Archive for the ‘Service Learning’ Category

ImageOn February 7, instructors Tom Murphy and Erin Ryan returned to Chinook with a hardworking crew of students from Edmonds Community College’s Learn and Serve Environmental Anthropology Field (LEAF) School.

The team spent the morning touring the Good Cheer Food Bank and Garden with Cary Peterson, learning about food justice, sustainable growing, and the compost cycle. They then came to the Whidbey Institute to work with Maggie Mahle to learn about the fertility cycle and soil building. The planned activity—flipping beds—was deferred due to frozen ground, so they discussed pine blister rust at the site of the felled white pines and then engaged in a service project by clearing small and large wood debris from the open forest area near the heart of Chinook. This material will be composted for use in the Hügelkultur tradition, which employs rotted wood to create nurselog-like conditions in the garden bed. They also moved gravel in to the greenhouse floor via bucket brigade, then closed with reflections in the Sanctuary.We offer our thanks to the students and instructors for their effort, assistance, and learning! We are grateful for our ongoing partnership with LEAF.

A big thank you to John Baumgardner, Justin Brooks, Kahte Culevski, Muriel DeKlerk, Daryl Douglas, Stephanie Frank, Erin Haley, Kymberly Hoyle, Sylvia Lin, Hubert Ly, Alec Meade, Chelsea Rabourn, Mac Repman, Sierra Rudnick, Hannah Siebart, Al Tidmore III, Erin Gamble, Christopher Shipway, Laurie Ross, Erin Ryan and Professor Tom Murphy!

Photos by Cary Peterson.



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With the cooler weather and shorter daylight hours, the garden’s vegetable production is slowly coming to a close. However, the work is not yet done! It’s important to put the garden to sleep for the winter. The students from the Learn and Serve Environmental Anthropology Field (LEAF) School from Edmonds Community College came to the Westgarden to learn about ways to prepare the garden for the next season.

A great way to prevent weeds from germinating, to prevent soil erosion, and to restore nutrients in the soil is to plant cover crop seed. Earlier in the summer, we had planted buckwheat, an excellent bee forage plant as well as a fast-growing, reliable warm weather cover crop. The plants were mature, so we collected the seed to plant again next year!


While some were collecting seed, others were flipping the compost pile. We added a biodynamic compost starter to add beneficial bacteria and fungus to the pile. Turning the decomposing plant matter onto the fresher plant matter speeds up the composting process, so that it will be fully decomposed and ready to use in the spring!


Next, we weeded, edged, and flipped three garden beds to show the different ways to prepare a bed for the winter.

With the first bed, we planted garlic in worm castings, and mulched the bed with straw.


In the second bed, we sowed a mix of cover crop seed, including nitrogen fixing legumes Austrian field pea, fava bean, hairy vetch and crimson clover, along with winter rye, a hardy grain. Then we put row cover on the bed to keep birds from pecking out the seeds. Soon, the bed will be a lush and green. The plant roots will hold in the soil and add nutrients needed after a good productive growing season!

In the third bed, we mulched the bed with comfrey leaves, an excellent source of nitrogen and potassium that breaks down rapidly. A thick layer of comfrey leaves a few inches high will break down in just a few weeks and add to the soil’s organic matter.

Voilà! Three garden beds prepped and ready for the spring.


Many thanks to LEAF students Jo-Ann Fjellman, Erin Gamble, Keegan Artz, Kymberlye Hoyle, Kelson Mcconnell, Megan Taylor, Scott Noll, Tyler Smith, and professor Tom Murphy, for helping winterize the garden!

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Love that compost! That is what students from the Learn and Serve Environmental Anthropology Field (LEAF) School from Edmonds Community College learn every quarter during their service learning visit to the Good Cheer Food Bank and Garden, and their service project at the Whidbey Institute Westgarden.

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It all starts with organic matter providing the fertility and tilth to the soil. Students turned over compost in the bins, harvested some for use in the garden, and sprayed biodynamic compost preps to enliven the compost and help it break down more quickly and effectively.

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The potatoes had some strange summer blight, so we cut them back and harvested them. To restore the soil, compost was added and we planted buckwheat as a summer cover crop and late forage for the honey bees.

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Lots of potatoes, despite the early harvest!

 LEAF 19jul13 clearing out under apple tree1_0933Over by the apple tree, we had been loosely following an apple tree guild based on permaculture principles, but the comfrey was getting out of hand for the small space. So we pulled the comfrey and added it to the compost.  When transformed, this compost will enrich our garden soil in the spring. In place of the invasive comfrey, we will be planting other herbs and flowers to attract pollinators.

Last but not least, our favorite chickens! LEAF students constructed the chicken run a year ago, and have been expanding it in subsequent visits. The chickens have made a nice run around the garden, but weeds do come in along the edges.

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We pulled back the chicken wire and really cleaned up the run! With the additional chickens that Alexa raised, we are really in good shape now! Not only do we love their eggs, we love their manure for the compost. It’s all part of the cycle of fertility that grows the garden.

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A big thank you to students Lia Andrews, Ana Barrera, Zander Danskin, Kyle Dewey, Daryl Douglas, Christopher Ellison, Mark Glinskiy, Joshua Hart, Jan Hutchinson, Cheryl Kennedy, Minda Mina, Sierra Rudnick, Christopher Shipway, Yosief Tesfamariam, Daniel Villarreal, Nick Weaver, Hao Wu, Program Assistant Erin Ryan and Professor Tom Murphy!

