June 11, 2014

Kindergarten Produce Sale

Thanks to Jennifer Whyte and the TMA Produce Sales team, Kindergarten classes got to experience tasty treats for the first time, during Thursday's S.K.I.P. after-school program. It didn't take long for students to learn that enthusiasm, excellence and extra effort during monthly garden visits earned Greenbucks, which they could use to pay for healthy snacks prepared by our volunteers. Snack-sized portions of pumpkin bread, baked with real cooked pumpkin from our garden, beet and kale smoothies and frozen lemon pops and beet brownies made an appearance once a month. Our kinders gained an appreciation for the produce they grew throughout the year and learned how tasty eating healthy can be. Students who have Greenbucks left from this year are encouraged to bring them to use at next year's produce sale.

June 11, 2014

The T.M.A. Garden

(written by students in Ms. Bleskey’s 3rd grade class)
Throughout the school year we had a very fun time in the garden. We got to explore the wonderful things in the garden. One of the stations we experienced was planting; this year our class got to plant peas and carrots. We pulled weeds so the plants could survive. We harvested our peas and carrots so they would not rot and so we could eat them. After we harvested we got to eat the crops. Every Tuesday we have a garden sale at school. The money earned at the sale went toward seeds and tools for our garden. At the garden sale some of the things they sold were vegetables, brownies, pumpkin chocolate cookies and lemon pops. You can use green bucks to buy treats that cost 50 cents. We also cleaned the garden by taking rakes and cleaning the leaves up. We learned about Coinker, he is a huge wooden pig that people put money in so that we can buy materials for the garden. Last, but not least, the most fun thing about going to the garden, can you guess? The parent volunteers! They made each visit so much fun. They also help us with a lot of things and they are very kind. The Garden is a fun place to be!

June 11, 2014

The Garden

Have you ever had a garden? My School T.M.A. does. The garden not only teaches you about math and science it also teaches you how to take care of a garden. So once a month on a Tuesday my class goes to the garden and we harvest, plant, and water the garden. After we harvest our crops we get to take some of the vegetables home. Some of the food we pick also goes to our garden sale at school where they sell treats and the foods we pick. I really like taking care of our school garden. My favorite part is planting and harvesting. I like to eat the vegetables that we plant, like the carrots. I have learned so much about gardening.

By Clarissa Sullivan

One thing this year that the TMA garden taught me is the difference between a weed and a plant. The thing I love about the garden is that you get to be outside and help the earth look beautiful. Our school garden encouraged me to eat more vegetables because Mrs. Sullivan would say “try this Ella, “ I would not want to eat it, but then I tried and I loved it! My Mom started helping in the garden and then our garden at home grew bigger. My favorite experience in the garden is when Mrs. Kinoshita said “we are going to have a salad today in the garden.” The salad was made from the vegetables my class had planted. Thank you so much for making this year extra special.

By Ella Mardirossian

June 2, 2014

Kinder-Gardeners Learn to Become Future Garden Ambassadors

During recent visits to the garden, Mrs. Hayden’s kindergartners volunteered to present fun garden facts to their fellow classmates, in order to introduce them to the garden ambassador or “tour guide” program here at TMA. As a fun way to reinforce the facts they had heard from their fellow classmates, everyone participated in the “Do You Know Our Garden” game after the presentations. The game was an energetic way to get all the kids involved.
“How does water get into the big tanks used to water the garden?” Over a dozen kindergartners shout at once, “Rain from the roof!”
“About how many seeds should you place in each hole in the soil to grow radishes and beets?” Again, over half the class enthusiastically yells “2!”
Throughout the year, the kindergartners have rotated through the regular garden jobs of planting, maintaining, and exploring. Our class crops of radishes and beets each produced plentiful harvests, allowing us to contribute to the weekly TMA produce sales as well as allowing for yummy class tastings along the way – fresh radishes, beet chips and the very popular beet smoothies. We also produced several new radish and beet lovers! Students have gained hands-on experience with garden maintenance, including raking, collecting leaves for composting, picking up trash, and weeding. In addition, they were led to explore the garden beyond our class bed, including the touch and smell garden, the butterfly garden, and the worm composting bins…which brings us back to our game.
In true kindergarten fashion, the question that got as many giggles as correct replies, “What are worm castings?” Let’s just say they all shared the correct answer…and a lot of laughs.

