The Garden Gate: Acorns, Frosts, and Composts

The Garden Gate: Acorns, Frosts, and Composts

by by Phil Dwyer | Earth Arts Teacher

Many crows gather early every morning under a large oak where I live. They take advantage of the cars squishing the acorns that fall in the residential parking lot and driveway. A number of gray and black squirrels busily scurry around the trees’ bounty, too. Similar acorn enthused activity is taking place on our Mountain View campus among its oak trees in the middle school courtyard. Deciduous trees are shedding their leaves. Plants are generally withdrawing from their outward spring and summer growth, as if retreating back into the Earth. We’ve had our first frosts in the garden, which seem to herald that the formative, crystalline forces will rule for the months to come, rather than the curvy biomorphic forms of the dynamic growth forces of the warmer months.

Many biodynamic (BD) farmers capitalize on the shift of energies into the earth during this time of year. Compost yards fill up with new piles of biomass to ferment and transform over the winter. The digesting activity of blooms of countless microorganisms (trillions per “handful” of now steaming biomass) heat up the compost heaps.

Pictured above is a recently created “fresh” compost pile of several cubic yards of biomass (approximately 10’x5’x5’), which will probably yield a couple of yards of finished compost.

As if to confirm the legitimacy of the compost thermometer, many students often thrust their hands into the compost heap to feel it for themselves. (We always wash our hands after every gardening class.) They can attest that things are heating up even though the days are getting cooler. In the Spring, wheelbarrows of transformed compost humus will return to the school’s garden beds to enliven our clay soils and join with the plants in their dance of photosynthesizing the sun.

Many BD farms craft a specialized compost made from cow manure. Students are pictured here taking turns “stirring” fresh manure and mixing it with pulverized egg shells, rock mineral dusts, and diatomaceous earth. It all got buried in a brick-lined pit where the five BD compost preparations—made from chamomile, yarrow, dandelion, nettle, oak bark, and valerian—were added. When this all eventually turns to humus it will become a unique compost concentrate, which will be an incredible catalytic aid for the formative and growth forces of the living realm of our campus. We eagerly look forward to putting it to good use!

12th Grade Economics

12th Grade Economics

by Marina Budrys | HS Faculty

This year the 12th grade is opening in toto Coffee Collective. Yep that’s right. We are starting a business. The Economics Main Lesson serves as an entry point for students to start to consider their relationship to materials and the processes in which materials are dealt with. The first half of the block is spent encountering varying concepts, principles, laws, and ideas within the economic realm. The second half of the class we will be thinking about the future and how the way we frame the purpose of economics has a different outcome in the decisions we make when we write a business plan.

Our Coffee Collective is made possible by the Entrepreneurial Grant we received. While the work the Class of 2022 is doing is a trial (don’t expect that coffee cart to be running every morning just yet), the framework they are developing can be used as a building block for future entrepreneurial endeavors.

P.S. Check out some beautiful Data Visualizations students made using our studio with some of their preliminary research for the coffee cart.


Music Ensembles Welcome a New Sound!

Music Ensembles Welcome a New Sound!

by Rich Armstrong | MS & HS Music Faculty

It’s been a long-standing dream to find a vibraphone and find a way to challenge the students to play this instrument.

Ever since I saw Stefon Harris play at the SF Jazz Center, I’ve been amazed by the vibraphone – a member of the mallet family that has been adopted fully into the jazz idiom. He composed cutting edge new music on his vibraphone for him and his band and it was life changing to see his expertise and virtuosity on an instrument I knew nothing about and have rarely ever heard.

Our new vibraphone is completely acoustic, but you’ll notice a plug connected to it… what’s that for?

Well, there are two motors that spin metal rods with little dampeners in the sound tubes, creating a variable vibrato. There’s a control box that can spin them faster and more slowly, depending on how much vibrato you want. And similarly to a piano, there’s a mechanical sustain pedal, making it more of a chordal instrument. Yes, chords can be played utilizing three to six mallets.

The vibraphone has a mighty acoustic tone that can be either a solo instrument in front of the band or an accompanying one, playing chords with the rhythm section.

Some famous players of the vibraphone are the aforementioned Stefon Harris, and the greats Lionel Hampton and Milt Jackson. Gary Burton is another famous vibraphonist.

My hope is you’ll get to hear this amazing instrument featured prominently in the next WSP concert. Many thanks to our Grandparent donor who made it happen for us with a donation directed towards the purchase of the instrument.

The WSP music department welcomes instrumental donations to help foster our winds and strings programs. If you have an instrument lying around unused, please consider contacting one of us music teachers to see if it can be used in the program.