Saturday, April 10, 2010

life, death, and spring

I've spent the last 2 weeks living the luxurious lifestyle of my current year-round schedule, enjoying the last intersession break our school will ever have. It was originally scheduled to be a full 3 weeks, but the snow allowed us to take one of the weeks in February, so we've only been granted two weeks and a day off (we have to go back next Tuesday). The kids and teachers who chose to teach have been back for a week now taking/teaching fun classes that have SOL standards secretly embedded into them between the cooking, crafts, and video-making.

I am so going to miss this next year.

Not just because I've had 2 weeks to play in the sometimes beautiful, sometimes cold, sometimes too hot spring weather.

I've busied myself planting flowers on my balcony, a task that always makes me miss the classroom. In first grade we had an intense plant unit, where each child had a chance to plant one or two plants of their own, along with a class garden and other planting experiments where we watched the magic of roots, shoots, and leaves. In first grade science = magic and there is nothing that compares to the excitement of first graders witnessing nature.

One year, instead of telling them what plants need to live we developed hypothesis of what those important elements may be. Each child was able to choose where in our classroom to place their plants- in the window, over by their desk for indirect light, the sink for easy watering, by the air conditioner, or in the closet. Each child needed to write why he was placing his plant in that place, and had to be able to articulate his hypothesis of what plants needed and why his experiment would show that.

We waited to perform this activity until the plants were already healthy green stalks, and the children had already tenderly cared for them for a week or so and grown attached to their plant. Do not forget that in first grade everything has a soul- every object has a life of its own and pencils, plants, crayons, and books all automatically have feelings.

The class excitedly filled out their hypothesis papers and placed their plants in their desired location. Days went by as we charted, observed, measured, and checked our hypothesis.

The results were as expected- those who placed their seedling in the sun had plants that continued to grow strong. Those who placed it in indirect light had plants that grew, but not as well. Those who placed theirs in the closet had plants that died.

Died.

I will never recover from the look I received from the first graders whose plants had withered without the sunlight. They had killed their plant- they cried. And I had forced them. I had turned them into murderers.

There were tears, pouting, foot stomping, destruction of someone else's plant, and more tears. They were killers, their plant had died. It was my fault.

In retrospect perhaps we should have had some generic class plants we could have put in the closet so that it wasn't any one's personal plant who made its way to plant heaven. This would have left every first grader with a healthy plant, and relieved all guilt of from the 6 year old gardeners of becoming plant killers.

I wanted to tell them not to worry- anything I plant, no matter what I do, dies under my black thumb. That they should get use to killing plants because they have a whole life ahead of them of forgetting to water the beautiful potted plant from a friend, or going on vacation and returning to find that in one week the sun has withered the garden beyond repair. Or from being on spring break and watching the squirrels dig up your newly planted pots and throw your geraniums to the ground below.

But that would only solidify their belief that I was a plant murderer so I held my tongue, and allowed them to redo the experiment in the sun.

1 comment:

luckeyfrog said...

I just love that you did a real experiment with second graders. So many people think science involves reading a book about plants or animals and that's it.

A think tank focused on creative solutions for future problem solvers -tree