Drawing to Know

One way I help the students learn about plants is to draw and dissect flowers.  There is nothing better than a pile of colored pencils and a bunch of white paper and some fragrant flowers in front of you.  They pull apart the flowers and I walk around to each student explaining each part of the flower, the stigma, petals, stamen, pollen, sepal, stem, ovaries…  I then ask them to tell me all the parts of the flower.  It seems to open up parts of the brain to learning through coloring and smell and touch.  Its one of my favorite class activities.  They all moan and groan and act like I think they are in kindergarten but somewhere along the way silence takes over, pencils scritch and scratch and men ask for copies to mail home.  Yesterday, it was pink, fragrant Asiatic lilies to observe.

King Corn

Another fantastic movie, KING CORN, about two really cool guys who move to Iowa and raise an acre of corn to see what it is like to farm and where the corn goes into the American system.  Nice, witty, interesting, scary but hopeful to see people thinking about such things and wanting to make a difference.  Nice input from wonderful Michael Pollan too!  Showed it to the students and they were surprisingly unimpressed which I think was more a commentary on their prison diets than on the message of the movie.  They looked at all the fast food hamburgers, soda and deep fried french fries (all products of corn and high fructose corn syrup) and disagreed that those kinds of diets were not good for us! One step forward, two steps back…. but onward ultimately she hopes.

THE GARDEN, the movie

I ordered a bunch of great gardening movies to show to my students at the prison.  Some films were approved to show and some were not.  One that was not approved but is really worth watching anyway is THE GARDEN.  Its about a 14 acre community garden created on a burned out block in South Central LA, CA after the LA riots resulting from the Rodney King beating verdict. Its an intense and powerful movie about what happens when the land is ultimately wanted back by the developer.  Its an inspiring movie about hope, hard work, disappointment and more hope.

Planning in the Snow

Today we spent the morning in the garden on site at the prison.  It was 40 degrees and sunny so I thought it would be a great day to get going on planning for the season.  We had some naysayers grumbling and we all sunk into the deep crusty snow but we did it.  We have a real range of students in the class and so I heard a real range of comments.  Some thought we should just wait until spring, others thought the measurements would be really off because of the snow, others just got down to business, organized themselves and did the job.  I stayed out of it as best I could and let them socialize into groups and take responsibility for the measurements.  It was nice to see them fall into a productive group and get the job done and actually have fun doing it. Afterwards, with fresh air in our heads we had a very creative time organizing the data.
I gave them a pile of graph paper and tape and pencils and they divided themselves up again and worked to mark out the garden on graph paper, one inch per one foot at a time.  They then cut and taped the garden together and we were left with our first draft of a plan.  It’s not pretty yet, but its a lovely beginning and it was done by the men all by themselves.
After lunch we watched DIRT which is really inspiring and a perfect movie when planning a garden.   At first I saw a few eyes roll and heard a couple exaggerated sighs but by the end students said they had really enjoyed it.
We began with a plan and we learn to appreciate the soil and before we know it we’ll be planting peas.