MEA Gardens & Chickens

Garden Educator: Ms. Shannon Stewart

Shannon Stewart is a former professional animal trainer-turned garden educator.
After almost two decades in the animal theme park industry, she discovered her love for and connection to gardens...and guiding students through the “growing food and pollinator gardens” formula.
She’s a former collegiate (Biology degree) soccer player with a love for anything outdoors, kids, animals, and gardens—not necessarily always in that order.
She’s a mom to an active 10 year old boy, lives in the Clairemont community, and is beginning her 3rd year of teaching Sage Garden Project curriculum at two local elementary schools.
She is also a National Geographic Certified Educator.
If she isn’t working in the gardens, you’ll find her writing grants to support all the items needed to keep every garden healthy and vibrant, walking neighbor’s dogs with her son, or enjoying the amazing outdoor spaces around San Diego...and beyond.
She’s excited to be a part of the close-knit, garden-loving Mt. Everest community!

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Coop Group

Day - Tuesday

Time - 9:30 - 10:15

At the coop

The MEA Coop Group has fun hanging out with the chickens as well as cleaning their coop. All secondary students, grades 6-12, are welcome to come help out!

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Open Coop Hour

Day - Wednesday

Time - 11:30 - 12:30

At the coop

This hour is open for all students who wish to come and get to know the chickens. K-5 students must be accompanied by a chaperone. We will occasionally harvest greens growing from the gardens to offer them as well. We will be mindful of washing hands after interacting with the chickens: food for kids first (if eating on campus), then food for chickens.

Questions? Contact Shannon Stewart

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Lucky number 13!

MEA students completed 13 hours of service learning time this past week, working in both the chicken garden and the front garden.

We moved compost into the raised beds, mulched the Hügelkultur bed, and weeded around the fence line and raised beds in the front garden area.

The students are phenomenal workers, and it really ends up being a fantastic social time.

Come join us!

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Impromptu harvest stand!

Lots of great veggies and flowers coming from the MEA gardens!

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C3 fun moments!

Highlights included:

  • Fresh cucumber and corn treats for the chickens
  • Planting wheat grass trays
  • Choosing and planting sunflowers seeds
  • Having a senior (Anna) help out!

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Celebrate Earth Week with "C3"

Earth day is this Friday (Earth Day, the annual international event demonstrating support for environmental protection, was established in 1970 and is celebrated in 192 countries each year. It is always celebrated on April 22 and has grown into a full week’s celebration known as Earth Week).

What better way to celebrate than to plant sunflowers “for the bees”…and plant wheat grass seeds “for these” (our resident chickens, who help remove unwanted pests from the gardens, contribute to the compost tumblers, and are just fun to be around!)

Each student will receive their own sunflower seed packet, and we will find areas in the front gardens and chicken gardens to plant a few seeds. The students may then take the rest of the seeds home!

We will also be creating wheat grass trays (planting seeds) to nurture and grow to keep our chickens healthy!

Please sign your K-5 student in at the front office (enrichment form) and Miss Shannon will greet and walk all students together to the coop.

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Coop group is growing!

Edel and Lorelei joined the core five (=Miranda, Malia, Devante, Amaya, and Sophia), along with Margaret, to round out a productive coop group meet-up.

The members changed out both water containers, made sure the chicken food was available, raked the entire home, disposed of the green waste, and spent time bonding with the 3 hens over lettuce and dried mealworm treats.

They all had a chance to meet Jim, a local neighborhood resident and mega chicken supporter.

The students were amazed at how responsive the chickens were to Jim’s presence—Chris sprinted out of the coop to get close to him!

We always have a ton of fun, and accomplish husbandry needs for our resident chickens.

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Hunting Caterpillars

Coop Group member, Sophia, admiring the raised bed veggies—all grown from seed—and hunting for caterpillars that seem to be nibbling the giant Swiss chard.

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What grows in school gardens?

