A new way to think about plants

students sorting SESE seeds by cool and warm

First-graders in Ms. Bolton’s class have been learning about plants: plant parts, the functions of each part, and the order that the parts develop. They’ve also been exploring food and which part of a plant different types of food are; for instance, a carrot is a root, spinach is a leaf and broccoli is a flower. They’ve also been learning that the plants we eat for their roots, leaves and stems — the parts that develop first — are usually the ones that get planted first, when temperatures are still pretty cool. The plants that we eat for their flowers and fruits, like peppers, tomatoes and melons, are planted in late spring when the soil and air are warmer.

Thanks to a generous donation of seeds from Southern Exposure Seed Exchange, the students were able to help Ms. Evers sort the newly arrived seed packets by when we’ll plant the seeds: in cooler temps or warmer ones. A drawing of a plant with all of its parts helped the students decide whether to put the seed packets by the roots (cool) or by the flowers and fruits (warm).

Writing a recipe for healthy soil

adding household items

Third-graders are learning LOTS about soil. But instead of playing in the dirt in the classroom, they’re creating soil in Belvedere’s new garden beds.

The students started earlier this year by learning about the components of soil and what nutrients are needed for healthy soil. They studied different nutrients — especially carbon and nitrogen — and brainstormed where around the school they could find sources of these nutrients. They set up stations in the teacher lounges for coffee grounds, filters, tea leaves and tea bags. They also gave every class a gallon-size baggie, inviting them to save their pencil shavings (carbon!!).

so many choicesEach third grade class has been assigned two raised beds to build soil in. This week and next, they’ll create their class “recipe” for that soil and mix in the ingredients. They’re taking notes about each material that they add to the bed and a measurement of how much of that material they used. Ingredients include carbon sources (“browns” in composting) like pencil shavings, shredded leaves (thanks, Ms. Buchanan!), shredded office paper, dryer lint, eggshells, unbleached cotton balls, empty TP rolls and paper egg cartons as well as nitrogen sources (“greens” in composting) like veggie scraps, banana peels, and huge bags of coffee grounds from the lounges and Starbucks. They’re adding the ingredients in layers of greens and browns, a method called “lasagna gardening.”

IMG_4361The recipe notes will be uploaded into a spreadsheet shared among the five classes so they can compare recipes. After students plant later this year, they’ll be able to use this data to think about why some gardens might be doing better than others. For now, though, we’re getting ready to cover the beds with dark tarps and let that lasagna (soil) cook!



A hike for the hardy

Jeff helping kids cross the streamThere’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothes: This Scandinavian saying is the Belvedere Outdoor Club’s unofficial motto. And the club lived by it this weekend, taking in the beauty of the wet woods. One reward:  five exciting stream crossings.

The Outdoor Club, which has Saturday morning outings several times a year, is open to all Belvedere families and staff. If you’d like to be on the notification list, contact Andrea Auerbach at asauerbach1@fcps.edu.

A sloppy, soggy, squishy morning

IMG_9827Ms. Bolton’s gardeners are getting ready for spring already! They made paper pulp out of shredded paper and newspaper, then used it to line yogurt cups.

When the paper dries, the students will pop out the paper pots, then add soil and plant a seed or two. When the plants grow too big for their pots, the entire thing – stem to pot – can be planted in the garden.

They loved describing how the pulp felt: soaking, soggy, squishy, slimy, like oatmeal, like clay.







Seed sale this Friday, March 16

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You may print the form below to send in with your child if you want specific seeds to come home. If you don’t have a student at Belvedere, we’d still love for you to come to the sale. This form will let you know what we have in stock. If we sell out of Seed Savers seeds that you wanted, you can still get them from us at the below-retail rate; we’ll be submitting a second order after the sale. As for seeds collected from Belvedere: Once we’re out, we are OUT! Hope to see you on Friday!

