Every month there will be a fun post to get kids AND families a little more excited and engaged with nature, gardening, cooking, and learning! The monthly topics can range from an interesting gardening or plant fact, a tested & approved recipe to cook with the family, a game or art project related to nature, and more!
Nature Art Hearts inspired by Andrew Goldsworthy!
Greetings Gatewood Gators and welcome to our February Monthly Bonus! I hope everyone is excited to spread some love in nature and around their neighborhoods in honor of Valentine’s Day! You do not need to celebrate Valentine’s Day to take part in this project. The goal is to go outside, get some fresh air and use your imagination to turn natural objects into materials to create sculptures and art!
For this Monthly Bonus we will be taking part in an art project inspired by the famous nature artist Andy Goldsworthy. Andy Goldsworthy is an English sculptor, photographer and environmentalist known for creating pieces of art with natural materials that change over time. Some of the materials he uses for art pieces include brightly colored flowers, icicles, leaves, mud, pinecones, snow, stone, twigs and thorns.
I first learned about Andy Goldsworthy as an elementary school student when I watched his nature documentary Rivers and Tides in the theatre. You can watch the documentary here:
Whatever art you like to make, I hope you are inspired from this Monthly Bonus to get creative, think outside the box and spend some time outside!
Have a Happy Valentine’s Day and a February filled with Fun!
DIY Bird Feeders
Greetings Gatewood Gators and welcome to the first Monthly Bonus of 2023! I hope everyone feels well rested after the holiday break and excited to get back to school!
For this Monthly Bonus we are going to be giving our feathered friends a helping hand to get through those cold winter months! Food can be scarce for wild birds in the wintertime which means having feeders with rich, fatty seeds to supplement their diet can be beneficial to them!
I will be taking you through a handful of different DIY bird feeders that can be made using items you can find in your pantry and around the house. For those with nut allergies where peanut, almond or sunflower butter cannot be handled, you can use coconut oil, Crisco, store bought suet, or lard (not bacon fat!). We also talk about what to feed and- most important- what NOT to feed your friendly neighborhood birds.
Hey squirrel, that’s for the birds!
If you have more questions about feeding wild birds, here are some helpful links:
A friendly reminder: for those of you who have hummingbird feeders at home, make sure to keep them filled during the Winter! We have hummingbirds that live in Seattle year-round that could use some sugar-fueled energy! The ratio for making your own sugar water is 1-4 (one part sugar to four parts water). That means if your feeder holds 2 cups of liquid, you can mix that warm water with ½ cup of sugar. Make sure to keep the feeder inside on those freezing nights!
If you want to make one of these bird feeders but do not have some of the ingredients mentioned in your kitchen, there will be a large box of bird seed in the school office. If you ask Ms. Stacy or Ms. Katy very nicely, they will give you a bag of seed to take home. That way you can make some homemade feeders with your family or friends!
Happy New Year and thanks for showing some love to the birds!
Festive Luminaries to Celebrate Winter Solstice
Greetings Gatewood Gators and welcome to the last Monthly Bonus of 2022! December is a special time of the year because it marks the start of winter and the darkest time of the year! Winter Solstice this year falls on December 21st.
In this Monthly Bonus I will be explaining what Winter Solstice is, including why we have changing seasons and some of the traditions behind the holiday. Together we will be making two different types of festive luminaries using freshly gathered evergreen trimmings!
If you do not have mason jars in your house, you are welcome to use any kind of clear glass for your floating candle luminary. For the ice luminary that I demonstrate, you are welcome to substitute the plastic cups for Tupperware, old yogurt containers, or any flexible plastic that you think might work!
Remember that parents/adults oversee lighting candles to be safe!
I hope everyone enjoys the Winter Solstice and the holiday season. I will see you next year (2023!) for our January Monthly Bonus.
“Kindness Grows” Read-aloud to Celebrate Serve-a-thon
*Gator Art by Cooper in Mr. Sullivan’s 1st grade class
Greetings Gatewood Gators and welcome to our November Monthly Bonus! In honor of Share-a-thon and all the hard work students have been engaging in- both in and outside of the classroom- I will be reading “Kindness Grows” A Peek-through Picture Book by Britta Teckentrup.
