With the start of school just around the corner, I thought it would be a good idea to post an introduction to our outdoor spaces. Below is the Welcome Walk, a document Outdoor Ed volunteers put together a few years ago and distributed to teachers as a way to introduce their students to the woods and garden spaces on the Crestwood grounds. Suggestions for questions and observations are included, as well as pictures for the online version since this is a virtual tour!
CRESTWOOD WELCOME WALK FALL 2014
There are many outdoor learning places to visit on the Crestwood school grounds, including several garden sites, wooded trails, and the apple orchard. Other nearby nature areas include Owen Park, a city conservation park with a restored prairie and maple and oak forests located on Old Sauk Road, and Kettle Pond, another city conservation area located on Old Middleton Road.
Below is some information on each outdoor learning space on our grounds and some things to investigate as you visit these places with your students. It may be helpful for them to have paper, pencil, and rulers to record their observations. The questions in bold are only suggestions for observation. You and your students will certainly come up with your own unique and interesting questions and observations!
Before you start, here is some background information on the Aldo Leopold benches, the mosaic signs, and the kiosks, all located on the school grounds in various outdoor spaces.
The Aldo Leopold Benches
There are many small simple benches throughout the Crestwood school grounds. This bench design was created by Aldo Leopold, author of “A Sand County Almanac”, a book that records the passage of seasons that Leopold observed in rural southern Wisconsin. “Considered by many as the father of wildlife management and of the United States’ wilderness system, Aldo Leopold was a conservationist, forester, philosopher, educator, writer, and outdoor enthusiast” (from www.aldoleopold.org). Leopold lived right here in Madison and was a professor at the University of Wisconsin!
The Leopold Benches at Crestwood were built by Travis Wood (former Crestwood student) as Eagle Scout project, Al Wessel (former SEA), and Don Worel (former 4/5 teacher).
In 2010, 7 more of these benches were built and dedicated to staff who were retiring as well as volunteers who have done OE with Crestwood students for many years.
How many Leopold Benches can you find as you explore the Crestwood school grounds? (8 in the back)
What color are the benches? (some plain, some blue/green, one red, one signed by 5th grade students)
The Mosaic Signs (props to Luke Basseuner for his write-up on the blog last November!)
Each year, students at Crestwood get a chance to collaborate on mosaic signs to mark the garden and forest plots around the school. Kindergartens and 1st graders make clay tiles, 2nd and 3rd graders glaze them in a variety of colors, and 4th and 5th graders design and assemble the final mosaics. The initial round of mosaics was completed in the spring of 2012 and marked five of the school's gardens. The second round, finished in the spring of 2013, were designed to designate the various plots in the forest behind the school. (As you’ll read below, every class has been assigned a different section of the woods to take care of during their years at Crestwood.) The 2014 mosaics mark the remaining plots in the forest and the new Apple Orchard that has been planted near the parking lot.
Do you recognize any of the birds on the mosaic signs in the woods? Which birds have yellow coloring? (goldfinch, chickadee, nuthatch) Which birds have red coloring? (robin, turkey vulture, woodpecker)
How many mosaic signs do you see in front of the school? What shapes or pictures do you see on them? (6 – rainbow shape by the prairie garden, circle shape by the circle garden, apple shape by the apple orchard, round/sunflower shape by the sunflower garden, butterfly shape by the butterfly garden, carrots by the front vegetable plot)
There are 10 newly installed kiosks on posts around the Crestwood grounds. They were purchased using funds from the Joyce Soukup Memorial fund and installed in May 2014 by volunteers from Blackhawk Church during Love Madison workday. The posts are permanent, but the content on display can be changed. Currently, the kiosks contain original artwork by Crestwood students.
How many kiosks can you find in the woods?
How many in front of the school?
What words or pictures would you like to put on a sign for one of these kiosks?