May 20, 2014

TMA Cooking Demo with Slow Food OC (recipe included)​​

Kindergartener Emma Johnson shakes citrus-vinaigrette with Andrew Dove, Hannah Speizer, Rina Champ, Max Cheng and Alex Euhus

TMA Prinicipal Wendy Hudson with Kindergartners (left-to-right) Emma Johnson, Hannah Speizer, Andrew Dove, Rina Champ, Max Cheng and Alex Euhus

The TMA multipurpose room was transformed into kitchen stadium back in March, when TMA students participated in a cooking demo led by Chef Linda of Slow Food Orange County. TMA Principal and sous chef for the day, Wendy Hudson, helped Chef Linda teach the students how to prepare a tasty, wholesome snack using many fresh vegetables grown by students in our garden including kale and lettuce leaves, green onions, beets and leek. Students took turns measuring and mixing the ingredients in this produce-packed, no-cook snack, which could also be served as a light meal. Students enjoyed "rolling" their own Wrap ups just as much as they enjoyed eating them!

Garden Wrap Ups Recipe
Produce to Prep (can be done in advance)
8 larges green kale or lettuce leaves (Romaine leaves for are best, separate, wash and dry)
2 medium carrots, julienned
2 small or 1 medium beet, shredded (raw, not cooked)
2 small Persian cumbers thinly sliced or 1/2 Hothouse/English cucumber, diced
1 leek, white only, slice lengthwise, then thinly slice and soak in water, rinse and drain
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/4 lb. feta cheese, crumbled

3/4 cups cooked rice or quinoa
1 bunch of parsley, chopped
1 small handful chives, chopped
1 cups hummus (7 or 8ozl carton)

Citrus Vinaigrette
1/2 teaspoon of Dijon mustard
1 orange, juiced (or 1/2 cup orange juice)
1/2 cup olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Cook the rice or grain according to the package directions and let cool. Meanwhile, prepare the fresh vegetables and keep in separate bowls or containers. Make the filling by combining rice/quinoa, humus, parsley and chives in a bowl. Make the dressing by juicing the oranges and combining in an 8oz jar with Dijon mustard, salt and pepper. Shake, then add olive oil and shake again. Mix the dressing into the rice/quinoa and humus mixture. Stir until ingredients are well combined.

Making the wrap
Spread the filling in the middle of the lettuce leaf, sprinkle with a small spoonful of each vegetable, cheese and cranberries. Fold or roll and enjoy!

May 5, 2014

5th grader, Sami Amanthakrishnan’s Overview of the TMA Garden

Tended by classes of all grades, the school garden has flourished and developed from the very beginning, when it was just it was just a mound of dirt and weeds, ready for fertilization to grow vegetables, fruits, flowers, all of different varieties. Soon as helping hands including the upper and lower grades joined in, the garden started to bloom as ideas combined, and slowly made the many sections of plants we've seen in the recent years. These sections consist of a handful of flowering buds of fruit, vegetables assorted in neat rows including rose red strawberries, and just flowers in general. But out of all those masses of greenery, the best place in the T.M.A garden in my opinion would be the touch and smell piece, where you can really get a feel of plants, and the unique traits each individual flower or leaf carries. This section is tucked in a corner of the garden, and is a place for all those who wish to have a depth of understanding of plants, using all four senses to learn about specific varieties of flowers, and simply just things like Rosemary.
Scattered all over the garden and quite near to the touch and feel plants, are the most noticeable vegetables and fruits in the garden, all which are in the expanse of little planters and spaces, meant for students to experience the joy of having a green thumb. But because students get to pluck and pull what they planted to bring home, the garden as you might have noticed is always different, for classes always plant new things in the space provided for them. Even if being in the garden is always plenty of fun for everyone, it's still even better when you start exploring, for things are absolutely never the same. With things including small trees and bushes, some of which have interlocking flowers in their branches, there is always much to water. So where exactly do we get the water? This question was solved with brothern and cistern, and in some places, a network of chains to lead rainwater to the soil. This network let the volunteers who wanted to tend to the garden, the advantage of not having to water some parts whenever it rained. Also, with the two cylinder shaped bins, (brothern and “sistern”) when the need of water arises, those two bins always happen to be filled to the brim from previous rainstorms and drizzles. This brilliant system helped to manage maintaining the garden, along with the effort from classes and volunteers, and not to mention good fertilizer from composters like earthworms. So finally with all that hard work focused entirely on the garden, it's no surprise that it created the environment for all, butterflies, bees and students alike.
By Sami