This book is all about how friendship blossoms when we choose to be kind and considerate to one-another. I love this book because of the planting symbolism and how well the message aligns with what Share-a-Thon is all about!
For those who participated in Share-a-Thon or are inspired to practice kindness after this reading, give yourselves a big pat on the back!
This book has been donated to the library at Gatewood if anyone is interested in exploring it more 😊
Smashed Potatoes in Honor of our 2nd Annual Spud Challenge!
Greetings Gatewood Gators and welcome to our October Monthly Bonus! It is potato harvesting season and we have a planter box in the school garden filled with delicious spuds of all colors and sizes! Last year we began the Gatewood Spud Challenge where every student had the opportunity to guess how many potatoes were growing in the school garden. Dylan D. took home the crown last year with the closest guess! Who will take home the crown this year as our Spud Master?!
In honor of the spud challenge, I will be showing you a cooking activity that the whole family can participate in! Smashed potatoes are a fun and easy way to cook small or thin-skinned potatoes like red potatoes, fingerling potatoes, and Yukon-gold to name a few. If you only have russet potatoes in your house, feel free to try them out and let me know how they turn out!
Gathering Seeds to Grow
Greetings Gatewood Gators to the very first Monthly Bonus of the 2022/2023 school year! I hope everyone had a fun and relaxing summer and are ready for another year of Garden and Nature related activities!
This Monthly Bonus is all about the changing of seasons. As summer moves into fall there are a lot of flowers dying off for the year. While it’s sad to say goodbye to our favorite flowers until next year, this is the perfect opportunity to gather seeds from your garden or around the neighborhood to plant in the spring!
In this video I will show you a handful of different flower seeds I enjoy gathering and saving for planting and gifts for loved ones. A few of the flowers include Poppies, Marigolds, and Sunflowers. You do not have to limit yourself to just flowers- perhaps you want to save some peas from your garden harvest, lettuce seeds after they flower, or even pumpkin seeds after making a pie! Just make sure to let any seeds that have some moisture sit out and dry before story 😊
While the video provides the best way to store seeds for the winter, I also encourage you to look back at the February 2022 Monthly Bonus that shows you how to make heart shaped seed paper. It’s a fun activity and a great gift!
Enjoy the start to the new school year and happy seed collecting!
Create Your Own Nature Journal!
Hello Gatewood Gators and welcome to our final Monthly Bonus of the school year! I have enjoyed all of the nature and garden related adventures we have been on this year. For our last Monthly Bonus we will be savoring some time outdoors by creating our own Nature Journal.
There are many ways to create a nature journal but for this video I have used a template from ohsomummy.com. If you have a printer at home and would like additional copies, you can download them for free from the site below:
For those of you without a printer, there will be some copies in our brand new Learning Garden Resources Library located to the left of the garden shed. I have included the examples shown in the instructional video to give you some ideas! There are other activities and drawing paper/supplies located in the resource library for use in the garden!
Have a fantastic summer Gatewood Gators! Feel free to explore the previous Monthly Bonus videos for some nature related activities this summer!
Flower Pressing for Mother’s Day while you “Walk, Ride, or Roll” to School!
Greetings Gatewood Gators to our May Monthly Bonus! There are some fun events happening in May as well as a lot of beautiful flowers in bloom! This month we get to participate in the “Walk Ride or Roll” to School challenge. With the weather improving and renewed inspiration to reduce our footprint after Earth Day, I encourage any student (who can) to put on their walking shoes or wheels and travel the green way to school! Carpooling and riding the bus is another alternative! There will be snacks, water and stickers for kiddos who participate! Make sure to keep your eyes peeled for some flowers along your route to school 😊
In addition to “Walk Ride or Roll” to school month, May 7th is Mother’s Day. I like to remind students that this holiday is not just for Mothers but for anyone that helps take care of you and make you feel loved! This can include a father, Grandparent, Aunt/Uncle, older sibling, Foster Parent, Family Friend or even a teacher! For this Bonus, we will be pressing flowers and making them into custom bookmarks! Below are some other ideas of things you can do with your pressed flowers!
Happy May and enjoy the sunshine!