(1) The Woods and trail system is located south of the building. This area has been part of Crestwood’s history since 1901 (when called Highlands/Mendota Beach School). Early PTO records mention ski jumping. More recently in the 1980s, the main trail (between the school building and South Highlands Rd) and theater ring was installed by Sue Bohlman’s (retired 3rd grade teacher) son as his Eagle Scout project. Parent volunteers created seasonal teaching trail signs and led small groups through the woods and led restoration efforts including spring ephemeral planting and garlic mustard removal. Due to tree safety concerns, the woods area was not often used by students for several years in the mid-2000s.
Most recently in 2009 there was a revival of restoration efforts by the Outdoor Education Committee comprised of both Crestwood staff and volunteers. Parent and Arborist Joe House has helped with safety concerns by spearheading tree and shrub removal and community woods work days. From 2009 to present, new trails have been created including an “upper loop” in 2009 off the main trail, a “lower loop” in 2010 located behind the classroom circle and a new trail connecting the lower loop with the main trail near the Highlands Road in 2011. In spring 2014, smaller trails were added through the plots for more student access; though currently some of those trails are somewhat overgrown, they are accessible in the spring.
Each grade level of students that enters Crestwood as kindergartners is assigned a certain plot in the woods. Students help to plant native trees and shrubs and spring ephemerals in their plot, remove invasive species, and spend time exploring, studying and visiting their special area during the different seasons each year. Each grade level plot is named after a woodland bird. See the Crestwood Woods Information Sheet for more detailed information on each plot. Some of the many classroom activities in the woods include native tree and shrub planting and data collection; “my spot” observation area through the seasons; removal of non-natives—garlic mustard, buckthorn; planting spring ephemerals, native trees and shrubs; scavenger hunts, art projects, walks, photo ops, and phenology (study of seasonal changes).
At the entrance to the woods you’ll see a wooden sign with the word robin on it. This marks the “Robin plot” that belongs to students who are 4th graders this year. There are six other wooden signs in the woods. See if you can find them all. What do they say? (Goldfinch, Cardinal, Blue Jay, Woodpecker, Nuthatch, Chickadee, Turkey Vulture)
(Note: One way to tell what plot you’re in, other than the signs, is to look at the colored tape on the tubes protecting young trees that have been planted by the students. The colors are noted after the question below.)
What grade are you in and what is the name of your plot?
Blue Jay = 5th (dark blue tape) Chickadee = 2nd (orange tape)
Robin = 4th(“egg blue” tape) Goldfinch = 1st (yellow tape)
Nuthatch = 3rd (purple tape) Cardinal = KG (red tape)
Some trees have blue tags around their trunks (upper loop). Find one tree with a tag to discover the name of that tree. Can you find any leaves or seeds/nuts you think belong to this tree?
Locate an oak tree in your plot to observe through the seasons.
Many plants in the woods have gone to seed. How are plants spreading their seeds? What evidence do you see? (notice all the plants that have berries in the Goldfinch, Cardinal and Blue Jay plots like Solomon’s Seal, Pokeweed, Jack-in-the-pulpit and others – PLEASE NOTE THAT THESE ARE NOT EDIBLE PLANTS AND ARE IN MOST CASES QUITE TOXIC, ESPECIALLY THE BERRIES; check your clothes for burrs from burdock and enchanted nightshade; find exploding seed pods on the jewelweed that has taken over the Nuthatch and Chickadee plots in the back of the woods)
(1) The Prairie sampler garden is located in the front of the school in front of the dumpster fences. (It is sometimes fondly referred to as the “dumpster garden.”) This garden offers students an opportunity to see various prairie plants up close. Seeing these plants before or after a trip to Owen Park may help with learning plant names and identification. Project ideas include: identifying and creating labels for plants, taking photos or drawing in different seasons, phenology.
What is the tallest plant you see? (Compass plant)
Is it a grass or flower? (Perennial plant that flowers. There are several prairie grasses nearby)
How deep do you think its roots go? (we don’t know precisely, but pretty deep!)
