Home Studies

Annabella and her Dad are picking up a retrofitted composting container.  They will be composting at home soon.  Classes on horticulture start tomorrow.  Her Dad is taking on the role of teacher.  Annabella is a student at the Foster Elementary School in Hingham, Massachusetts.

The family already has Mel Bartholomew’s book Square Foot Gardening.  Tomorrow home school classes start for Annabella and her younger sister.  The classes will partly focus on horticulture.  I believe that science, technology, engineering, art and math – STEAM can all be taught through horticulture.  You might even want to add reading and writing to the mix.

For me this is very exciting because it means hands on learning and applied STEAM principles.  When school is in session, Foster students get to work with educators / farmers at the Holly Hill Farm in Cohasset.



Curiosity through Composting

For some parents a week with the children home probably feels like a month already.  On-line classes are good and the technology involved is probably more of a learning experience for parents than for children.  I talked to a physics teacher yesterday and he believes that Google Classroom is a useful tool.

But in my opinion science learned through practical application can be fun and it sticks.  How many people do you know that say, “I hate science”?  That makes sense too because right now in the United States not much of the Federal executive decision making is based on science.  I guess they didn’t pay attention in class.

There is a lot of science in garbage.  We all know that trash is expensive to get rid of, single stream recycling is no longer cost effective, reusable is in and manufacturers have a lazy eye when it comes to packaging.   Our learning curve needs to accelerate.

The children in Honduras are an inspiration when it comes to composting and gardening.   Food security is not a given for them.  When Kathy and I do horticulture / science projects in their classrooms, they are attentive and curious.  They helped me define a composting area behind the school.  The little children were caring cement blocks that may have weighed more than what they weigh.

Michael Imhoff the horticulture teacher at Quincy High School shared the following video with me which is excellent.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x4JssQPTYF8.

Please be mindful that a perfect compost pile is not easy to develop.  But, “Just Do It”.  Get started and learn some science along the way.


Start with Students / Food Security

Roof top composting started for me at Quincy High School in 2001.  We were working at the old high school building and I wanted to teach biology, math and technology through horticulture.

The roof leaked and we knew that we had to be cautious in what we did on the roof.  Students put down tarps, we collected water from an upper roof in rain barrels and the organic soil mix use to collect much of the rain water.  Each time it rained, I would go to the custodians and ask if there were any leaks in the auditorium.  “No leaks”.

Composting was the key to our success growing early season vegetables.  Looking back we talked about food security but that was just a term.  Today with the coronavirus, food security is more than just a term.

The composter in the photograph was a model that we could open the door at the bottom and aerate the compost by moving partially composted materials from the bottom to the top.  I think the three original compost bins are still being used in the horticulture classes at Quincy High School but in a new building and greenhouse space.  By the way, that program has expanded to two sections.  I am excited to see the way this program has evolved.


Science Through Application


Teaching science through horticulture is working for us.  Eighty six percent of students learn best through application while the rest absorb the knowledge they need through theory.

Tell me and I’ll forget.

Show me and I may not remember.

Involve me and I’ll understand.  Native American Wisdom