Celebrating Planting and Harvesting at Marquez Elementary School

By Sue Pascoe
Editor

The gardening year at Marquez Elementary School came to a joyful end on May 23 as second-through fifth-grade students hosted guests and parents with salsa and kale smoothies made from the plants in the school gardens.

In the background, fifth grader Carlos Rodriquez, on trumpet, and two sax players, fourth grader Antonio Vinzoni and fifth grader Derek Anwar, entertained everyone with jazz selections.

Before the celebration, students planted either bean, tomato, pepper or cosmos (flower) seeds in the bottom half of compostable egg cartons to take home. Once the seedlings sprout in the “egg” slot in the carton, they can be planted in the ground.

Third graders, who explained about the three sisters garden, were (left to right) Hadley Becker, Ava Cohen, Remya Elashoff, Kelly Garcia, Holder Vander and Anastasia Shmukler.

Third graders, who explained about the three sisters garden, were (left to right) Hadley Becker, Ava Cohen, Remya Elashoff, Kelly Garcia, Holder Vander and Anastasia Shmukler.

Palisadian Marie Steckmest, who started the program five years ago with only the second-grade students participating, said: “This is our third garden celebration. The students loved to plant, eat what they’ve grown and play with worms (in the compost pile).”

She thanked Troop 1225 Girl Scouts Lucie Brazier, Casey Wolfson, Lia Schwartz and Maribel Henderson-Midenna, who painted designs on clay pots used for the garden.

Steckmest also thanked realtor Scott Gibson for financial support, Gelson’s for grocery items the kids couldn’t grow, and Principal Ben Meritt and the teachers for their assistance.

The goal is to teach children where food comes from. In the process, kids develop a love of vegetables, Steckmest said.

Besides a vegetable patch, the campus has a butterfly garden (planted with milkweed) and a Peter Rabbit Garden, with parsley, tomato, kale, basil, cilantro and onion.

Jazz players (left to right) Antonio Vinzoni, Carlos Rodriquez and Derek Anwar entertained guests.

Jazz players (left to right) Antonio Vinzoni, Carlos Rodriquez and Derek Anwar entertained guests.

Second graders Milan Menting, Jonathon Aggbra, Brooke Abraham and Molly Steinsapir prepared the salsa served to guests, made from tomatoes, green onion, lemon juice, olive oil and cilantro.

Third graders told about the native “three sisters” gardens planted by the Pawnee, Cherokee and Navajo tribes. Corn, beans and squash are planted in the same location. As the corn removes the nitrogen from the soil, the beans replace it, and the cornstalks give beans a place to climb. The squash plant leaves keep the ground shaded and moist, and also prevent weeds from growing.

There is a California native garden at the school, planted and maintained by fourth graders. Lily Emad spoke about the California sagebrush: “It is usually made into tea. This tea can ease labor and cure coughs and colds. The leaves can also be chewed dried or plain.”

Annalisa Hurd researched deer grass, which “is very easy to grow,” she said. “It tolerates sand, clay and seasonal flooding. It was commonly used for making baskets by California’s Native Americans. Maybe you will grow deer grass in your garden.”

Ben Babikian described the sticky monkey flower. “It is a flowering plant that grows in a sub-shrub form. Flowers occur in a variety of shades from white to red, the most common color being light orange. They are honey plants, pollinated by bees and hummingbirds.”

“Do you know that the milkweed plant is named for its milk-like sap?” Alexandra Eastland asked guests. “One of the keys to having monarch butterflies, for their survival now and in the future—is having lots of milkweed. There are a lot less milkweed plants than there was in the past. This is a disaster for monarchs since those caterpillars can eat nothing but milkweed.”

Second grader Steinsapir told Steckmest, “I’m so glad you’re at our school and thanks for your support.” Fellow presenter Menting added, “Thank you to all who donated to the garden and we hope you will help us next year.”

And the fifth graders told Steckmest, “You have touched our hearts forever.”

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