- Author: Deborah Schnur
As a UC Cooperative Extension Master Gardener and UC ANR employee, I am fortunate to have many opportunities to partner with amazing farmers, gardeners, and educators. I am particularly in awe of educators who fully integrate outdoor spaces into their teaching. One of these educators is Jackie Lacey, the Environmental Education Resource Teacher at Kimbark Elementary School. She teaches a combination of Next Generation Science Standards and environmental concepts to all classes from TK (transitional kindergarten) through sixth grade. Jackie has been in her current position for 12 years and teaching at Kimbark for 26 years. Even after all this time, she maintains her enthusiasm for creating engaging, hands-on projects for her students.
Kimbark Elementary is a Technology and Environmental Science Magnet School in the rural community of Devore, about 12 miles northwest of downtown San Bernardino. When I visited the school in early November, the expansive grounds were still green and shaded by a variety of mature trees. The school has drought-tolerant, vegetable, and native plant gardens, and Jackie's classroom is home to a menagerie of animals including fish, snakes, a rabbit, and a tortoise. No wonder the students think Jackie's the “fun teacher”!
When I asked Jackie how she approaches environmental education, she said she uses a conservationist approach. She wants students to go out and experience nature while remembering to conserve resources for future generations. To inspire a love for nature, Jackie takes her students outside as much as possible. She summed it up this way: “I feel like the best way for kids to learn about the environment is by getting out there and getting dirty.”
At Halloween time, her students created “trash-o-lanterns” by filling pumpkins grown in the vegetable garden with trash and burying them in the ground. Around Earth Day in April, they'll dig them up to see what happens. Pumpkins and other organic materials will decompose while plastics and inorganic materials will remain intact. Jackie believes this type of experiential learning will help her students understand the importance of recycling. She wants kids to know they have the power to make changes and choices every day.
Continuing the recycling theme, Jackie created a “trash graph” with the kindergarten classes. She gave the students gloves and helped them pick up all the trash on the playground. Back in the classroom, they dumped the trash on the floor and sorted it into categories including masks, plastic bottles, food wrappers, and pencils. Then they tallied the number of items in each category and made a bar graph. The students discovered that the categories with the largest number of items were wrappers and masks. Jackie used this as a teachable moment to discuss how waste is damaging the environment and how it can be recycled.
Jackie loves using the garden to teach. It's not just about planting, maintaining, pulling weeds, and watering. It's about becoming an investigator. When Jackie and her students go out in the garden, they look for signs of animal habitat and talk about life cycles and food chains. The pumpkin patch is a great place to observe the life cycle of a plant from seed to vine to blossom to pumpkin and back to seed. The students even found a black widow spider living in a pumpkin and preying on insects—an example of a food chain.
Jackie uses produce grown in the garden as the basis for nutrition and cooking lessons, such as making bread from zucchini or salsa from tomatoes and peppers. These lessons give her students the chance to try new foods, and they are more likely to eat foods they've helped grow.
When I asked Jackie how she includes the animals in her classroom in her teaching, she replied that she uses them to talk about the different types of animals and their adaptations. She noted, “There's nothing better to teach about reptiles than to bring out one of the snakes or to go hang out in the back area with our tortoise.” The students examine the underside of a snake and learn how its scales help it slither along the ground. They discuss the functions of the fur and claws of a rabbit and the fins and gills of a fish. Many students have never had pets at home; so caring for animals in the classroom teaches them responsibility and respect for living creatures.
What Jackie likes most about her job is working with all students in the school continually over the years. She says that every day is completely different, and she never knows what's going to happen. While she has set lesson plans, she's always willing to change them to accommodate the students and the circumstances. In the time of COVID-19, Jackie especially enjoys spending time outdoors with the kids, watching them run around and have fun.
The San Bernardino Master Gardeners are collaborating with Jackie and Kimbark Elementary to design a portion of the native plant garden and rehabilitate the vegetable garden beds with gopher-proofing, soil, and compost. By partnering with UCCE San Bernardino, Jackie hopes to gain knowledge and improve her program by asking questions, sharing ideas, and watching Master Gardeners at work.
To learn more about the Kimbark's Environmental Education Program, I invite you to attend the upcoming virtual School and Community Garden Collaborative Workshop on Saturday, January 29, from 9 to 11:30 am. Jackie will give a presentation about “Engaging 21st Century Students with Environmental Education”. We will have a great lineup of speakers followed by a breakout session to share feedback and resources. Register on the Master Gardener website using this link. Start the new year with fresh ideas and inspiration from your fellow gardeners!
