Excitement for ‘Gardenpalooza’!

During the dark depths of winter, the NKE Arboretum Committee has stayed busy thinking spring and making exciting plans for our school. This year, for the first time, NKE will celebrate our gardens and outdoor education efforts with a “Gardenpalooza” week in which all NKE students will participate. This Gardenpalooza week will be a perfect finale to an entire month of wellness at NKE (the three weeks before will celebrate mindfulness, giving back, and being active).

Our Gardenpalooza week, May 15–19, will kick off with all students meeting with their Character Families on Monday and learning about sustainability. They will watch a video from our administrative intern, Ms. Knutson, challenging each class to work together to complete a bingo card that contains different fun ideas for learning outside; classes that get bingo will be able to eat a picnic lunch outside that Friday. Also, during the week, each class will go outside to plant in our gardens, amend our garden soil, plant a rain garden, and more. We will need volunteers to help us get the kids outside that week—if you are interested, please contact Kim Sorbet by email at kimmwahlgren@yahoo.com.

To cap off our Gardenpalooza week, we plan to have a celebration open house on that Friday, May 19, during which our school families will be able to tour our new hoop house (!), visit the Arboretum, eat a picnic dinner and visit stations for nature art, local nature experts and more. We hope to see you there!

Outdoor Education Efforts in Full Swing All Summer

As I write this, school has been underway for only a few weeks, but our outdoor education efforts were in full swing throughout the summer. Some exciting updates include:

harvestevening• We held three “Harvest Evenings” throughout the summer. We harvested food from the raised beds in the Arboretum and the outdoor classroom between NKE and PVE and donated the fresh produce to the Oregon Area Food Pantry. We also pulled weeds (so many weeds!) and much more.

• The committee dedicated to enhancing our new outdoor classroom met several times and consulted with experts from Community GroundWorks/Sustain Dane to create a master plan for the entire space from PVE to NKE. You might notice the first new project underway—renovation of the area outside the first/second grade doors surrounding the tree we refer to as “Mother Oak.” This majestic tree will now have a beautiful space surrounding her, including a new butterfly garden certified as a Monarch Waystation, a path and natural seating.

• Plans have begun to be able to serve food raised in our NKE gardens to our students in the cafeteria. We are modeling these efforts after the successful program already in place at the Oregon Middle School, where they use a large hoop house to extend the growing season and serve their homegrown food in the cafeteria’s salad bar. We are actively applying for grants and looking for potential donors for this project. If you are interested in supporting this exciting project, please contact Mr. Kluck or use the donation form on the NKE Arboretum website at www.nkearboretum.org.

• We met with staff from Brooklyn Elementary School to share ideas about our gardening programs. In May 2017 we plan to hold a sort of “garden-palooza” week where all the NKE classes get to participate in planting in our garden beds and celebrate our gardening efforts.

If you are interested in helping with any of these projects—either with your time or with financial support, or if you have new ideas you’d like to discuss, please let Mr. Kluck know. One simple way anyone can help is by saving your receipts from Bill’s Food Center and turning them in at school; Bill’s donates 1% of all receipts we collect back to our Arboretum. That really adds up!

And, finally, you can always follow our progress on our Facebook page.

Springing Forward With Gardening at NKE

As I write this, spring fever is setting in and plans for spring gardening are in motion. What a relief after another Wisconsin winter! Seeing the daffodils pushing up through the crunchy brown leaves always seems like a miracle.

At NKE, gardening actually started in March, as groups of students from third and fourth grades did a “winter sowing” project in which seeds are planted in soil in milk jugs, then set outside in the snow. The kids were super enthusiastic about getting their hands in the dirt, planting the seeds and then being set loose in the Arboretum to trod through the snow and place the milk jugs in the sun. Thanks go out to NKE parent Anne Michels for organizing and leading this project! Keep an eye on our Facebook page to see what comes to life in our milk jugs.

Our first NKE Arboretum volunteer party is planned for Saturday, April 25, from 1–4 p.m. Traditionally this is our spring cleanup day, when we rake out beds and tidy up the space. This year some other things on our docket include pulling the (invasive) garlic mustard, installing fronts on our compost bins made out of repurposed wooden pallets, hooking up our rain barrels again (we certainly hope any freezing weather is over by then!) and digging out the area for our new rain garden.

Several people have asked me what a rain garden is. Basically it’s a shallow depression planted with native plants that have extremely deep root systems. Typically you put a rain garden in a place where you want to capture rainwater, diverting it from going down a storm drain. Those deep roots absorb an amazing amount of rain water. This is ideal for a place like the NKE Arboretum, where a large volume of water comes off the roof and causes water problems for the surrounding building.

We’ll hope to see you at our spring volunteer party—come for the whole time or drop in for a half hour. Bring your kids and your work gloves. It’s always fun to see the progress and meet other school families.

As always, you can keep tabs on our progress at www.nkearboretum.org and our Facebook page. Happy spring, and happy planting!

Join Us For the Green Apple Day of Service

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We are happy to report that progress is going extremely well in the NKE Arboretum! In fact, we believe we are getting close to meeting all the requirements to become a certified outdoor classroom as recognized by Nature Explore, which is a program by the Arbor Day Foundation. To that end, we’ll be working on some big projects this Saturday, which is the worldwide Green Apple Day of Service. On this day, coordinated by the Center for Green Schools at the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), children, parents and staff around the world work on projects to make their schools greener.

At NKE we are focusing our efforts on:

• building a “tree cookie” patio
• installing signs identifying the designated different areas in the NKE Arboretum
• general cleanup
• beginning work on large-scale compost bins by the dumpster area that will handle daily compost from the school’s cafeteria.

Can you join us? Our volunteer days are always a fun way to accomplish something important for the school and meet other school families. Here’s the 411:

Date: Saturday, Sept. 27
Time: 9 a.m.-Noon
Bring: Work gloves, your kids, water (and wheelbarrows, if you have them)
Enter: School doors closest to the Arboretum will be open (by the 1st/2nd grade hallway)

We hope to see you there!

Spring Cleaning Was a Success!

We want to send out a huge thank you to our parents and students who joined NKE Principal Dan Rikli for our first volunteer work party of the year. We dubbed it “spring cleaning,” and although spring was nowhere in sight, we had a great turnout. That made short work of raking, prepping the area for the two new raised beds, prepping the “tree cookie” patio area and more. The space looks great and ready for spring, whenever that decides to make an appearance!

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