Celebrating Autism Awareness with “Just Ask” by Justice Sonia Sotomayor
Welcome Gatewood Gators to our April Monthly Bonus! Did you know that April is World Autism Awareness Month and that the United Nations has sanctioned April 2nd as World Autism Awareness Day?! This gives us the opportunity to increase our understanding and acceptance of people with autism. In the United States, autism affects an estimated 1 in 44 children!
For this Monthly Bonus, I will be reading a book titled “Just Ask” written by an associate justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, Sonia Sotomayor. This book encourages all of us to embrace diversity by portraying kids of all abilities working together to create a gorgeous garden.
To learn more about Autism and see how you can help, you can explore these websites you’re your family:
I encourage students to think about what makes them unique and challenge them to think about one of the questions that this book asks:
Do you ever need to take medicine to be healthy?
Rafael says his inhaler is like a tool to help his body. Do you use a tool to help your body?
Anthony uses a wheelchair to get around. How do you get from place to place?
How do you use your senses?
Are you really good at something?
What do you like to talk about?
Do you ever wonder if people understand you?
Do you ever feel frustrated?
Manuel finds it helpful when his teachers and friends are patient with him when he gets distracted or forgetful. What’s helpful to you?
I hope this book inspires you to celebrate differences since each and every one of us brings their own unique beauty to the world!
Create Your Own Succulent & Sedum Planter!
Welcome to the March Monthly Bonus! It is the last month of Winter which means that spring planting is right around the corner!
While it is still too cold to start our outdoor gardening, we will be making indoor planters using succulent and sedum clippings from the neighborhood! “Hen and chick succulents” and sedums are some of my favorite plants to use and are often found growing along rock walls or used as ground cover. If you have a neighbor with them in their garden, kindly ask for a couple trimmings to use for this project!
We are going to be practicing plant PROPAGATION. Propagation is a fancy word for growing a new plant from a trimming/piece of the ‘parent plant’. Instead of planting seeds, we will be taking succulent “chicks” and sedum bits and planting them in right into the soil to grow roots!
I encourage you to use a recycled container for this planter project to help the environment. The video shows how I make planters out of an old candle jar and a vintage teapot! Maybe you have a coffee cup, jar, bowl or even a soup can lying around. Make sure to put some rocks at the bottom of the planter if there is no hole for water to drain through 😊
Once your planter is all made up, find a windowsill with some bright indirect light. Make sure not to overwater your succulent- you can check the soil by sticking your finger in it. Make sure the soil is completely dry before watering (every two weeks or so).
Enjoy your planter and feel free to email pictures of your finished creation! Ervielbig@seattleschools.org
D.I.Y Heart Seed Bombs with Recycled Paper!
Welcome to the February Monthly Bonus! In the spirit of Valentine’s Day on the 14th of this month, we will be making a fun recycled craft to show those we love (and our planet!) just how much we care.
As all of us know, there is a lot of paper waste in schools- from old assignments, scrap paper, drawings, and craft clippings- our recycles are piled high with discarded paper! We will be giving some of this unwanted paper another life by making heart shaped seed bombs to give to our loved ones! Feel free to use cookie cutters as molds or even roll them into balls if you want to make a different shape!
I hope teachers will jump at the opportunity to make these paper seed bombs as a class. If not, feel free to fill your backpack with recycled paper and make some at home!
If you or your class needs flower seeds for this project, email Ms. Emma at email@example.com. I will find the best way to get some to you 😊
Happy Valentine’s Day and don’t forget to pat yourself on the back for following the 3 R’s: Reduce, Reuse and Recycle!
What is Seasonal Eating?
For the first Monthly Bonus of 2022 we are going to talk about what it means to eat with the seasons and why it is good for you! Washington has a different growing season than other parts of the country and offers a wide variety of delicious fruits, vegetables, herbs and other goodies for year round eating!
In the video we take a trip to the West Seattle Farmers Market to see what seasonal eats Washington has to offer in the month of January. While other seasons offer more variety of fruits and vegetables, there are still some tasty root vegetables and greens to put on your plate!
Some Produce grown in Washington in January includes: Brussels Sprouts, Celery Root, Chard, Horseradish, Leeks, Mushrooms, Parsnips, Potatoes, Pumpkin, Rutabaga, Salsify, Sunchokes and Turnips. Yum!
