Digging Deep (at the Danny Woo Garden)

by Lauren Wong

Hello! I’m Lauren, one of two AppleCorps members positioned at the Danny Woo Garden in the Chinatown/International District. We provide garden classes to youth in the neighborhood in the hopes that they’ll learn more about where their food comes from, have a positMagill_DannyWoo_Image (59)ive outdoor experience, and form connections between culture and food. Also incorporated in our program is a healthy cooking component, where we use vegetables harvested from the garden to create delicious salads and snacks.

This spring, I had the pleasure of working with a class of 15 fifth graders from a local after-school program. Since many of them were already acquainted with the garden—either through a previous garden class or a simple meander through the neighborhood—we were able to delve a little deeper into the heart of the garden and what exactly makes it tick.
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We planted microgreen seeds in our own plots and watched them grow, carefully watering and removing weeds each week to gain a sense of the time and effort required to grow our own food. We went on a scavenger hunt to discover the regional origins of different vegetables and dug around in a worm bin looking for critters. We made comfrey compost tea, a great source of nitrogen, and observed it become brown and pungent over time. We prepared an Asian greens salad, a crunchy bok choy slaw, and a sweet and savory dressing that goes well on everything (1 soy sauce: 1 rice vinegar: 1 honey: 2 sesame oil). We harvested garden strawberries and compared them to supermarket strawberries, noticing the differences in taste, color, size, and shape. We investigated seed pods on a mature kale plant, sparking a discussion about the importance of seed saving. And to cap off our time together, we even had an “older kids teach younger kids” tour, where my class of fifth graders brought a class of first graders to the garden and showed them what they learned.

All in all, it was a lovely six weeks of sunshine, food, and joy. Want to learn more about what we do? Visit our blog at dannywookids.blogspot.com.

Things get WILD at the Danny Woo Community Gardens

Siena Ezekiel and Vania Chan in the Children's Garden

Siena (left) the Volunteer Coordinator and Vania (right) the Youth Garden Educator at the Danny Woo Community Gardens

Spring gardening is just around the corner, so we are excited to share an update from our two Apple Corps Members over at the Danny Woo Community Gardens.  Youth garden education is just one way that the Apple Corps Program reaches out to the community to education and empower children and families to make healthy eating choices. Enjoy this update from Siena and Vania!

Greetings from Siena and Vania! We are the Apple Corps members serving at the Danny Woo Community Garden site located in the culturally rich and vibrant International District of Seattle. While our initial plunge into service in the fall felt like a hard sprint into our Children’s Garden programs with Bailey Gatzert Elementary School and Denise Louie Education Center, for winter, we’ve mostly retreated indoors. Lately we’ve been occupied with planning for spring classes, researching and writing grants to fund our programs, and learning about how to better care for the varieties of apple, Asian pear, and pear trees in the garden.

Despite the current season not being favorable for growing plants or being outside, we have had the pleasure and excitement of developing and leading a new, lively initiative with Wilderness Inner-city Leadership Development (WILD) youth program that runs through our shared parent organization, InterIm Community Development Association (InterIm CDA). Over February and March, we are hosting a series of five workshops geared around food & sustainability. The content and structure are centered on stimulating thought and shared discussion over the hub theme of food origins, which is connected to spokes such as personal and cultural ties and elaborations, ecological considerations, economy, migration, social transformation and evolution. Much of this is accomplished through hands-on and culinary activities—yum! Good for our energy and cerebral needs!

In the two sessions we’ve hosted so far, we’ve prepared an “Asian” Quinoa Salad as well as Glutinous Rice Balls with Peanut Filling. “Asian” Quinoa Salad was a dish that was surprisingly tasty for the teens and gave grounds for discussion about the authenticity of “fusion” food as well as how cultures evolve through sharing and the process of migration. Glutinous Rice Balls with Peanut Filling was a dish that was suggested and led by one of the elder gardeners from Danny Woo Community Garden named Ms. Chen—she graciously partners with us in our youth and children’s programs to share her knowledge and experience. By working alongside the youth, she was able to casually speak about the social and health benefits she has personally reaped from gardening at the Danny Woo Community Garden for the past five years! Ms. Chen also revealed a bit of background about her life before her immigration where she was a doctor in China. This partnership fulfills one of the main goals of the Danny Woo Children’s Garden—which is to form an intergenerational bridge between the experienced elder gardeners and the urban youth who are living and/or going to school in the neighborhoods surrounding the garden.