LINK TO FLYER which includes studies and research into the many ways students grow by being involved in school gardens.
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Calling all bucket brigade helpers! January 2022

Miss Shannon and Mr. Shane made a trek out to San Pasqual Valley Soils in Escondido to acquire 6 cubic yards of compost.

It is now near the chicken garden, and Miss Shannon needs help moving the compost into the back 3 beds…using buckets!

If you are in need of service hours, or just want to see the garden beds completed (so we can plant and grow more wonderful crops!), please reach out to Miss Shannon ( or find her on campus.

What’s a bucket brigade, you ask?

“A bucket brigade or human chain is a method for transporting items where items are passed from one person to the next. The method was important in firefighting before the advent of hand-pumped fire engines, whereby firefighters would pass buckets to each other to extinguish a blaze.”

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"C3" 2/16/22

The K-5 students enjoyed their first C3 (Chicken Coop Cooperative) session last Wednesday.

Not only did the students help provide a variety of nutritious greens for the chickens, they also learned about the difference between treats and “regular food” for them.

Every student was also able to experience picking up Zira, our only tactile-tolerant chicken.

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Looking for semester service hours?

Look no further than our multiple garden spaces. We have tons of weeds… And tons of mulch.

The hour sessions go by quickly when you’re having fun in the gardens!

Please reach out to Miss Shannon to schedule a time.

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Elementary students participated in a Sage Garden Project lesson with Chef Nancy and Miss Shannon. Students learned about eating with the seasons and prepared some very tasty salads. Students used safety knives to cut the fruits and vegetables needed for the recipes. Please enjoy these recipes in your own kitchen!

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World’s first ADA accessible (and ballerina ready) Hügelkultur bed

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Hügelkultur Helpers Fall 2021

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Watch this video to see how this incredibly fertile garden bed is created!

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Would you like to create a mandala?

Miss Shannon has been working with several students on a wood slice seed mandala art creation over the past few months. The slices will be mounted onto the freshly student-painted pallets outside the chickens.

If you are interested in creating a wood slice seed mandala in the maker space with Miss Shannon, please email her to set up a time over the next few weeks. It takes about two hours to create just one of these beautiful pieces (can be done in two, one hour sessions). You must be comfortable using a hot glue gun with glue sticks.

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Help Needed Fall 2021

Delivery! Fresh eucalyptus mulch near the chickens.

Wanted: Help spreading the mulch (weed prevention) around the new garden beds, by the chickens.

Will provide: Wheelbarrows and pitchforks

Looking for: Excited students in grades 6-12 to help create a beautiful and useful space!

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Huge shout out to Mac for a ton of work!

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Kinders in the garden

Creating a cat grass (wheat grass) seed tray for the chickens!

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1st graders in the garden

Selecting seasonally appropriate seeds (cool season crops), planting white icicle radish seeds, and enjoying garden fresh carrots + more mammoth melting snow peas!

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2nd graders in the garden

Sage lesson + chicken treat time (corn from the MEA gardens)!

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Transplanting Pumpkin Seedlings

Ms. Patterson’s 5th graders experienced an additional garden day, working with Miss Shannon in the “pumpkin graveyard” at school.

Since the area behind the large pine tree (chicken coop garden area) became the “drop and chop” location for the fall festival pumpkins (from the catapult and pumpkin painting station), some seeds have sprouted!

Miss Shannon asked the 5th graders if they believed they could transplant some of the seedlings and move them to a sunnier location—and they were up to the challenge!

The students mixed soil (wheelbarrows of compost and raised bed soil), chose the seedlings they wanted to save, re-planted them, and moved them to the front garden.

The re-potted pumpkin seedlings are currently placed in trays of water to allow a wicking action to keep them hydrated.

Only time will tell if we are able to harvest pumpkins from these seedlings in 110+ days!

That will be quite an early harvest!

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4th graders in the gardens!