For more information on eating seasonally in Washington State, check out the website below. This site will provide you a list of produce grown in Washington (or any other state in the US!) for every month of the calendar year:
Below is an easy-to-read Washington Grown Seasonality Chart that you can print and post on your fridge! The two asterisks’ ** in this chart are used to tell you when the vegetable is in peak harvest season!
Enjoy your seasonal eats!
Creating Art and Wrapping Paper with Nature!
Greetings Gatewood Gators to our December Monthly Bonus! For the last Monthly Bonus of 2021, we will be celebrating the end of the year by making some art through nature gathering! December is not the best month to get your hands dirty in the garden but that doesn’t mean you can’t get outside and appreciate the beauty of your natural surroundings! Since the holidays are coming up for many of you and winter is known as a time of giving and appreciating those we love, we are going to make some art AND recycled wrapping paper!
This project requires you to take a walk outside and tune your eyes to the plants and trees around you. You will be collecting greens that can be made into nature paintbrushes. We are lucky to live in a region of the world filled with EVERGREENS. An Evergreen is a plant or tree that keeps its foliage (needles/leaves) throughout the season. Washington has so many evergreens that our state slogan is The Evergreen State! Find tips of pine, cedar, fir branches, mosses and lichen or anything that you think would be fun to dip in paint and brush on paper!
Materials Needed for Project:
-Paper Grocery Bag or plain paper for painting
-Rubber Bands, string/twine, or dental floss for making paintbrushes
-Paint (tempura or anything else you have around the house. If you need paint, ask your teacher for help!)
-Greens picked from your Nature Walk.
The video will give you step-by-step instructions on how to turn those branches and greens gathered on your walk into paintbrushes!
I hope you enjoy this project and remember that this is all about getting into nature, being creative and HAVING FUN! Happy Holidays!
Celebrating Native American Heritage Month and Beyond!
Welcome to the November Monthly Bonus! While we get to celebrate Indigenous Peoples Day on October 11th, the entire month of November is dedicated to celebrating Native American Heritage! For this Monthly Bonus, we are going to explore one of the many amazing books offered through the American Indian Resource Library at Seattle Public Schools.
This read-aloud is meant to inspire Gatewood Gators to actively become the environmental stewards and water protectors we all know you are! “We are the Water Protectors” is a 2021 Caldecott Medal winner written by Carole Lindstrom (who is Anishinabe/Métis and a proud member of the Turtle Mountain Band of Ojibwe Indians) and illustrated by Michaela Goade (a proud member of the Tlingit and Haida Tribes).
After this read aloud, think of actions YOU can take to become a Steward of the Earth and Water Protector. One way I am a Steward of the Earth is by picking up trash I find when I go on a hike. One way I am a Water Protector is by taking short showers. I only need 5 minutes in a hot shower to get squeaky clean! If YOU are committed to being a Water Protector and Steward of the Earth, please sign our pledge poster! It is hanging up on the second floor to the right of the office!
For those of you interested in more Native American Heritage Month resources from Seattle Public Schools, including access to the American Indian Resource library, copy and paste the link below:
For more fun read-aloud books that celebrate Native American literature and heritage, check out the American Indian Resource Library page on Destiny Discover at the link below:
Last but not least, for students inspired to take the American Indian Library Association’s (AILA) “Read Native for Kids” challenge, you can find copies of the Bingo Card Style form in the school library. There will also be a list of AILA children’s books available for ideas on what to read! If you send a picture of your completed form to firstname.lastname@example.org you just might win a prize package! Yay!
Let’s make some Kale Chips!
Welcome Gatewood Gators to our October Monthly Bonus! In this video we talk about how to harvest loose leaf greens like kale in a way that keeps the plant alive and growing for many mealtime adventures! We also bake a crunchy snack out of curly kale from the school learning garden!
While there are many delightful ways to eat kale (from salads to soups, sauteed or in smoothies) this video walks you through a fun recipe that even picky eaters might enjoy! Kale chips are easy to make and a tasty snack for munching on during the cold fall days ahead. I recommend trading your popcorn in for kale chips during the next movie night with the family!
Kale is one of the best veggies for your body. Kale has Vitamin K and Calcium for healthy bones and blood, and potassium to keep your muscles strong! Kale is also classified as a CRUCIFEROUS vegetable- that means it is part of a family of plant-based foods with cancer fighting properties. Maybe we should start calling Kale a SUPER GREEN!