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Which way do the drops of rain flow on the watershed divide on the road to Thomas Berry Hall? North to Miller Lake, and south to the Quade Creek! Wartburg College (Iowa) students learned about the Maxwelton watershed, and the thriving and engaged South Whidbey community and environment on their recent week-long visit to the Whidbey Institute from May 3 – 9.

This week was part of their May Term in Leadership and Spirituality, and also included visits to the Lakota Nation and Holden Village. As part of their service while here, the students volunteered at several of South Whidbey’s non-profits, starting with Hearts and Hammers on Saturday, May 4th. An active week followed, with service learning at the Whidbey Institute, Whidbey Camano Land Trust (Naas Natural Area Preserve), Good Cheer Food Bank and Garden, and Whidbey Watershed Stewards. See the slide show below!

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What a magical week it was, with great connections, deep learning and meaningful service! Our deep appreciation to Jordan Finch, Lauren Mapes, Megan Puls, Amy Sampson, Katlyn Underwood, Haddie Vawter, Tanner Wenger and Professor Fred Waldstein for their service to our community!

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With spring upon us, our veggies are really starting to take off! The list of garden chores to do is similarly growing in size… What can you get done in just a few hours? With a group of motivated, dynamic college students on board, it turns out that you can get a LOT done!

After a great lunch prepared by the Whidbey Insitute’s Chef Christyn Johnson (who knew that a raw chard and kale salad could taste so good?!), we split up into teams, some of us taking on a renovation of the chicken run, and others weeding, harvesting mulch, flipping the compost, and planting potatoes. First, we did a little weeding of the chicken run. The hens won’t eat nettles or comfrey, so a little maneuvering is necessary to crawl in and pull it out.


Our hens love the run that loops around the garden.
Apparently, so do our volunteers!

Next, a chicken culvert was built so the gate could open. Then we could extend the chicken run up to the greenhouse. The run now loops almost entirely around the garden! We also added a skirt around the chicken coop. The coop was raised up onto cinder blocks last week, to deter pests from entering the coop, and to give the hens a dry, cool place to take dust baths.

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While Team Chicken was occupied, another group started harvesting mulch from a slope adjacent to the garden. Woody debris from land cleanups has been tossed onto this slope for decades, and the decomposing debris has become rich mulching material. We used the mulch on our herb beds.

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Some volunteers also flipped our compost pile, weeded, and planted potatoes!

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Whew! All that hard work done and in only a few hours. Much gratitude to our amazing volunteer team from the Learn and Serve Environmental Anthropology Field (LEAF) School from Edmonds Community College.


Thanks to the LEAF team: Marshall Kramer, Kyle Dewey, Jacob Assink, Grace Coale, James Elize, Cory Gunn, Aydan Hart-Mylie, Adrian Huebner, Connor Lenseigne, Chris Madison, Audrey Meyer, Scott Noll, Chelsea Rabourn, Christopher Shipway, Megan Taylor, Thi Van, Jessica Villines, Jacob West-Ugartechea, to garden apprentices Camille Green, Casey Jackson, and Alexa MacAulay, and to coordinators Maggie Mahle and Cary Peterson.

                                                                                                                                       ~~~ Alexa MacAulay

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LEAF in garden 1mar13_0579

It is always a great pleasure when the LEAF Service Learning Program of Edmonds Community College comes to the Westgarden! On March 1st, we started the day with a visit to the Good Cheer Food Bank and Garden to learn about sustainable agriculture and community systems. A delicious lunch made by Chef Chrystyn followed that included kale, collards and potatoes from the Westgarden.

Then LEAF transformed the garden again with another terrific service project getting the garden ready for spring! The focus was sustainability and fertility cycles, and what better way to learn than to…

LEAF 1mar13 harvesting vermicastings_4239  LEAF 1mar13 hauling vermicastings_4263
Harvest worm castings from our concrete in-ground worm bin and transport them to the garden where we’ll use them to amend the soil,
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Turn over the garden compost, and free up a bin for all those vermicastings…
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And flip over cover crops to increase the organic matter and richness of the soil.
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The beds were sprayed with biodynamic Pfeiffer Field and Garden Spray, which inoculated the soil with beneficial soil microorganism to help with decomposing the cover crops. Mulching will reduce weeds, retain moisture and reduce leaching while the cover crops break down.
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Lots of little lettuce and kale sprouts were transplanted into soil blocks, and peas, already sprouted in soil blocks, were planted in the garden.

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WOW! A big thank you to: Jacob Assink, Grace Coale, Scott Collins, Alexzander Danskin, Francis Gregory, Sierra Klug, Tammi Koffler Coza, Sam LeBrun, Kyli Rhynalds, Gazella Richard, Paul Ritzman, Christopher Shipway, Dannika Stone, Leif Takacs, Jessica Villines, and Professor Tom Murphy, Americorp volunteer Marshall Kramer and Westgarden volunteer Mully Mullally.
We are ready for spring!

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  As a result of a deepening commitment to the care of its land, the Whidbey Institute is creating a new position: Land Care Coordinator.  This position will coordinate all aspects of the care and maintenance of the Chinook Lands: 72 acres of forest, wetlands, meadows, vegetable and flower gardens, and landscaped areas that make up the Whidbey Institute. The Land Coordinator will be responsible for the management of these different ecosystems so that they are healthy, sustainable, and integrated with the educational mission and activities of the Institute and with the local community.  This will be achieved in part through the service learning, educational and volunteer based activities of the Learning from the Land Program.

Further description and information can be found here: Land Care Coordinator_Job Description_Whidbey Institute 2012

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