This month I had the chance to meet the man who inspired the movement that led to One Cool Earth’s founding, Lionel Johnson. It’s been about 4 months since I started as OCE’s Executive Director, and I had been anxious to find time to sit and talk with him.
His name comes up now and then when discussing the organization’s ‘roots’ and in meetings with schools to explain our program. “We were founded on the simple act of planting trees to save the planet,” we’ll sometimes say a bit dramatically. So, when Lionel showed up to the office, I was anxious to hear his story.
After talking about the weather, I said, “So Lionel, what got you into planting trees?” “Well,” he said, “let me share this with you first, make sure you read it.” He handed me a printed copy of a long article titled, ‘Can Dirt Save the Earth?’ “Read this,” he said, “maybe not now, but read it, and let me know what you think.”
We spent the next hour and a half talking about some of what was in the article. “It’s about carbon,” he said. “Plants and trees naturally absorb carbon. We’ve spent the last hundred years or more eliminating carbon-absorbing trees from the earth; planting trees puts the carbon back into the earth, which is nature’s natural carbon storage.” “So that got you into planting trees?” I asked. “Well mostly, I also got tired of my environmentalist friends spending more time protesting then acting. So, I just started planting.”
I sat and listened while Lionel discussed where this simple passion led him, specifically in San Luis Obispo County. He started working with schools, showing students how to find healthy acorns and plant them. They went on field trips to plant oak trees. “Pick me up next week and we’ll drive out to see some of the oaks we’ve planted over the years. You’ll be surprised to see how fast they’ve grown!” Lionel suggested during our meeting, to which I replied, “Definitely!” Like many, I imagined oak trees taking decades to grow. “That’s a myth! You’d be surprised how fast oaks will grow. If planted right, they’ll grow pretty fast. And their tap root will shoot down 3 feet within a year looking for moisture,” Lionel busted my myth.
Before Lionel left, we made plans to drive out to visit some of the oak trees that he and his students planted over the years. As he was walking out, he turned to look at me and said, “What we are doing with developing school gardens…it’s amazing. Keep it up.”
Later, when I had a chance to read the article he gave me, his message about ‘taking action’ resonated with what I’ve learned about One Cool Earth over the short time I’ve been here. We are an organization that takes action by creating school gardens and converting them into living classrooms; and by developing the capacity in schools to make science, math and nutrition a hands-on learning experience. Lionel’s passion was an inspiration to this, and we thank him.
Small kitchen? Trying to keep the house clean as you make each dish? Why not ibe grateful to have your children as a helpful hand? With some planning, preparing, and even creation, kids can feel rewarded and even be a time saver if they are included in Thanksgiving.
As many of us understand, a Thanksgiving meal comes together with preparing the meal, straightening up the house, and mentally getting focused with the preparation of it all while children run around in the mix.
In the school garden, kids have harvested, planted, composted and prepared food to taste with GEM's in the garden and we've discovered the pleasure and ownership a child feels taking care of the garden.
This year, add a little spice and get your children involved with Thanksgiving dinner. You’ll be able to continue your kids to develop ownership and make your day less stressful and overall more meaningful for you as a family. Here are 3 ways to involve your children this Thanksgiving:
Which kid-friendly jobs do you delegate during Thanksgiving?
One Cool Earth to receive $5,000 from Susan Rodriguez, State Farm Insurance Agent in San Luis Obispo tomorrow 11/21 at 10:30am.
The Check presentation will be tomorrow, November 21st at Susan Rodriguez' State Farm office on 1317 Broad Street at 10:30am.
The event will be attended by Susan Rodriguez, Chris Jones, Principal of Pacheco Elementary School, and the Executive Director and staff of One Cool Earth.
Ms. Rodriguez noted that gardens play an important educational and therapeutic role in our community,” and the School Garden being developed by One Cool Earth will enhance the nutritional and environmental literacy of our young children in San Luis Obispo.
One Cool Earth is an organization founded in 2001 to provide environmental and nutrition education and resources to support a sustainable environment.