Tomatoes: Fruit or Vegetable?
There always seems to be a great debate about whether tomatoes are considered a fruit or vegetable. In our first Monthly Bonus of the school year, we explore both arguments to decide for ourselves whether we are on Team Fruit or Team Vegetable!
Here is the Merriam-Webster Dictionary definition of a fruit:
A fruit is “the usually edible reproductive body of a seed plant.” In simpler terms, “Anything that grows on a plant and is the means by which that plant gets its seeds out into the world is a fruit.”
The 1893 US Supreme Court ruling that tomatoes are considered vegetables was “Nix v. Hedden”
Whether you consider the tomato a fruit or a vegetable, I think we can all agree that this quote by journalist Miles Kington is pretty amazing:
“Knowledge is knowing that a tomato is a fruit. Wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad.”
Garden Themed Yoga with Mr. Mo
Greetings Gatewood Gators for our last Monthly Bonus of the school year! For our June submission we have a special guest: our very own 1st grade teacher, Mr. Mo!
Mr. Mo is a talented yoga instructor and he will be showing us some fun garden themed yoga moves to get our minds and bodies relaxed for the final weeks of school!
If you would like to print off a free Garden Yoga for Kids Poster, visit the site below:
These posters and more fun yoga activities and resources for kids can be found here:
If you ever want to practice these moves in the school garden or just want to take a relaxing body break, you will find The Garden Yoga for Kids Poster and the Pollinators Yoga Poster hanging on the shed by the picnic table!
I hope you have a fun and relaxing time participating in this video!
Creating Hammered Nature Art
Greetings Gatewood Gators and welcome to the Monthly Bonus for March 2021. In this video lesson you will learn how to make art using the beautiful colors of nature!
Did you know that the name for the green pigment (color) in almost all types of plants is called Chlorophyll? Chlorophyll not only makes plants green- it helps them survive! Chlorophyll works to absorb light into a plant which (through a cool process called Photosynthesis) turns that energy into fuel (aka food) to keep the plant alive and healthy!
Fun fact- Chlorophyll is not only healthy for plants, it’s healthy for YOU! Chlorophyll rich foods like Broccoli, Asparagus and leafy greens help your body grow by providing you with vitamins and antioxidants! Don’t say NO to that Kale smoothie!
In this art project, we are going to be using Chlorophyll in plants- along with other colorful plant pigments- to make art! For those who are interested in impressing their parents using the scientific names for plant pigments, here are the other major groups:
-Anthocyanins: provides some plants their red, purple and blue colors
-Carotenoids: provides some plants their bright red, yellow and orange colors
-Betalains: one type of Belatain provides yellow and orange colors while the other type gives plants a reddish-violet color.
I hope you enjoy scavenging and creating beautiful nature art!
Grow Vegetable starts for the West Seattle Food Bank!
*Take-home seed starter bags will be in a clear labeled bin outside the school where library books are returned*
Welcome to the April Monthly Bonus! In honor of Earth Day (April 22nd), you have the opportunity to grow seed starters at your home to donate to the West Seattle Food bank! Not only will you be learning how to grow vegetables from seeds, but you will be supporting the community by allowing someone in need to plant and eat their own vegetables!
The take-home vegetable kits include: Garden Beans, Snap Peas, Kale, Swiss Chard, Lettuce and Sweet Peppers! Please follow the instructional video to see how each seed is planted. Don’t forget to check the soil every few days to make sure it is moist!
*Important Note: Your starts will eventually need to be planted into larger containers to give the roots space to grow. The beans will be the fastest to grow and may need a re-plant after only a week! When you re-plant the start, fill your larger container with soil and create a well in the middle. Use a spoon to gently scoop your start out of the egg carton and plant into the well of your larger container. Make sure to water after planting!
As seen in the example photo below, your larger planter can be anything from a plastic cup to a yogurt or milk container. It does not need to be fancy! Just make sure to punch holes at the bottom of the container for drainage so the roots don’t rot!
If you choose to keep your plant start that is totally OK, but I encourage you to bring them back to the school (once 2-3 inches tall) in order to donate to the West Seattle Food Bank! Please make sure they are labeled when they are returned.