April 7, 2014

Sustainable Garden Grant

We've received an award, through Western Growers Foundation, called the Sustainable Garden Grant. The purpose of this funding is to educate California and Arizona youth about where their food comes from and the importance of good nutrition through growing one's own fruits and vegetables. This $500 donation will allow us to purchase new seeds as well as other materials that will help to sustain our edible garden beds, and we will also gain access to special lesson plan ideas, healthful seed varieties, and conservation tips from the Western Growers Foundation database.

April 7, 2014

The Acorn Grant

We've received an award from the California Native Plant Society's Orange County Chapter known as The Acorn Grant. The purpose of this funding is to engage Orange County youth to understand Southern California's rich plant diversity and its ecological function as a habitat for locally native species (i.e. bees, butterflies, and other pollinators). This $200 donation is intended to bolster our Native Butterfly Garden, both physically--with new plant additions and rearrangements, as well as educationally--through curriculum that further emphasizes native restoration and maintenance.

April 1, 2014

The TMA Garden

Have you ever seen the T.M.A garden? Well if you have or haven’t I am going to tell you a little bit about the garden. The garden is a marvelous place to be. One place in the garden that is beautiful is the butterfly garden. In the butterfly garden you can see when the larvae turns into butterflies. In the garden you can see the caterpillars on the milkweed plant.
In the garden we have all kinds of delicious fruit and vegetables. We grew onions, pumpkins, and strawberries. After school on Tuesday there is a garden store. All the things there are made with the fruits and vegetables from the garden. With the money they earn it goes to the garden to make more fruits and vegetables. Finally the garden is a great place to be.

Kaitlin Ortiz
Mrs. Hollingshead's 5th Grade

April 1, 2014

Phenomenal Garden

As you all know, here at TMA we have a lovely garden. Here, in these few paragraphs I will be telling you all about it. First of all, we have a very unique touch and feel garden, it is in a corner at the edge of our garden, one particular plant people enjoy is the lambs ear, when you touch it, it is so soft and cuddly, just like a lambs ear! Our garden is great!

Next, I would like to talk about our beautiful butterfly garden. It is designed just for butterflies, it has plenty of milkweed for them to feast on, and so big comfy fence for them to lay cocoons. As you can see, it attracts many butterflies. On the backside of the fence it has wooden butterflies that are pink, purple and many other colors. You can find this at the right side in the back of the garden.

I have had many experiences at the garden. When I was in second grade, every Thursday I would get to play with our composting worms, whenever I came, I never used to touch any worms, but finally one week, I decided I have to face my fears, so I went up and picked one up, it felt a little slimy and soft, it was not so bad after all! Another time, one of the garden dad's took us exploring around the garden, he would point something out, and we would have to say which plant it was by raising our hands. If we got the answer correct, we would get a Smartie. Me and my friend got five, we were rich in smarties!

Another great thing about the garden is Coinker, our piggy bank, if you donate a few cents or dollars, it goes to our garden master, who buys new supplies, so our garden is healthy. Some tools that our garden master buys are new gloves, shovels, water cans, and weeding tools. Coinker is a plump pink pig, and he can be found directly in the front left of the garden.