We really appreciate Ms. Chen’s dedication, knowledge, and energetic and endearing spirit among the youth and children.  We’re looking forward to the upcoming weeks when we will have more chances to become familiar with the WILD youth through the workshops.  We’ve planned activities such as a sensory tour of the garden (we’re waiting for a dry day!) and talking about the benefits of micro-organisms that help make compost, soil, and delightful foods such as kimchi.  Keep checking in with us to know what’s up in the Danny Woo Community Garden!

Spring fever at the Danny Woo Community Garden

Discovering what kids want in a Children's Garden

Originally a Mid-westerner, my Spring mentality has been jarred awake early in the Northwest. Today’s budding trees provide the relief that we’ve made it through the dogged days of winter and have sunny days ahead. That is of course, after the torrents of Spring rain. Dreaming of delicious sunny days and blue skies make some part of my brain salivate.

In spite of that great news, this year the signs of spring launch my brain into mental gymnastics as I worry whether I will be ready: ready to receive a full swath of kids to be taught in our garden. I can’t stop thinking about how many people have already planted their peas!

Albeit these worries, the planning for our Children’s Garden Program has been enjoyable. I get to do things like learn the lyrics to the bug song “Head, Thorax, Abdomen” and figure out how to create compost with kids in both a fun and educational way. As our plans culminate, the nature of our programming is coming to a head. For the Spring, we’ve concluded on being a host for weekly classes in the garden with an after school program, a preschool class, and a 5th grade class. We will also manage a garden plot and work party for middle/ high school aged students in order to donate fresh, natural veggies to the local food bank.

This is the Danny Woo Community Garden’s first year to incorporate a full growing season of classes, and I have learned that it takes copious coordinating. For anyone interested in starting a Childrens’ Garden Program, I thought it might be helpful to share some resources and tips that have been passed to me or that I have learned along the way:

  • No earth shattering advice here, but…everything takes more time than you think
  • Finances: The later you start looking for funding, the later you receive money. We applied for two grants in late fall (November) and will not receive the money until late March and beyond. It would be nice to have the money now. When applying for grants, letters of support from groups that will be attending your program are very helpful. According to one of our funders, our letters of support were a big factor in their decision. Possible grant resources: local Lion’s Club, the United Way, http://www.kidsgardening.org.
  • Community: We’ve tried to give community members ownership of the project by gaining input on what individuals, children, and youth groups would like to see incorporated into the Childrens’ Garden. We did this by taking youth groups on a tour of local childrens’ gardens and surveying what aspects they would like to see in our garden, asking participating groups what their needs are and what they would like to grow in the garden, and also by incorporating the knowledge of our elderly community gardeners as volunteers. Letting groups know that we can include their objectives in our program is great incentive. For example, teachers we are working with who are strapped by test results, find great comfort in knowing we can incorporate some of their math and science learning goals into the garden curriculum.
  • Coordinating with participating groups: Start early! Communicating can take weeks or even months when you are working with multiple groups.
  • Volunteers: Sticking to the theme, it is never too early to recruit volunteers; but 2-3 months seems sufficient. We started about 2 months out with postings online and attendance at a flower and garden show (where we advertised). Now in the heat of a volunteer search, I can see that an extra month would have provided more wiggle room. We created a volunteer manual and orientation in order to let volunteers know what to expect. The manual took a lot of time.  You can advertise your volunteer opportunity on Idealist, Craigslist, Volunteer Match, a blog, a facebook page, and with Service learning and volunteer opportunities through universities. We found a few volunteers through tabling at events. Also helpful, WA state child abuse and information background checks are free for non-profits. Find out more information here:   https://fortress.wa.gov/wsp/watch/
  • Curriculum: Two of my favorite curriculum books are Teaching Peace Through Gardening by Seattle Tilth and The Growing Classroom- Garden Based Science by Roberta Jaffe and Gary Appel. They both give detailed activity ideas and Teaching Peace Through Gardening gives a detailed lesson outline.
  • Kiddos: It is difficult to keep childrens’ attention when there is down time between structured activities. Thus, I have heard from multiple people that it is good to provide a ‘back up activity hand book’ for your volunteers as well as an activity chest that children can rummage through.

That’s all for now folks! Best of luck with your gardens this year.