The Bees’ Knees: Bobcats Field Trip to Community Garden

Written by Peter. Posted in Education, Sustainability, Whole Child Education

– by Peter Minde

In June, the Unity Charter School Bobcats traveled to the Morristown Community Garden on Early Street to learn about bee keeping.  In addition to the community garden plots, Farmer Shaun keeps bees at the far end of the Early Street plot.


The Bobcats started with a lesson from Farmer Shaun, complete with photographs.  He described the queen bee, the drone and the worker and their respective roles in a colony.  The Bobcats then had a spirited discussion over the relative merits of drone and worker bees.


After his presentation, Farmer Shaun brought the Bobcats down a narrow path on the overgrown back half of the lot.  In the furthest corner were two beehives.  Farmer Shaun ordered three pounds of bees by mail to start the colony.  Who knew one ordered bees by the pound?  His colony is now up to 60,000 bees.

Farmer Shaun dons protective clothing before handling the beehives.

Farmer Shaun dons protective clothing before handling the beehives.

Bobcats watch as Farmer Shaun works his magic.

Bobcats watch as Farmer Shaun works his magic.


The bees’ knees: how many bee knees can you see?

The queen is in there somewhere.  Can you find her?

The queen is in there somewhere. Can you find her?

The beehives stood on an old cement foundation in a lot overgrown with brush.  Farmer Shaun told us that we were standing in an abandoned scrap metal yard.  It had been reclaimed by nature, so to speak.  It’s possible that in the not too distant future, the back lot will be cleared to provide additional garden plots for the neighborhood.


p-minde-alt-portrait  Peter Minde is a father of a Unity 5th grader. A member of Unity’s Board of Trustees, he chairs the Whole School Viability committee.  He is a freelance writer and a personal trainer.


Community Members Share Recipes for Sustainable Eating

Written by Peter. Posted in Health and Nutrition, Sustainability

Here are two recipes for sustainable eating, contributed by Catherine Delett.  Do you have a favorite vegan or vegetarian recipe you’d like to share?  Send it to blogeditor [at] unitycharterschool [dot] org. Slow Cooker Refried Beans:
  • 1 onion, peeled and halved
  • 2 cups dry pinto beans, rinsed
  • ½ fresh jalapeño or other hot pepper, seeded and chopped (or powdered cayenne pepper)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced (or garlic powder)
  • ¾ teaspoons salt
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper
  • One big pinch of cumin
  • 6 cups water
1.Combine all ingredients in slow cooker. [Catherine uses a six-quart slow cooker -Ed.] 2.Cook on high for 8 hours or overnight while you are sleeping. 3.Remove the bigger onion chunks and drain the excess liquid. (Save excess liquid to adjust beans to desired consistency.) 4.Mash remaining beans with a potato masher. Serve in bowls, in tortillas, or however you like.   Honey Cookies: 
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/8 tsp. salt
  • 1 cup sugar (for rolling – optional)
1.Preheat oven to 300. 2.In a mixing bowl combine flour, soda, and salt. 3.Cream together the butter and sugar. Add the honey and cream well. 4.Slowly add the flour mixture and mix until just blended. cookies Drop dough by rounded spoonfuls into bowl of sugar and roll to coat, if desired. You can also chill and make into cut-out cookies. Bake for 15-18 minutes until edged are golden and set. Allow to cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes before transferring to rack to cool completely.

Paper Garden: Art from Recycled Material

Written by Peter. Posted in Education, Sustainability

– by Jen Carcich [Editor:  Welcome spring!  While it’s been too cold for much to be growing outside in Mother Nature, Jen’s 2/3 class has been busy bringing spring inside in a sustainable way.  Enjoy these colorful photos of sustainable art: the recycled and repurposed paper garden!] Our spring garden was created in March by the students during Art Center time.  The children were given a set of oral and written directions and then were set free to create!  Everything on the board came from paper items that were re-purposed:
  • The four leaf clovers were made from toilet paper rolls cut into thin rings, bent into heart shapes, then painted and glued together with Elmer’s glue.
  • The flowers were made out of old holiday and greeting cards and egg cartons.  The children first cut one “cup” from the egg carton, then chose a greeting card.  They used a cup to trace a large circle and a small circle from the card.  They snipped the edges of the card circles and bent then upward to make the petals.  They then glued the egg cup onto the big circle and glued the small circle into the egg carton.  This created the flower head.  The stems were cut from scrap wallpaper. The “grass” was repurposed from sections of an old wallpaper book.
paper-gdn-1 Students used scrap-paper and wallpaper to design their diamond kite bodies.  Paints, crayons, markers, magazines and wallpaper may have been used for decoration, depending on how the child wanted it to look.  The kites’ tails were also made from a variety of scraps: yarn, ribbon, fabric or wallpaper. paper-gdn-2 Our garden is filled with unique Eco-friendly flowers and kites to welcome in the spring. 🙂 paper-gdn-3     j-carcich-headshot     Jen Carcich is Unity Charter School’s 2/3 learning group teacher.