All of our classes in the garden are assigned to specific plants, this year, our class is growing strawberries, parsley, onions, and chives. Our strawberries came out very sweet, hopefully all of our plants will too.

I hope you come visit our phenomenal garden, and hopefully you learned a lot about too.

Shree Sriadibhatla
Mrs. Hollingshead's 5th Grade

March 20, 2014

Nature as Teacher

Thank you to each and every parent, teacher and child who makes our amazing garden possible. Enjoy reading details about how and why our garden came into existence.


Nature as teacher
Published: March 7, 2014 Updated: 8:46 a.m.

When Ava Mora pulled a purple and orange carrot out of Tustin Memorial Academy Elementary School's garden recently and viewed the results of the seeds she and other students planted weeks before, the second-grader couldn't wait to takea bite.

“We all peeled our carrots with peelers like grown-ups and then we ate them,”Mora says. “My carrot was so fresh and tasty – especially with a little bit of dirt on it. If other kids want to grow their own carrots, there's something they need to understand. Plants are like your friends. If you are nice to them and take care of them, they'll grow and make you food, and without plants like trees turning carbon dioxide into oxygen, we wouldn't be alive.”
While these are welcome words for the 150 parents involved in the TMA Organic Garden and Nature Center, which broke ground in 2008 and is the most extensive school garden in Orange County – involving all 700 of the school's students – it's the reactions from older kids that really make those parents smile.
Like Jonas Weissberg, who graduated from the school's K-5th garden program in 2013. He was a garden ambassador last year, giving tours to school visitors. “I liked being a guide and sharing with everyone how gardening helps nature and how composting is so important, because you use it to create fertilizer to feed the soil,” says the sixth-grader, who now attends middle school. “Gardening organically also makes our ecosystems healthier, and foods grown without pesticides taste much better and are better for you. Worm composting is also really fun.”
Roxanne Maietta Weinberg is currently a fifth-grade garden ambassador. “I like showing visitors all of the great things about the school garden, like the worm bins and the butterfly garden, where you can often see chrysalises hidden so no birds get to them,” she says. “We also have huge water cisterns that collect rainwater. They are connected to a pipeline on the roof that is hooked to the gutters and drains the water into the cisterns. There are also underground aquifers so that any runoff water sinks into the ground instead of running off into the street.”
That fifth-and sixth-graders would know more about storm water runoff,composting and the nutritional impact of homegrown organic produce than the average adult was the goal of the school garden's creator and co-chair, Marci Maietta Weinberg, who with the help of other parents and a University of California Cooperative Extension (UCCE) Master Gardener, started what has proven to be a sustainable school garden model.
“My hope was for children to walk away feeling a responsibility as stewards of the planet and with a strong understanding of how what they eat affects themselves and our world,” Weinberg says.
The goal of the TMA garden program is to reinforce skills and math and science lessons. “Our garden is one of the reasons parents choose TMA over other Tustin Unified elementary schools,” Weinberg says. “For the past five years, TMA's math and science scores have steadily increased. We believe garden programs are part ofthe reason why.”
The methods used by the TMA garden dovetail nicely with the Common Core Standards now used in classrooms. TMA first-grade teacher Megan Caporicci formerly taught fourth grade, which is responsible for the school's hot composting.“My fourth-grade class would go out and collect temperature data from the compost bins and then input the information in a table format, which taught them math skills in a relevant, hands-on way,” Caporicci says.
“I'm a big proponent of real-world learning, and the garden provides a priceless outdoor learning experience,” she says. “Just the other day, as I was discussing weather with my first-graders, it began to sprinkle outside, so we went out into the garden to check the rain gauge.”
UCCE Master Gardener Teena Spindler regularly consults throughout the county on school gardens and does site visits for schools interested in starting their own gardens. She has been involved in the TMA school garden since its inception.
“The TMA garden is unique because it involves every child in the school,” Spindler says. “The well-structured program includes each class having its own planting area. Ownership of their own piece of real estate makes the kids much more likely to be engaged, because they all want their little piece to succeed.”
Students participate in seeding, transplanting, harvesting and garden maintenance and composting. Vegetables and fruits are sold at an after-school produce stand on Tuesdays.
Ty Hall is regional manager of Kellogg Garden Products, which regularly donates soil, amendments and organic fertilizer to the garden. “Kellogg's is coming up on 90 years in the horticultural industry, and it's part of our business model to reach and teach the next generation, so we make contributions to select schools that are educating about gardening in a sustainable way,” Hall says.