The Pacheco School Garden Program is a partnership between the Miossi Charitable Trust, One Cool Earth, and San Luis Coastal Unified School District. The project includes the development of a new school garden in the middle of campus with a One Cool Earth Garden Educator serving for two years to teach One Cool Earth’s “Earth Genius” curriculum.
Grow, Cook, Eat is an afterschool program One Cool Earth started this year with Atascadero Unified School District's Afterschool Lighthouse Program. In this 3-week program, students learn how to grow, fresh, delicious produce, then harvest and prepare it in healthy recipes right in the school garden.
At Santa Margarita Elementary, students participating in Grow, Cook, Eat had the chance to try popcorn. Not just any popcorn. It was Glass Gem Popping Corn grown by students at San Gabriel Elementary who grew this corn from saving their kernels the previous year. One look and you’ll want to grow this beauty yourself. San Gabriel harvested it shared ears of corn with Ms. Natalie’s afterschool class at Santa Margarita Elementary.
Glass gem, as you can see embodies in a variety of colors; you can see maroon, bright yellow, deep browns, and even grays find their way into each ear. The class took a moment to admire them.
“Who can tell me what part of the plant these kernels are?”, the educator asked during Grow, Cook, Eat.
“SEEDS!”, a student exclaimed.
Once the kernels were dry enough, Grow, Cook, Eat students at Santa Margarita easily popped off corn from the ear by picking the kernels one-by-one.
One student declared, “This is pretty relaxing” while fixing their attention on their own piece of corn, and placing the shelled kernels in a tin can. We ended up measuring 3 cups of popping corn from that day of Grow, Cook, Eat.
Next, we had to clean the chaff off of the corn. We did this by pouring the seeds from one bucket to another slowly. The corn is heavier than the chaff, so the chaff flew away with the outside breeze.
The result is this gorgeous popping corn you almost don’t want to pop, but we were too interested in the taste! The kernels pop white although it would have been pretty thrilling if it was as colorful as the glass gem. Grow, Cook, Eat sampled Pumpkin Glazed Popcorn in honor of the start of fall. The recipe came from Real Food Real Deals. Students taste tested the popcorn the week after shelling the corn.
All in all, it was very exciting to give the students a chance to learn the process of popcorn and the life cycle of seeds. Sometimes, popcorn can get a bad rep, but it seemed pretty pop-ular for the students in Grow, Cook, Eat at Santa Margarita.
What story are we sharing at county libraries? Now that you’re wondering, One Cool Earth offered “The Story of Seeds”, a 1-hour activity for youth to learn about seeds, at Nipomo, Arroyo Grande, and Oceano libraries. Jenn Marshall, a Garden Educator Manager at One Cool Earth presented to Oceano Library on November 1st.
First, Jenn read two books, “A Seed is Sleepy” by Dianna Hutts Aston and “Seeds” by Ken Robbins to engage kids in similarities and differences between seeds. Using real-life props, Jenn presents students with 10 different seeds on a plate with their empty seed packets laid down on the table. The goal of this activity is for students to match the seeds to the corresponding packet based on size, shape, and colors of the different seeds.
The National Science Education Standards asserts that observation is key to inquiry-based and discovery-focused learning in science instruction. We strive to involve students in problem-solving through observation and discourse. Students then are given a chance to share their findings with their peers and then reflect on their own understanding.
After the seed matching game, students are given germinated seeds (seeds that have been sprouted), to observe the structure of the different parts of the seed explore their function. Students search for the seed coat, cotyledon, and roots on their baby plant. Jenn shares, “Kids love seeing germinated seeds! I encourage holding and touching seedlings”.
One Cool Earth believes that students learn science best by doing science. Students are able to take seeds home to continue exploration and observations and will be able to draw the answer to the big question, “What do you know about seeds?”
One Cool Earth has been busy building and delivering custom garden beds for Pacheco Elementary School in San Luis Obispo. Funded by the Miossi Charitable Trust, the project supports the development of a One Cool Earth garden, and a dedicated Earth Genius Garden Educator to support the school's nutrition and environmental literacy education. To sponsor a garden bed, or to support this project through other donations and volunteering, visit www.onecoolearth.org/pacheco