What would you call this plant if you were to create a name for it? Be creative!
(Example: Tall nodding sunshine flower?)
How many different colors or flowers do you find?
(2) The Circle Garden located in the front lawn changes seasonally.
Planting of Red Emperor tulips occurs every other year with 2nd grade students (including this school year) in the fall. This then offers an opportunity to participate in the Journey North migration program (http://www.learner.org/jnorth/tulip/index.html) the following Spring. Students track the emergence of spring bulbs from the southern United States to the north and add their own data on Crestwood’s tulip bulbs.
Once the tulips have bloomed (and bulbs have been removed) the garden is planted with summer blooming flowers/crops. This past year we also had a successful garlic crop in the middle of the circle garden, so successful, in fact, that we anticipate an all-school snack of roasted garlic on bread/crackers sometime this fall!
Marigolds, basil and beans have been planted here. In non-tulip bulb years, different types of bulbs have been planted to observe in spring.
How many different colors of marigolds can you find?
Can you find the basil? What do the flowers look like on this plant?
There are four different types of beans in this garden – can you find them? (color is a clue, green, purple, yellow bush beans, and pole beans).
How tall are the bean plants?
Why are there bamboo poles in the middle of the circle garden?
What is the circumference of this garden? Diameter?
Do you see any flowers besides marigolds? (one alyssum – tiny purple flowers - survived in Mr. Szudy’s area, look for blooms on basil plants)
(3) The Butterfly Garden is a large rectangular space in the front yard with a stepping stone walkway through it. The garden contains many plants butterflies need throughout their life cycle – from larva to adult. Many plants are labeled. Monarchs raised in classrooms have been released here. This garden was created by parent volunteer and master gardener student Kim Bunke with the help of Karen Lenoch’s 2/3 class a few years ago.
There are a lot of yellow flowers in this garden – are they all the same?
If not, what do you notice that is different?
There are two especially fragrant plants you may notice – gently stroking the leaves with your hands may help you find them. One plant smells like black licorice and the other like a perfume or room freshener you may recognize.
Do you know what they are? (Fennel-licorice smell and lavender)
(4) Vegetable Gardens in the front of the building have been in existence and continuous use since the early 1990’s when Harlan Seibricht was principal. This garden space was started by parent volunteers and has grown over the years with the help of students, staff, volunteers, and the support of the CAPT. The gardens start near the picnic tables to the east of the front door and stretch the length and around the side of the building all the way to the red wall (elevator).
These gardens are planted with students in the spring with crops to harvest in the fall and over the years have included potatoes, beans for drying, gourds, tomatoes, peppers, potatoes, onions and garlic, rutabagas, corn, pumpkins and other late squashes. In Fall 2013, the 4th and 5th grade classes made “stone soup” for Back to School Night and 3rd grade classes made pickles and salsa.
Garden opportunities historically were offered through a lunch recess garden club, run by parent volunteers. More recently, entire classrooms have been involved in planting and harvesting various parts of the gardens. In spring 2014, the entire 4th grade and some 5th grade classes planted more than 1200 peas to restore nitrogen to the garden soil, and many students at Crestwood enjoyed a fresh snack of sugar snap and snow peas on the last day of school before summer break!
Do you know what type of vegetable a pickle is before it is pickled? See if you can find the plant in the garden (cucumbers- these plants are vines – they like to grow up onto things).
If you are lucky you may find and taste some sweet red treats – what are they? (Tomatoes)
Do you see tall plants with feathery leaves and a dome of tiny yellow flowers? Can you identify them? (dill – self-seeds prolifically and grows well with cucumbers)
(5) The Sunflower Wall, along the east driveway, was painted by then art teacher Roger Johnson. This last spring, Mr. Moyer’s kindergarten class planted sunflowers along the wall. Above the sunflower wall is another smaller plot for vegetables. Here, in spring 2014, 4th graders planted peas, 2nd graders added cucumbers, and 3rd graders put in tomatoes and basil for a snack garden. Despite a slow start, many of these plants are thriving! Summer volunteers also planted beans and carrots to replace the pea plants.