The third Sage Garden session with Miss Shannon included a discussion on seasonality (cool vs warm & plant requirements) and diversity (annuals vs perennials) in the gardens, learning how to read a seed packet, planting lettuce seeds in starter pots, harvesting a carrot and slicing it up to eat in the garden, and harvesting more mammoth melting snow peas to eat right away!

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Succulent Arrangements Fundraiser

We still have plenty of succulent arrangements offered at the front of school. This is a fundraiser for our gardens/chickens, as we are always in need of inputs for both areas—food for chickens, worm castings for the gardens, and more!

Valentine’s Day and Easter are coming up—these are great, affordable gifts for your loved ones.

Suggested minimum donation is $5.

There is a box just inside the office, near Ms. Ramos. Please feel free to drop donations there.

The Coop Group students thank you in advance!

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Garden Expansion

Have you seen the recent garden improvements on campus? Mr. Zappala and Miss Shannon have been working tirelessly to create a hybrid area near the chickens—a “Zen meets food production” space for all students to enjoy!

Keep an eye out for an invitation for an event in the space very soon!

The raised garden beds (our very generous MEA foundation purchased from an Oregon-based company) turned out to be absolutely stunning!

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Miss Shannon and Mr. Shane were able to acquire about 4 yd.³ of Miramar Greenery Compost to begin the process of filling the beds. It will take several runs to the Greenery to do this, and we will only fill the beds about 3/4 full with this material. The last 20 inches will be excellent quality raised bed soil from San Pasqual Valley soils.

We will soon need help doing the “bucket brigade party” to move compost to the back beds. We will make an announcement for times in the near future.

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Coop Group 1/6/22

The first week back to school after Winter break marked a well attended Thursday Coop Group meet up.

The students did a wonderful job cleaning out the coop and removing leaves and twigs from the netting that protects the chickens from outside predators.

The students also shoveled out about a dozen buckets of soiled dirt. Lots of rain = stinky coop!

They work hard, they have fun, and the chickens always receive garden fresh treats at the end. This time, it was an abundance of bolted lettuce.

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New Year's Message from Miss Shannon

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* * LATE Fall 2021 * *

Recipes from Nutritional Science

Elementary students made Chimichurri and Herb Hummus last week in their Nutrition Science classes with Chef Nancy and Miss Shannon. Here are the recipes they followed. Kinders are pictured below making Chimichurri.

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Chirstmas Tree Bookshelf Fundraiser

Miss Shannon’s significant other, Mr. Shane, offered his construction expertise to craft wood Christmas tree bookshelves. The coop group students would like to offer these as a fundraising opportunity so that we can acquire soil for the new 16 foot long raised garden beds.

There are six bookshelves available right now in the front office, with a bag of tchotchkes to accompany each bookshelf. The suggested donation for one bookshelf + one bag (both together) is minimum $25. If there’s more interest in the bookshelves, Mr. Shane can construct them and Miss Shannon will stain them as people request them.

Please email:

If you would like one and there isn’t one available!

Makes for a wonderful Christmas gift! They are either a gray stain or an Ebony stain—you may request!

All proceeds will go directly back towards purchasing raised bed soil for the incoming garden beds. We will be growing for the school and for our chickens!

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Massive Pinecones Fundraiser

Miss Shannon also has Sugar pine and Coulter pine pinecones available in the front office. The suggested donation is $5 per pinecone, with all proceeds benefiting the gardens and chickens. These are massive pinecones, and make for great statement pieces!

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Hügelkultur Bed Progress

Two weeks ago, Miss Shannon had some amazing helpers working on the Hügelkultur bed. We need to continue the progress…


If you happen to have any tree leaves around your area/home, both fresh and dried, we are in need of bags and bags of leaves for this future Hügelkultur bed. If you would like to bring them to the school and drop them off, you may place them outside of the chicken coop gate and Miss Shannon will bring them into the school as she sees them.

Please refrain from bagging up pine needles or liquid amber tree pods (spiky balls!)

