get their hands in the soil, study the fauna, and  taste the luscious produce they have grown.

Jess Niederer

Farmer Jess Niederer has grown Swiss chard for this fall’s Garden State on Your Plate events at all four elementary schools. Chefs from Princeton University will be preparing the greens.

See what’s happening in Johnson Park’s courtyard gardens by clicking this link.

Johnson Park Fall 2012 Update

November 15, 2012

During the summer months, parents with children at Johnson Park volunteered their time in the garden to help water and tend plants. This enabled the students on their return to jump straight into garden activities, harvesting, cooking and tasting the produce they planted before their summer break. It is interesting and fun sometimes to taste what a vegetable is like before it is cooked and in my opinion when organically grown it tastes even better, especially when freshly picked. During September, students were busy making dishes such as salsa for the Johnson Park picnic event and at this event parents had the opportunity to sample the garden produce.

The Boy Scouts built a second compost for JP; students learned the process of decomposing vegetation and the value it brings to the vegetable soil beds when ready. There is a big oak tree in the garden so plenty of leaves to rake and deposit, as well as left over vegetable plants to start the composting process. The acorns from the oak tree were also collected and students planted them in the hope they will sprout in time for Arbor Day, April 26,  and have grown sufficiently enough to take home and plant.

In October, kindergarten and first grade enjoyed various activities with pumpkins as well as tasting pumpkin seeds baked in olive oil. Second grade learned all about the Black Swallowtail Butterfly. They made soup from the host plants used by this native insect. Third grade had the opportunity to gather herbs and tie them using a slip-knot. The students took them home to hang and dry for later use in their home cooking. Fourth grade experimented with vegetables and berries as a natural dye. Fourth grade also had the chance to make a delicious soup called Three Sisters, consisting of squash and beans. Fifth grade made pumpkin muffins.

November really saw the end of most of the garden produce, the season finished with most grades planting spring bulbs and scattering seeds, the vegetable beds were prepared for the following spring. Tools and equipment were cleaned and safely stored.