The Coast Guard PIE Program!

The Coast Guard has been instrumental in the development and growth of the garden this year! Through their PIE program, Quander students and staff have been able to work with and meet many wonderful Coast Guard members and our garden has benefited greatly as well.  But let me allow SN Carl Weaver, whom I have worked the most with this year in my Biology and Geosystems classes, explain a little more about the program. Take it away Carl…


The Coast Guard actively participates in their communities through a variety of programs, such as the Partnerships in Education (PIE) Program. The PIE Program encourages Coast Guard men and women, including active duty, reserve, civilians, contractors, and auxiliary members to participate in school and community activities approved by their local command. These volunteers work directly with students to heighten their awareness of traditional Coast Guard values: drug-free lifestyles, emphasis on scholarship, personal initiative, responsibility, and individual self-worth. The PIE Program also works in the classroom, fostering education and growth. Quander Road School is an approved facility for the Coast Guard Telecommunications and Information Systems Command (TISCOM).

Top picture is at the start of clean up in September, Bottom picture is after! 

The volunteers from TISCOM have been helping in the Quander Road School garden project. In September 2016, they cleared the excessive growth (some plants were nearly 6 feet tall) from the garden, relocated several structures, and tilled the vegetable rows.


After the winter, the Coast Guard volunteers returned in March 2017 and mowed the grass in the garden, filled the planters with mulch and soil, pulled weeds, tilled the garden, and laid a wood mulch path. They returned again in April to assist in maintaining the garden.




What’s been happening!

So much has been happening here in the garden as well in our classes! Here are a few pictures!

The students have build a new compost bin and it is such a beauty! As well as planting in all of the raised beds!


We have native flowers blooming and of course we have all learned that some of the 17 year cicadas have emerged 4 years early!

Cicadas and Blooms! 

For those who weren’t aware Farmer Chris dropped off some eggs which we have hatched and are getting BIG! The students and staff were surprised to learned that not ALL chickens are yellow!


And the students are learning that chickens will eat right out of your hand!


Students and staff also learned that turtles can lay eggs even when unfertilized! They learned that if the eggs stay inside the turtle she can become egg bound and it can make her ill and even cause her to die.  Thanks to Dr. Stahl  we know that  Lily Snapper is carrying 11 eggs and we can expect them any day now! (more to come on that later)


Finally staff and students have gotten all of the wonderful native plants from Earth Sangha’s wild plant nursery planted in our pollinator garden!


Next we will be planting in our native meadow stay tuned…

Meet Barbara one of our wonderful volunteers!


PicTapGo-Image.jpgHello! I am excited to introduce Barbara Elkin! Barbara is one of our fantastic volunteers! She has brought such a vast amount of knowledge that is so rich in information to us that I don’t know what we’d be doing without her. She implemented the worm farm here at Quander as well as giving us many of her heirloom tomato plants that she started from seed at home. We are so excited to have her here at Quander but let me let her tell you a little more about herself! Take it away Barbara…

Hi I’m Barbara, I am so excited to be volunteering with the Quander School garden program this year. I have been a serious gardener at my home in New Alexandria for the past 37 years, focusing primarily on vegetables, annuals, and perennials in both my back and front yards.  In the 1980’s I trained as a Master Gardener, and spent many years working every Saturday at the Old Town Farmer’s Market plant clinic.   Last June I retired from the Disability Rights Section of the U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division and was delighted to find that I could put my love of gardening to work so close to home as a volunteer with the Garden program.   I am also a serious worm composter, and am enjoying teaching the students about worm composting in their own classroom worm farm.  I raise unusual varieties of tomatoes from seed in my basement and am happy to see some of my plants growing in the school garden’s raised beds.  I look forward to seeing the garden program grow and hope to be involved for a long time.



We have invaders!

We have invaders! They come at night and in the early morning hours before dawn.  They force entry into the garden, assault our veggies and pull up our native plants! Who are these ANIMALS that have no regard for our hard work and dedication?  They leave behind nothing but stubs of what once were tomato plants (see picture below!) and droppings (I will spare you from that picture!).FullSizeRender.jpgYes droppings the nerve! Who would do such a thing! After researching the bite marks and the droppings students determined it was…DEER!!

