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Makers Shedding Light on the World March 12, 2016

Filed under: Everything Under the Sun — explorergarden @ 5:59 pm

My daughter’s amazing Maker teacher at High Tech Middle Media Arts led 100 7th graders through the process of designing lamps using Rhino software, prototyping and executing designs of lamps made form paper-backed wood laminate. Then they created ads and opened a shopping site on Etsy to sell their lamps. Entrepreneurs in the Making! So proud of the results for all the children. Here’s the link to the Etsy site.

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The “Dirt” on the #Kidlit Book Dig In!

Filed under: Everything Under the Sun — explorergarden @ 6:13 am

Right in time for the spring gardening season and for STEM Friday, we have Dig In! by Cindy Jenson-Elliott and illustrated by (“dirt by”) Mary Peterson. Cindy Jenson-Elliott’s new…

Source: The “Dirt” on the #Kidlit Book Dig In!


Building Bridges in the Garden March 7, 2016

Filed under: Books,Everything Under the Sun,Gardening,Inspiration — explorergarden @ 5:50 pm


Problem Solving Opportunity:

Last year, students in the Cardiff School garden helped build a simple arch trellis out of rebar and hardware cloth to hold up four new passion fruit vines. I had read that it would take 3 years for the vines to produce fruit, so I figured the trellis was all we would need.


Imagine our surprise when the start of the new school year revealed a four fully-established passion fruit vines heavy with fruit! Within months, the entire trellis collapsed inward, completely filling in the tunnel with a mass of vines.

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Seeing an opportunity in the problem, the Cardiff MAC (Mixed Age, gr. 1-3) class , where I teach two afternoons a week, embarked on a 6-week mission to build a new trellis. Since a trellis is a type of bridge – a span helping something or someone cross a divide – we began with a study of bridges in order to understand the best way to build a trellis.


We began by looking at a Powerpoint presentation with pictures of different types of bridges from all over the world. We learned the types of bridges: Beam, Arch and Suspension, and looked at pictures of each type. We learned that a bridge needs to be the right strength to hold up the load, and the right size to span a particular width and allow something else to pass underneath. We learned the basic parts of a bridge: the piers that hold up the deck of a bridge, and the span is the space between piers.

These books were especially helpful. They helped us learn about types of bridges and how they are constructed, gave us experience with  narratives from the lives of people who build bridges,  and gave us ideas for experimenting with bridge building ourselves.


Experimenting with Bridges

We experimented with tension cables to see how they could work to hold up a load in a suspension bridge. We wondered how many children it would take to pull on a rope to hold up the weight of a seated teacher – me!  (It took six children – three on each side, holding on and leaning back.)

Working in groups of two, we made plank bridges out of paper and blocks to hold up pennies. We experimented with making the deck stronger with more pieces of paper and by putting an arch of paper underneath. We also discovered that the closer the piers were, the more pennies the bridge would hold.

Next, we learned how engineers add strength to bridges to make them especially strong, using arches and triangular-shaped struts for strength. We looked at pictures of strong bridges that used struts. Then, working with a partner, we made our own struts out of index card strips and brads.

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Trellis Design

Now that we knew what made bridges strong, we were ready to design a trellis that was:

  • Strong enough to hold up four heavy passion fruit vines;
  • Tall enough for a tall adult to pass underneath;
  • Wide enough for our ramp to fit underneath;
  • Simple to build;
  • Pretty to look at;
  • 84 inches tall x 48 inches wide x 26 inches deep

We began by looking at photos of trellises and noticing what made them appealing and strong. In our writers’ notebooks, each child began by sketching his/her own trellis, with a front view, side view, and top view.


Then, each child shared their design with the other students at their table. They came up with a group design for each table showing front, side and top views.

At a class meeting, each group got up to share their work on the document camera. They explained their design, and what they felt were the most important elements of the design.

Then, working as a class, we took the best parts of each design to make a single class design that included all the necessary elements and proper dimensions for the front, side and top of the trellis.


Mrs. Elliott took the design to Dixieline with a list of supplies, and a very kind man named Gerard helped her choose the wood, and then cut it to the proper sizes.

Building the Trellis — Day One

During garden time, the class divided into three groups. Mrs. Elliott worked with one group while Brodie’s Dad, Mike worked with another group, and garden teacher, Mr. Brink, worked with the last group in the garden. Students learned how to properly use a Phillips head screw driver and a power screw driver to drive wood screws into predrilled holes.IMG_0600 IMG_0598 (2) IMG_0633 IMG_0632 IMG_0631 IMG_0628 IMG_0627 IMG_0624 IMG_0623

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trellis 4




Sunday dawn hike in Local Canyon January 29, 2016

Filed under: Everything Under the Sun — explorergarden @ 5:37 pm

Peace is walking out of your house and into nature.





Antsy Ansel

Filed under: Everything Under the Sun — explorergarden @ 5:33 pm

Advanced Reader Editions of Antsy Ansel are out! I shared one with students and teachers at Cardiff School this week.


Spanish Shawl

Filed under: Animals,Environmental Education,Everything Under the Sun,Inspiration — explorergarden @ 5:32 pm

Is there anything more elegant than this nudibranch, a Spanish Shawl, fluttering in the tide pool at sunset? My photo is not great, but the being before me was magnificent last week in the low tide tide pools north of Scripps Pier.


Ode to My Truck — Haraka, Haraka, Haina Baraka — Hurry, Hurry Hath No Blessing November 9, 2015

Filed under: Everything Under the Sun — explorergarden @ 7:41 am

IMG_0471It is time for my beloved truck, my 1981 VW Rabbit Pickup Truck, Baraka Joe, to be put out to pasture.

We have been together since 1985, when I bought him, used, for $3000, as my very first car. He has carried me across the country from college in Maine to California, and has carried countless loads of compost and mulch, manure and straw bales since. He has carried me slowly, loudly — he is a diesel — and economically (45 miles per gallon!) to every job I had, every class I took, until I had kids. Then he became the second car, the utility vehicle.

As a manual — i.e. stick shift — he has been zippy and fun to drive. As he has aged, he has slowly lost his looks. He is loud and smelly. He has no ceiling, just bare metal, and cracked seats and dashboard. His odometer stopped working at about 250,000 miles. Some days, his speedometer sticks and I have to judge my speed by the cars around me. I have to unhook his battery every time I stop, as there is a short somewhere that will drain the battery. I have kept him alive all these years out of pure love. I LOVE to drive this truck.

Last week, Baraka Joe nearly killed me when the hood latch fell apart on the freeway and the hood slammed up into the windshield. Fortunately, no one was around me, and I was able to safely pull over. It’s time to say good-bye.

I will miss this car so much! I love not buying gas very often. I love carrying wood and greenery to the dump and coming back with compost and mulch. I love shifting into 2nd, 3rd, 4th, listening to the rum-hummmm of the engine, and downshifting to slow down, my seat the perfect distance from the pedals.

Baraka Joe has never been in a hurry. That’s how he acquired his name, from a Swahili Proverb. Having such a long relationship with a car, with an object, is kind of a metaphor for what I value in life: taking care of what I have; keeping friends for a long, long time; going slow and seeing the blessings all around me.

Thank you, Baraka. Asante sana.IMG_2777 IMG_2778


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