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5th graders give learning trail to Belvedere

posting sign 2017

One of the last things Belvedere’s 5th graders did before graduating last week was put the finishing touches on a new learning trail in Belvedere Park. When students return next fall, they’ll be able to learn how actions we take at Belvedere and in the park affect our watershed (all water and land downstream from the school and park).

signs in park 1 2017The fifth graders researched and created 24 signs that identify native and invasive plants in the park, describe how the plants affect the ecosystem, and answer questions about the watershed. Some of the signs were posted before the end of the school year, but have been taken down for the summer. Look for them in September!

The 5th grade made the signs as a service project related to a grant from the Chesapeake Bay Trust. The grant also funded the 5th grade Living Classrooms shipboard field trip in April.

Love the Water, a post written by Ms. Gump’s kindergarten class

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Ms. Gump’s class created a “floating trash island” on the blacktop from trash collected around the playground.

 Water is important. Everybody needs to drink water or we would be thirsty. Without water people would die. Every single drink is made out of water. You cannot have orange juice or milk without water. Without water, plants cannot grow and we would not have fruits and vegetables. If water goes away we will not be able to wash our bodies in the shower or bath. Without water we could not go swimming and exercise. Ocean animals could not swim and would die. Without water you would stay hot. We cannot clean our dishes without water. That is why water is so important to the Earth.

We can save the water. Here is how:

  • Turn off the water when you are soaping your hands.
  • Turn the water off while you are brushing your teeth.
  • Take a fast shower.
  • Wash fruits and vegetables in a bowl and then put the water on plants
  • Water plants outside in the morning or night before it gets hot.
  • Take shower instead of a bath.
  • Run the dishwasher or wash machine only when it is full.
  • Use all the water you take from the sink, don’t dump it down the drain.
  • Don’t throw tissues in the toilet and flush.
  • Turn off the dripping sink. If it is broken, get a plumber or an adult.
  • Turn off the sink when you are done.

The ocean is super important. Animals needs a place to swim and to eat. Humans need the ocean to fish for food. In the ocean there are trash islands. Trash islands are floating groups of trash. These islands are killing animals. The animals are eating the trash and dying. To stop the trash islands, people need to not throw trash in the water. Don’t throw trash near the water as well. Please take care and take action to keep our water clean and safe.

Eco-night & Art Walk: rain or shine!

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A fifth grade Exhibition group that focused on climate change planted the walnut seedling from Belvedere’s tree nursery.

Tonight at Belvedere :

  • Get up close to a banded cat shark, salamanders, sea horses, reptiles, bugs and a bee hive!
  • Meet students who are taking action to protect all living things.
  • Talk with scientists to learn about their important work to protect the planet.
  • Play with different kinds of soil and plant a seed in an ice cream cone or yogurt container to take home.
  • Write a poem out of stones in our new Poetry Garden in the courtyard. A scavenger hunt will be there as well.
  • See our newest tree (left), planted by students who collected the walnut and other tree seeds as first graders.
  • Every student will have art displayed on the school walls. That’s nearly 800 pieces of art!
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Fourth graders helped by removing the river birch that had died. The walnut seedling was planted in the birch’s place.

Eco-Night and Art Walk will take place from 6-8 p.m. Most activities will be outside the doors from the art/music hallway, leading to the trailers, or in the storytelling area. Food will be served in the cafeteria from 5:30-7 p.m.

In case of rain, most activities will be in the gym.


Mark your calendar for fun-filled, hands-on Eco-Night & Art Walk

On Friday, Belvedere will celebrate the beauty and mystery of the natural world, human creativity and human scientific endeavor at all ages. Join us!

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Awesome shipboard science for 5th grade

clam 2017

How do humans affect aquatic ecosystems? Belvedere’s 5th graders have been exploring this question, and this week they’re going to the Anacostia and Potomac rivers to see for themselves.

casting the seine 2017

One of the first answers came on Monday, when they dropped a net into the water to pull out fish. What they caught was a water bottle and some other trash.

This is the fourth year that the 5th grade has experienced a Living Classrooms field trip, and also the fourth year that the Chesapeake Bay Trust has provided grant funding to make the trip possible. On the water, students dissect clams, catch fish, net plankton to observe under microscopes and steer the Half Shell. On land, they investigate how long it takes garbage to decompose in the water and how local waterways are polluted.