That’s right DEER! Bambi and his family has declared war on our little garden here at Quander! What are we to do you ask? What we always do here at Quander fight back! WE are INNOVATIVE and RESILIENT here at Quander and we don’t just give up!

So here’s what staff and students have been doing to take back our garden!


TAKE THAT DEER! That’s right DEER! We have heard your battle cry, now hear (see) ours!

Stay tune to see if it works!


Things are happening here in the garden!

critter crop.jpg
Lizard captured in the garden shed (released unharmed into the wild after photo)

A lot has been happening here in the Quander Road Garden! Raised beds have been constructed during shop class and then placed in the garden! Students harvesting the first vegetables that they had planted as seeds! and even a few critters have been caught in the shed and then released into the wild! Stay tune for more!

First Harvest! Students harvest radishes they planted as seeds!
Students and staff build and place raised beds in the garden!



What is Worm Composting and why are we doing it at Quander Road School?

IMG_5623.JPG“Ewwwwwww! What’s a worm farm?” That’s what one of the students asked when Barbara Elkin first showed up with our worm farm.  Once she started talking about what a worm farm was and how we were going to have our own worm farm the students where enthralled. We asked Kyle one of our Garden Club members to explain what he learned and the importance of worm composting here is what he had to say…

“Worm composting is very important because it produces worm castings, a nutrient-rich soil amendment and fertilizer. It can also help people save money by creating their own soil amendment for their home garden and reduce the amount of waste that goes into a landfill. When our worm castings are ready, we will place it around the flowers and vegetables to replenish nutrients such as nitrates, phosphorus, magnesium, potassium and calcium to grow healthy plants.” ~ Kyle Ake

Thanks Kyle! The students have been maintaining the worm farm now for two months. We currently have three levels and are about to add a fourth.  Staff and students collect food scraps such as melon rinds, banana peels, and other fruits and veggies (but no citrus or peppers!)  either here at school or bringing them in from home to feed the worms. It is fun to watch the students learning responsibility and organization as well as about soil and life cycles!

From left to right: 1. students learn how to start and maintain the worm farm.  2. The inside of our worm farm.   3. One of our students showing the type of worms used in the worm farm.                                                                            Photos by Brooke LaPorta

Interested in starting your own worm farm or for more information check out the web site below!





Meet Puja!

Photo by Dani Boutte

I am so happy to introduce the second featured staff member of our wonderful garden crew Puja Gellerman!  She has been instrumental in the growth of our garden this year! She has brought so much to Quander with her vast knowledge in several educational areas; it has been an excellent learning experience for both myself and the students! I could tell you all about it but instead I’ll let her tell you herself.  Take it away Puja…

Hello there and welcome to our school garden blog! I am Puja Gellerman, a community neighbor to Quander Road School, an Occupational Therapist, Master Gardener, Registered Yoga Teacher, and Mom to an energizer bunny who is about 16 months old. I started at Quander as a volunteer working with students in the garden. It didn’t take long before I came on board to the Quander team to work part time as an Instructional Assistant (IA).

As an Occupational Therapist, I pull on my knowledge base on how to either adapt or modify a task to support a person’s participation in any given activity.  The garden serves as a meaningful place for many students. Whether it is a place to be alone, socialize, or work- there are many skills being addressed for the unique population that makes up Quander.

Throughout various classes I encourage students to participate in the garden and take on specific responsibilities such as caring for seedlings, creating structures for the garden such as a compost bin or trellis; learn about what gets composted and how to do it, and maintain a cohesive habitat to include birds, worms, and pollinators. I value being creative and discovering how the garden can be a place of learning and leisure for students and staff.

I hope you can tell how excited it makes me to be part of the Quander family!

From left to right: working in the garden center, planting seeds in our raised beds, breaking up dirt to spread, and teaching the students about composting!                                                                               Photos by Brooke LaPorta