Maplewood Applies for Grant to Install a Demonstration Food Forest on School Campus

This fall, the Maplewood Elementary PTA Landscaping and Grants committees worked with local nonprofit Urban Patchwork to make plans for a small demonstration food forest at the entrance to the school. Laurie Berman, PTA Grants Chair, submitted an application for a Bright Green Future School Grant from the City of Austin. We hope to receive the $3,000 grant to install the project in Spring 2017.

The proposal is for an edible food forest and rain garden near the main entrance to our school. Our partner on the project, Urban Patchwork, has lots of experience turning underutilized spaces into productive urban gardens and farms and educational spaces, and we were inspired by the Festival Beach Food Forest planned in East Austin.  We hope that the Maplewood forest will feed, educate, and inspire our school community and the surrounding neighborhood.

You might be asking what is a food forest? ” A food forest is a gardening technique or land management system, which mimics a woodland ecosystem by substituting edible trees, shrubs, perennials and annuals. Fruit and nut trees make up the upper level, while berry shrubs, edible perennials and annuals make up the lower levels.” (source: Beacon Food Forest). The location we have identified is the triangle to the left of the school’s main entrance. This space is sufficient to host four small varieties of fruit trees as well as eight edible understory plants and lots of rainbed ground plants that will support the fruit trees and soil health, and add seasonal interest to brighten the entry to the school. There will be a focus on educational aspects of the garden with signage and seating. The food forest will provide an engaging outdoor learning space for educators to align math, science, arts, literacy learning objectives with outdoor experiences.

The Bright Green Futures grant is funded by the city’s Office of Sustainability, and is intended to “recognize and support innovative projects that will inspire students to become lifelong environmental stewards.” We hope that we receive the funds and are working on installation next spring!

Maplewood Food Forest and Rain Garden. Design by Urban Patwork.

Design by Urban Patchwork.






Coding at Maplewood

By Torie Camp

Nine Maplewood 4th graders recently gathered in the library A/V room as a part of Maplewood’s Coding Club. As students arrive, they confidently select a computer from the computer cart, plug in head phones and log onto their computers and accounts. This is the fourth meeting of this club and students know what to do. If there are questions, students ask each other for help or if they get really stuck, they can ask their “guru,” Maplewood mom and computer science club leader, Kristen Taylor.

Students utilize along with to work through a series of 8 lessons. The lessons are centered around a theme such as Music and Sound or Storytelling.

Students enjoy the lessons and frequently share their successes with their peers. “I like the computer science club because it gives me a chance to understand how computer scientists use code to make computers do whatever we want them to do,” said Iris Nicholson.

The Coding Club is the brain child of Kristin Taylor, Mr. Ludlow, 4th grade teacher, and Ms. Braziel, Maplewood’s librarian. A 5th grade group of students meets during lunch once a week and another group of 4th and 5th graders meets Thursday afternoons.

Ms. Braziel is currently looking for parents interested in helping with an “Hour of Code ™” event in early December to give every Maplewood student an opportunity to try coding. Contact her at if you can help or just sign up at

The ‘Hour of Code™’ is a nationwide initiative by Computer Science Education Week and to introduce millions of students to one hour of computer science and computer programming.

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Photos by Torie Camp. Used with permission.


Melon Monday at Maplewood, an interview with Periwinkle Schuster

On Monday, November 14, PTA volunteers served all 496 Maplewood students melon from our school garden, with reinforcements from the grocery store. Afterward I interviewed Periwinkle Schuster, chair of the Gardening and Landscaping Committee, who organized the event.
Jennifer Potter-Miller

How did the melon patch come about?

Last year I volunteered in the garden at Maplewood Elementary School by spending time outside while the kids where at recess. At the end of the year last year I was thinking about what I was going to grow over the summer, and melon tends to do really well. I was going to be unable to come to the school to tend to anything over the summer, so I used permaculture and I hugeled the bed with wood and soil and compost from home. The 4th graders in Mr. Ludlow’s class, which is next to the greenhouse, helped me plant all the seeds, we watered them, and then it was the end of school.

When I came back school was back in session, and our vine had proliferated. It had grown, and grown and grown! It was such a thrill to myself and the kids, who were so excited that our seeds grew. I also had sent the kids home with seeds, but I’m not sure if theirs grew at all. They did feel immense pride and ownership in our melon patch.

And how did you plan today’s lunchtime melon distribution?

Two years ago Dusty Harshman and I did something very similar with kale, where we made kale chips. So I just used what was modeled to me and tried to add to the lunch schedule instead of interrupting it. So thanks to the volunteers that came out to help today (thanks volunteers!) we were able to give every student at the school an opportunity to taste the melon either grown in our garden or supplemented from the grocery store.

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Photos by Torie Camp and Jennifer Potter-Miller