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Sage Garden Lesson

“Do the ROT thing”

If your K through 5 children were identifying compostable items in your home last week, it was because of our fun “Do the ROT thing” Sage Garden lesson with Miss Shannon, all about compost!

All students learned how to identify items that are and are not compostable, investigated our vermicompost bin, assisted with making newspaper bedding for the worms, added compost to our six raised bed growing spaces, and harvested fresh mammoth melting snow peas from the gardens. It’s always great to eat straight from our MEA Gardens! Looking forward to chef Nancy‘s connected nutritional science lessons next week.

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Coop Group 12/2/21

We had an excellent turn out for Thursdays MEA coop group meet up and extensive cleaning. All three chickens were excited for the activity and attention. The students continually do an excellent job maintaining a thoroughly cleaned chicken area.

We meet on Thursdays from 8:15 to 9 AM. Hope to see some new members!

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soil and worm composting

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Elementary Chicken Coop Time

November 2021

Elementary students and parents had a great time exploring the chicken coop. It was a great opportunity to learn about the 3 resident MEA chickens, their overall care requirements, and just enjoy being outside!

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Hügelkultur Bed

Miss Shannon and Mr. Shane built a “decomposition viewing window” for the soon-to-be-constructed Hügelkultur bed near the chicken coop.

Miss Shannon has available service hours times from 8:30-12 on both Tuesday and Wednesday this week—APES and ASB students are all welcome to join in whenever and stay as long as they’d like. No need to email Miss Shannon.

Stop by the area for many projects:

  • Digging and moving soil to prepare for the Hügelkultur bed
  • Placing logs
  • Creating a shaded wildflower seed area
  • Teak oil staining the viewing window
  • Painting pallets for future art installations on the chicken coop fence
  • Filling the wine barrels with fresh raised bed garden soil

—>Wear closed toed shoes, please!

Curious about what a Hügelkultur bed is?

Check out this short, animated video:

We are not aware of another San Diego Unified school with a Hügelkultur bed—let’s celebrate this!

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Thank you Home Depot!

Home Depot donated dozens of torn bags:

  • Mulch
  • Soil
  • Rocks
  • Compost

We appreciate having a community of supportive businesses so close to us!

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Greens for the Staff

MEA staff enjoys some fresh garden harvests from the front gardens:

  • Cilantro
  • Lettuce varieties
  • Watermelon radish
  • Basil

The snow peas are about to pop!

Stop on by for a fresh harvest of your own.

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Coop Group 11/4/21

Coop Group members work hard…and grow wheat grass flat enrichment treats for the chickens!

Zira is molting, Chris is currently the only chicken laying eggs, and Cleopatra looks beautiful again!

The group spent time adding fresh soil to the coop (the chickens all took dust baths shortly after the addition), removed leaves from the overhead netting, and just enjoyed the chickens following them around.

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Nutritional Science


The elementary students created soup kits in their Nutritional Science classes. They learned about the concept of food dehydration and the importance of measuring for recipes. One student was so excited, he went home and immediately turned his beans, rice, and spices into soup for his family! Thank you, Garcia family, for sharing this delightful photo!

Photo gallery of making bean soup kits

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First Official Garden Session

Miss Shannon welcomed every kindergarten through fifth grade student on campus last week into the gardens, for their official introductory garden session.

The students will be able to participate in seven formal garden and seven nutritional science sessions throughout the year. In this introductory session, the students were introduced to the routines and rituals in each garden session, as well as our Garden-tudes (garden attitudes involving safety, responsibility, and kindness), and ending with a scavenger hunt for the “kitchen to garden” growing wishlist.

We have quite a bit growing in our six raised garden beds!

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Coop Group Fun

It was another eventful MEA Coop Group meet up, with Chris (the leghorn) laying yet another egg in the middle of cleaning!

The students thoroughly cleaned the inside of the overnight coop plus spent time offering the chickens fresh garden greens—kale is a favorite!