Why do you think the plants are called sunflowers? (they turn toward the sun)
Who is taller? You or the sunflowers? Your teacher or the sunflowers?
Do you see any climbing plants along the red wall? What are they? (more cucumbers, beans growing up the teepee in the middle of the garden)
(6) The Apple Orchard site is east of the east driveway. This area will eventually have 20+ trees of 5 apple varieties planted along low trellises. Future plans include possibly adding blueberry, currant, and/or strawberry plants. The initial funding for this project was received through a grant from Lowe’s (Spring 2012).
There is a fruit tree already growing in this area. What is it? (Apple)
There is soap hanging near the apple trees! How many bags of soap do you see? Why do you think they are there? (deterrent for deer)
Do you know how many varieties of apples are growing in our orchard? What are they? (Three: Crimson crisp, enterprise, liberty)
(7) The Kinder/1st grade garden is located behind the west parking lot. This garden space was expanded over two years with the help of Blackhawk Church members on their annual “Love Madison” community service Sunday. The back garden gives easy access to K/1 classes to plant spring crops (lettuce, spinach, radishes) for salad snacks in May and June. Pumpkins, corn, and beans are typically planted by kindergartners in the late spring for a fall harvest when students return to Crestwood as 1st graders, though the long harsh winter last year and problems with the soil prevented the late planting. Summer volunteers amended the soil to lower the pH and restore nitrogen, and planted beans for soil health. The single sunflower and vigorous pumpkin vines are volunteer!
There are some mighty large leaves to be seen in this garden. What plant do they belong to? (Pumpkins- Check the side of the garden near the property fence).
Can you figure out the area of a leaf?
Different varieties of pumpkins are growing here – how many different kinds can you see? (Please don’t pick yet!)
What color are the beans on these plants? (purple!) Do you know what color they are when they’re cooked? (they turn green!)
(8) The Shed behind the Kinder/1st garden was built in 2010. It was designed by Linda Gourley (retired art teacher), built by Don Worel (retired 4/5 teacher), and funded by a grant from the WI Retired Educators Association.
(Alert! A new invasive worm species has just been discovered in Madison. In mid-July, the Asian crazy worm was discovered in the UW Arboretum, and just a few weeks later, a volunteer found several Asian crazy worms in the mulch around the back garden. These worms resemble earth worms, but are darker in color and wriggle vigorously when picked up (hence the name “crazy worm”). They are native to Korea and Japan, but are considered invasive in North America. Not much is known about the crazy worm’s effect on forest, but it is feared that they will have a negative impact on forest systems because they reproduce quickly and eat aggressively, eroding leaf litter that is important for spring ephemerals and wildlife habitat. The Wisconsin DNR advises to please wipe/scrape your shoes after walking around the back garden to try and prevent spreading the cocoons from these worms. They also suggest that any worms you find should be put in a plastic zippered bag and left in the sun. It’s gross but it works. We haven’t found them in the woods yet, but sadly, it’s probably just a matter of time.)
The workshop at Troy Community Garden lasted most of the day. In the morning, we met our workshop leaders (Ginny, Beth and Jennica), introduced ourselves and our projects, and learned about the components of the grants as well as publicity events and exhibitions related to the finished projects.
Art in the Garden has three key components: Art installation (the actual physical product that will reside in schools' outdoor spaces), Art integration (use of curriculum with students as the project is implemented), and Community Involvement (schools will keep a record of how many people from the community like parent volunteers participate in their art projects). Schools and their communities are working together to create permanent art installations to display in their outdoor spaces. Students will generate many of the ideas, teachers and volunteers and community members will help implement those ideas, and with the help of grant money and support from Community Groundworks, schools will have a piece of art they can proudly display.