Why did you decide to apply to the UCCE Master Gardener program in San Bernardino County?
I decided to become a UCCE Master Gardener because I was interested in improving my knowledge in pesticide -free food production. I had been growing vegetables and fruit trees but a lot of experimentation and trial-and-error was involved. The UCCE Master Gardener program provides researched based gardening information and training that MGs can then share with diverse communities in a variety of settings.
Tell us about the “climate-ready” landscape tree mulch/no mulch research project you've led for the past several years.
As of February of 2019, I meet up with a group of several UCCE Master Gardeners to measure tree trunk circumference as part of a citizen-science project. The trees for this climate-ready tree study are located at the Chino Basin Water
Note from UCCE Lead Researcher Janet Hartin: Irene and her team (MGs Wayne Borders, Christian Ordaz, Roger Lai, Esther Martinez, Judy Scott, Debi Adams and Kit Leung) have played a critical role in identifying the impacts of mulch vs no mulch on drought, heat, and pest resistant trees that stand up to the challenges of climate change. Properly selected and cared for landscape trees cool urban heat islands, provide shade and habitat, and - at maturity - absorb and store carbon produced by the burning of fossil fuels. The four species of trees (‘Bubba' desert willow, ‘Maverick' mesquite, ‘Red Push' pistache, and ‘Desert Museum' palo verde) included in this project were selected from a larger project at UC Riverside due to our interest in determining the impacts of mulch on tree growth and development and water conservation due to less soil evaporation. Irene's team has meticulously taken quarterly data on tree circumference at two heights and photographed the trees throughout the project.This is just another example of how UCCE Master Gardeners help UCCE's mission to develop
I would tell a San Bernardino resident interested in becoming a MG to apply to the program. They will find that the decision to learn further about gardening and sustainable landscaping will not only enrich their own life but also that of those they share the information with. They will also likely make new friends with others who are also passionate about nature.
- Author: Deborah Schnur
Debbie Schnur, UCCE San Bernardino County Master Gardener and Community Education Specialist
When I lived in Minnesota, fall was my least favorite time of year. It wasn't that I didn't appreciate the changing colors of the leaves or the crisp fall air. I just dreaded the coming winter with its barrage of snowstorms and minus 30 degree wind chills. By the time December arrived, the sun set at 4:30 pm, and I felt like I was living in constant twilight.
Since I moved to southern California, I actually look forward to fall and the changes the season brings to the inland valleys–strong Santa Ana winds, refreshing rains, cooler days and even cooler nights, and leaves gradually turning subtle shades of brown, gold, and orange. Fall actually feels like a relief from the long, hot, dry summer. It's time to plant lettuce, spinach, peas, radishes, carrots, broccoli, and cauliflower once again, and worry less about watering and maintenance.
One thing I've been thinking about a lot lately is composting. When I was a FoodCorps service member at Phelan Elementary, my students used to call me “Ms. Debbie the Garden Lady”. Now I'm becoming known as “Ms. Debbie the Compost Lady”! Not everyone is as excited as I am about composting, but I can't think of a better way to build community while building soil. In October, I gave an online presentation for the San Bernardino Master Gardeners titled “Composting for School and Community Gardens”. If you missed it, you can watch the video on the UCCE San Bernardino YouTube channel. The presentation covers the basics of composting and development of the Root 66 Community Garden composting systems.
The main difference between backyard composting and school and community composting is scale. More compost means a bigger composting system and more people to manage it. As stated in the Institute for Local Self-Reliance report, Community Composting Done Right, “the distinguishing feature of community composting is retaining organic materials as a community asset and scaling systems to meet the needs of a self-defined community while engaging, empowering, and educating the community.”
Although larger scale composting requires additional planning and organization, it can be a tremendously rewarding project for everyone involved. The main steps to begin composting include setting goals, identifying a team, developing a management plan, selecting and designing a site, and choosing a system. Once composting is underway, the focus shifts to collecting and managing the materials and managing the process and site. Connecting with experienced composters to share best practices will increase your chances of success. There's a wealth of composting expertise in the Inland Empire!
You may be wondering if it's a good idea to start composting in the fall or winter, and the answer is yes. Any time is a good time. As temperatures dip, simply insulate your compost pile with browns such as mulch or leaves to keep the interior warm. You can also cover the pile with a tarp and turn it less often (if at all). The decomposition process may slow down but will continue throughout the winter.