Parent participation
One of the main reasons that the TMA garden program works so well is the high percentage of parent participation. Each classroom has three to four Garden Master parents, who experience twice yearly training by Spindler and fellow Master Gardener Joanne Byrd. These Garden Master parents specialize in one of three areas: planting, maintaining or exploring.
“The system at TMA has not only created a beautiful garden but a beautiful system for engaging parents, teachers and children in the garden in a sustainable way,” Spindler says. “This is an amazing model that has the legs to keep on going indefinitely.”
Parents often will tie in what the kids are doing and seeing in the garden with what's being learned in the classroom, says Garden Master and planting co-chair Ellen Kinoshita, whose child Samantha is in fifth grade while Cassidy attends third grade at TMA. “The garden provides an excellent extension of the classroom, and the kids love getting in the dirt and examining the worms and insects,” she says.
As a planter Garden Master, Kinoshita has kids plant, and they discuss plants' need for water, soil and air, as well as the importance of weeding and maintaining the plants. “We also talk about the food we get in the store and all the work farmers go through to get the plants to grow,” she says. “When we start, some of the kids don't even know that carrots grow in the ground.”

Growing good eaters
Another major goal is developing healthy eaters. The kids are given Green Bucks when they show engaged, enthusiastic and extra hard-working behavior in the garden. These are used to purchase the healthy items available at the sales on Tuesdays. The Green Bucks program was made possible by a grant from Slow Food Orange County.
The garden also currently is piloting a garden game that involves bringing a plate out to the garden that has been properly proportioned with the amounts of certain types of foods that should be eaten in a meal and playing cards representing foods like greens. The kids look through the garden for items on the cards and then fill their plates with the appropriate cards.
Learning by trial and error
The focus is on learning from experience. “When we do the training, we emphasize to the parents that successes and failures are all learning experiences,” Spindler says. “Children are given the opportunity to examine situations and then try to solve any problems as a group. There are infinite lessons to be learned in the garden setting.”
Mora, the second-grader who enjoyed her first homegrown carrot, recently solved such a problem with her class.
“We had to replant our carrot patch because something was eating our first batch,and we finally figured out it was rabbits,” she says. “I was happy that the bunnies were getting food, but I was also sad, because there wasn't any left for us. Then westarted putting netting around the carrots, and that really helped.”

March 13, 2014

Monarch Butterfly Life Cycle

#1 caterpillar eggs on Milkweed leaf

Monarch egg closeup

#2 caterpillar emerges from egg/burrow

#3 adult caterpillar eating

#4 caterpillar hangs in J shape just before turning to Chrysalis

#5 jewel like chrysalis you might see on wood posts or anywhere in the garden

#6 butterfly emerging - as a reminder, do not touch butterflies. The oil on our hands damages their delicate wings

Major Sponsors

CA Native Plant Society OC

Fall, 2013, we were awarded $200 from, The CA Native Plant Society, OC Chapter, to expand plant selection in Butterfly Garden

Western Growers Foundation

Spring 2014, we were awarded $500 from, Western Growers, to strengthen existing nutrition education programs. This is our 2nd award from Western Growers.

Slow Food OC

Slow Food OC
$2000 Grant for Green Bucks program.
Green Bucks are awarded to students for enthusiastic engagement during their garden visits.They can redeem it for a healthy .50 treat sold at our after school Produce Stand Sale.

Garden Kellogg Products

The Irvine Company


Master Gardener, University of California

Coast Live Oak