The group is designed for middle and high school students, and will be hosting some open houses for K-5th grade soon!

Stay tuned…

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More Service Hours Completed!

6 ASB students + 1 hour of campus beautification projects = 6 hours of service time completed in one day! Great work, everyone!

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Fundraiser for MEA Chickens & Gardens

Stop by the front of school to view the items available for you to take home (donation based).

We currently have pomegranates and student-created succulent arrangements.

The donation box is immediately inside the door, near Ms. Ramos.

Proceeds benefit the chickens and gardens.

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Coop Group 10/15/21

What a success!

From 8:15 until 9 AM on Thursday, Oct 15, the MEA coop group worked together on an important mission.

The 7 present members introduced themselves to each other, participated in a thorough coop cleaning and mentoring, and spent some valuable time with the 3 resident hens!

The highlight for the chickens: finding unexpected Japanese beetle grubs (not June bugs—do you know the difference?) underneath the pavers.

The highlight for the group: getting to know each other and spending some time outside + with animals!

Chris, the leghorn, decided to ceremoniously lay (and then announce) an egg in the middle of the cleaning—it was ready to be retrieved at 9 AM!

The egg laying capabilities will continue to slow down for these hens, as they are now a “mature” age (at just over 3 years old), and the change of seasons also contributes to lower production.

Cleopatra finished her molt, and has regrown many of her beautiful feathers.

Coop Group will continue to meet every Thursday beginning at 8:15.

***One week per month, Miss Shannon will close out the chicken session at 8:45 in order to begin her Sage Garden lesson at 9 AM. This will occur next week, Oct 21!

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High School Service Hours

Two APES and one ASB student committed to over 5 combined service hours on campus this week. See the images below for the work being done to “beautify” the campus, create fundraising options to support the MEA chickens + gardens and…have fun being outside and with the chickens! Everyone can benefit from the extra Vitamin D. Way to go Aisha, Anna, and Mac!

Miss Shannon continues to field (and schedule) requests for APES and ASB service hours.

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Nutritional Science

The K-5 students experienced their first nutritional science session with Chef Nancy Mullen!

Take a look at this fancy cooking cart!

This opportunity comes to us through a generous grant from Sage Garden Project.

The students will have at least 7 opportunities for garden and cooking sessions this year—so exciting!

Next up: a garden introductory session with Miss Shannon, beginning the week of October 19.

The premise behind the Sage Garden grant:

“Our philosophy is simple: We want to help kids enjoy eating more fruits and vegetables. By developing children's kitchen and garden skills through hands-on learning, we can provide our future generations with opportunities to enjoy more nourishment and less processed food.

We support, through our awards, dedicated teachers who offer our experiential lessons in the garden and from our Sage Garden Project cooking carts to high need elementary schools across California. We teach all traditional subjects using curiosity, wonder, fun, listening, tasting, trying, failing, laughing, observation and hands-on practice. All of our students have the opportunity to shine, and skills to empower healthy choices while giving them insight into their individual intelligence.”

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Our resident Leghorn, Chris!

By far the most prolific egg producer we have—with each egg equivalent to an egg and a half of a “normal” chicken egg (always a white egg)—Chris comes off as a standoffish chicken, but really enjoys people’s attention more than she’d like to admit.

Although not accepting of any type of touching or holding quite yet (and likely never will be), Chris will eagerly follow you all around the chicken area, in hopes you have an exciting treat to offer her (like a grub or garden green).

She can jump quite well, and has been known to reach (our) waist height for a treat or two.

What do the Coop Group members love about Chris? Share with Ms. Ele ( to include in a Monday message.

Here is a comprehensive site to learn much more about the Leghorn chicken variety!

Most notable “fact” from this site:

“…it is worth knowing that they are not cuddly family pet birds. Their exact behavior will be determined by how you raise them, but they are best described as independent, flighty and nervous with humans.”

Chris poses quite well for photo opportunities—check out the stunning shot below.

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