A new composting project I want to highlight is the Green Ambassadors program at Captain Leland F. Norton Elementary School in San Bernardino. The principal, Elizabeth Cochrane-Benoit, and I met during Master Gardener training and worked together to build the composting system at the Root 66 Garden this past year. Norton Elementary has been recognized as a 2021 California Green Ribbon School at the Silver level and is aiming to reach the Green Achievers level. The Green Ribbon Schools Awards Program honors achievement in reducing environmental impact, improving health and wellness, and providing effective environmental education.
Sixth grade students in the Green Ambassadors program are learning how to audit their cafeteria waste and sort it into recycling, compost, and trash bins. Once they've mastered the process, they'll teach it to the rest of the school. The Community Composting for Green Spaces program (funded by CalRecycle) will help transfer the food waste in the compost bins to local gardens for composting. At a recent lunchtime audit, the fourth and sixth grade classes filled a 17-gallon container with uneaten food. I can't wait to see how much waste Norton Elementary teachers and students divert from landfills in the coming months!
What gardening and environmental projects do you have planned this fall and winter? Do you need support? If so, contact me at dschnur@ucanr. Happy composting!
- Author: Margaret J O'Neill
Interested in developing or participating in the school and community food garden movement? Want to learn more about the benefits of these gardens and how to get started? Or find gardens already up and running to link to? What about accessing our new UC Cooperative Extension (UCCE) San Bernardino County ‘From Asparagus to Zucchini Guide' which includes tips for growing bumper crops of nutritious vegetables in all parts of San Bernardino County. You're in luck! Register today for the ‘ABC's of School and Community Garden' workshop via Zoom on Saturday, March 13, from 9am – 4pm: http://ucanr.edu/u.cfm?id=265
The ‘ABC's of School and Community Gardens' workshop will highlight how to create and sustain successful school and community gardens, with presentations by UCCE San Bernardino County Master Gardeners and other horticulturists from all geographical areas of the county. Learn from experienced gardeners what works and what doesn't. Resources from the Master Gardener and Master Food Preserver volunteer programs will be shared and you will be able to connect with local partners who are here to support your success. This is a participatory workshop! We will have breakout sessions where you can share your experiences and learn from others involved in school and community gardens in all areas of the county from the valleys (Montclair to Yucaipa and Chino Hills to Rancho Cucamonga and Highland!) as well as mountain and high desert regions.
With our “ABC's of School and Community Garden” workshop and our local growing guide in mind, and spring almost here I can hardly contain my excitement to get outdoors and get into the garden! In most parts of Southern California we can garden year round, growing delicious and nutritious cool season vegetables in the winter and great fruits and vegetables in the summer. But spring is still a special time of year, where the sky's the limit on what we can grow and plant and everything outside seems new and fresh! Each year many home gardeners start out with excitement and with a little planning and support your excitement can turn into success! In addition to our regular free online classes we offer each month, we will be offering extra classes to help you get your summer growing off to a great start! We are hosting several free online workshops on transplanting and seed starting, giving you tips on soil and seed/plant selection, and helping you get your soil just right to produce a bumper crop. Also, don't forget we will be there to troubleshoot your seed and transplant challenges with you through our “Ask a Master Gardener” times and email and telephone helpline, being sure to also provide support for those gardening and landscaping in the deserts and mountains, where timing and conditions make growing a little different than in the valley. We are now offering several of our classes in Spanish so that we can continue to support our diverse community of gardeners. Check out our online classes at http://mgsb.ucanr.edu/, and reach out to our San Bernardino County Master Gardener Helpline with all of your growing questions by phone: 909-387-2182 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Author: Debbie LeDoux
Lynn Brown-Summers and Tim Summers are a dynamic husband-and-wife team. Their differing strengths have made them an inspiring team in serving their local community wherever they are needed. UC Cooperative Extension (UCCE) San Bernardino County Master Gardeners since January 2019 (Lynn) and July 2017 (Tim) and UCCE Master Food Preservers (since 2017), they enjoy spending time together gardening and preserving their own food.
Lynn's strength is to connect with like-minded individuals to accomplish mutual goals. She has the mind, heart, and soul of an activist, which comes as no surprise since most of her family members are involved in public service, politics, and publishing. Her mother, Cheryl Brown, is a former Assemblywoman of the 47th District and current California State Commissioner on Aging who has devoted most of her life to public service. In 1980, Lynn's father and mother founded Brown Publishing Company to produce Black Voice News. This weekly newspaper focuses on local news in Riverside and San Bernardino counties.