There are some publicity events in the works, too. After the art is finished and installed, there will be a bus tour of Art in the Garden sites at the end of the next school year (June 2015). The following fall, the Overture Center downtown will host pieces of the art projects in their gallery.
Later in the morning, Laurie Fellenz, Fine Arts Coordinator for MMSD, stopped by to talk to the group about the district's ongoing efforts to increase art integration in Madison Public Schools. The district is creating a network of arts liaisons from all schools, and next year MMSD will host several workshops led by Kennedy Center Teaching Artists.
As the workshop went on, I couldn't help but notice that we talked about school gardens just as much as art in the school gardens. It could be because gardening itself requires creativity, especially when you're gardening with kids and working that into your school's curriculum. Not that that's the same as art integration, but still. Also, frankly, gardening is a heck of a lot of work and that work is ongoing. Finding ways to involve students in that work and recruit enough volunteers to keep a program going takes an enormous amount of organization and creative energy, so we had a lot to talk about at that workshop.
I came home from the workshop feeling good about a lot of things. (It's hard not to feel good when you've spent the day in a place as beautiful as Troy Garden!) For all the challenges we are facing in our schools - and those challenges are many and mighty - it's reassuring to know there are teachers and parents and district leaders and community organizations truly dedicated to providing a valuable, well-rounded public education for all students in this city. We're doing a lot of good things at Crestwood, but we are certainly not alone. And that makes it easier to dig in (forgive the pun) and continue my (our) commitment to our Outdoor Ed program here.
By the way, I've got more blog posts coming soon. I'm due for another update on the garden. School starts in less than a month, and we have some fun things planned for the beginning of the year, plus we need to do a little cleanup around the woods and gardens; yes, we need more volunteers for all of that! Also, we've unfortunately we've got a newly discovered invasive species on the Crestwood grounds. More details on all of that and more COMING SOON!!
I don't think I mentioned this on the blog yet, but we found out in May that Crestwood Elementary was awarded a grant from Community Groundworks for an Art in the Garden project! Outdoor Ed had originally applied for the GROW grant, which is why we were eligible. Though we didn't get the GROW grant this time around, we were surprised and pleased to receive this one instead. Because we were a little late to get on board, we're still working out just what exactly our project will be, but once things are more underway I'll be sure to document the progress here.
It's pretty exciting when people give you money for stuff. Especially in the arts.
As part of the grant process, I attended an all-day workshop at Troy Community Gardens today, where more than a dozen representatives from schools all around Madison and Dane County who also received Art in the Garden grants met to share ideas and learn about resources for our projects.
It was inspiring to spend a day with people who share the same enthusiasm for the arts and outdoor learning. We're all doing this because we believe kids need to be outdoors and need space for creative expression, two things sadly lacking in the national conversation about our educational system.
We started off with a group art activity on the lawn. Each group was assigned to a frame of large branches outlined on the grass and a bucket full of plant matter. We were given about 5 minutes to construct a piece of art in silence (no talking!!) and then afterwards took a mini-gallery tour to see and discuss what everyone came up with.
Troy Community Gardens is an incredible place! Just being there is inspiring, as if you can feel the creativity and goodwill crackling in the air around you. Below is a gallery of pictures of the kids' garden, where 1000 kids from the area visit every year, some of them multiple times. The garden is planted and maintained primarily by kids.
Personally, my favorite part of the kids' garden is the living stage. (Maybe something like this would be a good art installation for our school?? Margie's been hinting about that...)
We had lunch in the outdoor kitchen, where we topped our own pizzas before they were baked in a brick oven. We also made fresh spring rolls with rice wraps, ate fresh salad, and drank mint lemonade.
After lunch we had more tours and workshop activities. I wish I'd gotten pictures of some of the people I met, but after I'd initially gotten photos of the lovely gardens around me I was caught up in discussions and didn't get my camera out again.
This post is already a little long, so I'll post again with more about what we actually talked about at the workshop! To be continued...
Crestwood's OE committee is dedicated to outdoor learning for all students.