Winter 2010 048As the temperature dips below -15F, we have to ask ourselves how the perennials, buried there so deeply underground, will manage to spring to life in just a few short months. How do they do that? Is it possible the snow will melt, the grass will green, and we’ll find swallowtail butterflies dipping and dodging in the breeze?

Yes, garden friends. We will.

In the meantime, check out this eye candy from the GROW Coalition and get on your planning hat. Spring is just around the corner.

OK, just around the frozen corner.


VHE Outdoor Classroom Exploding with Color…and food!


Prairie Blazing Star, or liatris (before bloom)



Mini Zinnia

Mini Zinnia





Purple Prairie Clover (aromatic leaves...rub them and smell--lovely!)

Purple Prairie Clover (aromatic leaves…rub them and smell–lovely!)



Lettuces of many stripes (Thank you, Oakhill Correctional Vocational Horticulture Program!!!)

Lettuces of many stripes (Thank you, Oakhill Correctional Vocational Horticulture Program!!!)

ImageLanceleaf coreopsis (in the rain garden)

Red Russian Kale forest (volunteered from last summer's seeds)

Red Russian Kale forest (volunteered from last summer’s seeds)


Butterfly Weed

A great year for snap peas!
A great year for snap peas!

New items on wish list

4714774580576310_fEGbXbK9_cFolks, we’re gearing up for another growth spurt in our outdoor classroom. Check out the items in our wish list. Topping the list of fun items is an old boat or canoe we can stabilize in the garden for kids to play in. What a great use for an old boat!

We’re also looking for someone with carpentry skills to take some time to assemble raised beds. We’ll get the lumber, we’ll have it sawed into the right dimensions, and we’ll deliver it. All you have to do is screw it together into raised beds. We need them by April 20th.

Sound like someone you know could help? Put them in touch! Call Mary at 608/658-8914 or

Mushroom fun in room 125

From Molly Krolczyk, a garden parent volunteer:
Mushroom kit

On February 13, kids from Ms. Ostertag’s class harvested some of their mushrooms!  Here is what happened:

  • Caleb and Batool delivered some to Ms. Anne in the front office and Mrs. Keeler, our principal. (Ms. Keeler was out of the office at the time).
  • Ms. Anne shared after school that she had eaten her mushroom and loved it.  She had all kinds of awesome words to describe its fresh taste vs. the store bought mushrooms.  She said she’d be happy to stop in the class sometime when she is going by to share her mushroom tasting experience with the kids in room 125!
  • Kendra is jazzed to write on the red chart in the room with a mushroom harvest update.
  • More mushrooms should grow.
  • A big poster made by Lola is now hanging in the hall (with permission from the office).   It’s across from the big clay project.  It shares information about the mushroom project for the whole community.
  • All the kids drew (and some labeled) the parts of the mushrooms today with oil pastels and painted over them with more watercolor fun!  Thanks Kathy for helping all those little artists with their brushes and water in such a short amount of time.  Kathy Broznya (another garden room parent) and I noticed that no two projects looked the same!  Lots of creative mushroom paintings out there.
  • Some kids were just totally fascinated looking at the huge gills under the big broken mushroom cap.
  • Lola’s family took extra mushrooms home tonight to get the dirt off and return to class tomorrow for those interested in taste testing.
  • Huge thanks to Ms. Ostertag for supporting this little growing project and making space in her class for it to happen, and making a “job” for different students to water them.
  • The young gardeners in rooms 125 and 103 are now growing sweet potato vines in water jars on their windowsills!

Thanks, Molly, for all your mushroom action!!

Our web site

Did you know that since 2010, the Van Hise Elementary Outdoor Classroom web site has had nearly 10,000 page views? We average between five and ten visitors a day, and we have had visitors from more than 15 countries across the globe.

Yep, our little garden is FAMOUS.


Thoughts for the deep of winter


I sat in the garden, spattered
by the great drops of winter,
and it seemed to me impossible
that beneath all that sadness,
that crumbled solitude,
the roots were still at work
with no one to encourage them.

From Pablo Neruda: Absence and Presence


We must protect the forests for our children,
grandchildren and children yet to be born.
We must protect the forests for those
who can’t speak for themselves
such as the birds, animals, fish and trees.

Zitkala-Ša, Yankton Sioux Woman


That land is a community is the basic concept of ecology,
but that land is to be loved and respected
is an extension of ethics.

Aldo Leopold, A Sand County Almanac


Treat the Earth well:
We do not inherit it from our Ancestors,
we borrow it from our Children.

Ancient Indian Proverb


A bird does not sing because it has an answer.
It sings because it has a song.

Chinese Proverb


The miracle is not to walk on water. The miracle is to walk on the green earth, dwelling deeply in the present moment and feeling truly alive.

Thich Nhat Hanh