IF all 200 grow kits are used, our school community has the power to grow at least 800 veggie plants for the community!
Please check out the Gatewood Navigator or go to the “Garden Projects and Events” page to learn more about the Earth Day Challenge!
Make Your Own Tea!
Greetings Gatewood Gators and welcome to the Monthly Bonus for March 2021. In a month known for being cold and wet in the Pacific Northwest, it is always nice to curl up with a good book and a cup of tea! In this video lesson you will learn how to make your very own tea using citrus peels. I will also introduce some herbs that are good to grow, harvest and dry for making tea in the future!
The history of tea is an old and amazing one. Historians believe the source of tea came from the Shang Dynasty of China thousands of years ago and was used as a medicinal drink. The earliest credible record of tea dates to the 3rd Century AD! While the British are well known for their tea consumption, they were only introduced to it through trade in the early 16th century. They quickly got to work ordering tea production in India to fill the ever-growing demand for more and more Tea!
Whether it is used as medicine or a refreshing beverage, various types of tea are consumed all over the world. While some countries largely drink one type of tea (for example Green or Black Tea), the grocery stores in your neighborhood offer almost every flavor you can imagine!
My goal is to inspire you to make your very own tea! If you do not have the resources available, I have created some do-it-yourself tea packets using dried mint, nettle and lavender. You can pick up a packet from the Gatewood Little Free Library. Remember that the bags can be composted!
If you want to learn more about the history of tea, check out this Ted-Ed video:
For some tea blending inspiration, please look over the Tea Wheel below:
All About Herbs
Hello Gatewood Gators and welcome to the February Monthly Bonus! I hope you enjoy the video about how to harvest, dry and process herbs. There are many ways to dry herbs and you can learn more ways here: https://www.tasteofhome.com/article/how-to-dry-herbs/
The herbs that I dried and used for the flatbread recipe are:
Oregano: A member of the mint family, this herb has been used for thousands of years in both food and medicine. Fun fact- the Greeks and Romans associated oregano with joy and happiness!
Thyme: Related to rosemary, this herb is part of the mint family and is popular in Mediterranean cooking. Fun fact- back in the day thyme was used for embalming and to protect against the Bubonic Plague! Yikes!
Rosemary: Another member of the mint family (along with Oregano and Thyme), this herb is also native to the Mediterranean region. Fun fact- the first mention of rosemary is found on ancient stone tablets dated back to 5000 BC (about 7,000 years ago!).
Garlic Herb Flatbread Recipe:
I modified a pizza dough recipe that can be found here: https://joyfoodsunshine.com/easy-homemade-pizza-dough/
From my experience with this recipe, you will need AT LEAST 2 ½ cups of flour- I usually use a quarter cup or so more.
When you are adding the flour, also add around 2 teaspoons each of garlic powder, dried rosemary, dried oregano and dried thyme. You can always add less/more or experiment with different herbs!
This dough is versatile- you can use it to make flatbread, pizza, bread sticks, calzones, hand pies and more!
For any questions, feel free to email 😊
Learning about the Douglas Fir
Hello Gatewood Gators and welcome to the first Monthly Bonus of 2021! This video was filmed in Gifford Pinchot National Forest near the border with Oregon where I talk all about our state motto and the Douglas Fir tree!
For those who watched the video and are interested in more Native American origin stories and literature, here are a couple resources provided by Seattle Public Schools:
Some Indigenous Read-Aloud Books by Grade Level:
The American Indian Resource Library offers a great deal of information and literature which you can explore using the link below:
For more information on the Douglas Fir tree including the origin story with the mice, check out the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Blog:
Do-it-Yourself Seed Starters using Paper Pulp!
Hello Gatewood Gators and welcome to the very first Monthly Bonus activity! Please watch the video below to try your hand at making your very own recycled paper seed starters to use for spring planting!
Materials Needed: Scrap Paper (newspaper, used printer paper, tissue paper, etc), Warm Water, a Blender/Food Processor (or skip this step and use your hands to process after your paper has a long soak!), and a Muffin Tin (or any small cups, bowls or ramekins for shaping your pulp into a usable container!).
Feel free to email me pictures of the final product to post on the website. Please do not hesitate to contact if you have questions!