Lynn knows how to “make things happen” and the right people to help in that effort. As Tim says, “My wife is one of those forces of nature. Tell her what, you point her in the direction, and she will get it done.” A self-proclaimed “gardening nerd," Tim is the “nuts and bolts' implementation force of the team. He enjoys the hands-on part of their collaboration, and it shows through his gardening. Together, they are unstoppable in their goal to make the world better through the Master Gardeners' mission, “To extend research-based knowledge and information on home horticulture, pest management, and sustainable landscape practices to the residents of California.”
Learning the researched-based approach to sustainable gardening taught in the Master Gardener program has helped Lynn and Tim fulfill their strong desire to help others. They believe that the program provides supportive credibility to their Master Gardener and Master Food Preserver presentations. It gives them a greater depth of knowledge and background of information to pull accurate and useful information. Lynn and Tim believe that research-based knowledge is especially critical for integrated pest management (IPM). They took a UC ANR IPM class a few years ago. They recommended that anyone interested take one of the online courses or workshops https://www2.ipm.ucanr.edu/master-gardeners/.
Before COVID restricted activities, Lynn and Tim were active in presenting Master Gardener and Master Food Preserver workshops at the Rialto Community Garden at 539 Acacia Avenue, Rialto. They are passionate about teaching people the safe way to preserve and store food they have grown.
Lynn and Tim are involved in so many projects that I am amazed at how they find the time and energy to keep “all the balls they are juggling in the air.” They are currently finishing a new (second) Rialto Community Garden at 150 Palm Avenue opposite City Hall. They are proud that they were asked by the City of Rialto to work on the garden for the past two years from start to finish. They served as the UCCE Master Gardener experts for the project, helping develop and implement a garden plan. They represented the community garden project as advisors, attending city planning meetings and spoke at city council meetings regarding the project.
They are also working with the Mayor of Rialto to start a seed bank there. There is a beautiful old adobe building at the Bud Bender Park that Lynn and Tim think would be a perfect spot to start a seed bank. The early 19th-century structure is the oldest building still standing in Rialto. It has been used for many purposes over the years. The internal temperature of the adobe structure is perfect for storing seeds. The Mayor would like to use it for the seed bank, but it needs some repair work. The project is currently in the planning stage “on paper." The city likes the idea and is reviewing the budget for available funds. Lynn and Tim don't easily give up, so if the adobe site doesn't work out, they will find another location for a Rialto seed bank. It may be at the community garden at Bud Bender Park if the idea to use the adobe structure doesn't work out.
Lynn thought having an American Girl Victory Garden workshop would be fun and educational for young girls and attendees to learn about gardening. Stations were set up where the girls made paper, planted seeds, and made a berry jam. The UCCE San Bernardino County Master Food Preservers made food to sample, such as finger sandwiches, cakes, cookies, and other goodies from the American Girl cookbook.
Several people donated American Girl dolls and books to the San Bernardino Public Library. Any of the children who were not able to afford the American Doll event could check a doll and book out of the library and journal their thoughts before returning the library items.
The American Girl Victory Garden workshop that Lynn organizes each year is a well-attended, popular event. The organizers were sad they were not able to hold a workshop this year due to COVID restrictions. However, everyone is looking forward to having another workshop as soon as possible.
Lynn and Tim are highly skilled at helping people feel comfortable to think outside the box to come up with creative gardening solutions. They recently discussed how property at the St. Paul African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church in San Bernardino can be converted to a garden with a minister's alliance group. The AME Church does a lot of outreach on self-sufficiency, sustainability, and how to give back to the community. Having their own garden would be a promising avenue for them to sell their product and help the community.
The first step is to help them develop a design concept for the designated area that takes water constraints at the property into consideration and choose the best plants for their needs. They have asked the alliance group to consider planting berries or grapes. Lynn and Tim would also like to teach them how to preserve food and make jams and jellies. Knowing Lynn and Tim, they will make the garden a success!
I was so inspired by Lynn and Tim, their strong partnership, and their drive and passion for teaching the world how food insecurity can be alleviated. They were such an exciting and engaging couple that I could have spent many more hours chatting with them. UCCE San Bernardino County Master Gardeners and Master Food Preservers are thankful to Lynn and Tim for their dedication and support. They are an inspiration to us all!