Grounds Cleanup Day at Unity Charter School

Written by Peter. Posted in Civic Responsibility, Sustainability

– by Tanya Seaward On Saturday, April 13th, a small but dedicated group of Unity Charter School volunteers came together to move a mountain.  Literally.  A mountain of mulch that needed to be spread in our playground and garden area.  Our volunteers spread as much mulch as they could manage, worked hard to get the compost back on track, and fixed the garden fence to keep out those pesky groundhogs! Despite the fact that our families are drawn from many different towns and counties in New Jersey, UCS has always prided itself in having a strong sense of “commUnity.”   That Saturday afternoon, “commUnity” was built shovelful by shovelful, and wheelbarrow full by wheelbarrow full, when our volunteers pitched in and got their hands dirty.  Literally. Take a look at our commUnity in action:

Rob G., alumnus Ian P., and Mark C.

Margaret H. raked all day!

Margaret H. raked all day!

Grade 2/3 teacher Julia K cleaning up the garden beds.

Grade 2/3 teacher Julia K cleaning up the garden beds.

Foreground: alumna Ariel P; background: Julia K.

Foreground: alumna Ariel P; background: Julia K.

Ilya K. made a huge dent in the mulch pile!

Ilya K. made a huge dent in the mulch pile!

  portrait of Tanya Seaward Tanya Seaward is a Unity mom to three students; Jeremy, Abby and Theo.  She is a member of the Board of Trustees and Chair of the Communications Committee.  Tanya is a Chartered Accountant who enjoys gardening and leisurely rides on her bike (no hills please!).  

Earth Day at Unity Charter School

Written by Peter. Posted in Sustainability, Whole Child Education

– by Tanya Seaward In celebration of Earth Day on Monday, April 22, we put the question out to our commUnity:  “What sustainable changes has your family made since coming to Unity Charter School?” Here are some of the responses: “not useing paper tawols.” (sic) – Stevie, age 7 “reusing bags and not useing paper towls.” (sic) – Isabelle, age 8 “Carpooling for three years.” – Arnav, age 8 “Help the environment.” – Greydon, age 6 “Using the compost pile; using compost for the gardens; carpooling.  Using an electric car.” – all Lila O., age 7 [Special thanks to Lila O. for her prolific contributions to the blog! -Ed.] “Carpooling.” – Alison, age 12 “Carpooling … sometimes.” – Sierra, age 12 “Carpooling and low flow toilets.” – Ocean, age 8 “I bike to work once a week and my son bikes to school once a week.” – Jen C. “I would say the biggest change is that, while our practices have been fairly consistent, now we are more aware of what we do. Because our children are learning about sustainability at school, they are much more involved in practices at home and we have more conversations around sustainability and taking care of the earth.” – Catherine D. “Since Sarah started in Unity this year, we have made some great changes at home. We only use cloth napkins and use resuseable snack bags when taking snacks outside the home. We also use glass storage containers more and plastic bags less for storing leftovers. It’s small, but it’s a start!” – Deborah M. “We have learned so much from Unity’s vegetarian and zero-waste lunch program.  We use reusable containers, and my children don’t ask for the single-serve snack items anymore.  We eat a vegetarian meal at least once or twice per week, we are much more thoughtful about the food choices we make, and we all enjoy going to the Morristown Farmer’s market on Sundays! – Tanya S. “We have committed to more second-hand shopping in order to conserve the overwhelming resources that go into producing new items and featuring them in brick-and-mortar stores.” – Annalise S. “Buying produce from a local farmer: it reduces food miles and he uses sustainable farming techniques.” – Peter M.