While teaching third graders in Dallas, Texas, we often used the analogy of “seed ideas” for teaching writing. We would play a word game that would associate words by asking, “What do you think of when you think of ice cream? Cone. What do you think of when you think of cone? Snow. What do you think of when you think of snow? Snow day!” All of the responses would then be written down and become instant “seeds” for writing ideas. The day you got an ice cream cone with your grandparents. The waffle cone your uncle always ordered at Katie’s Corner. The excitement of a snow day in Dallas.
Seeds to me have many meanings, especially because I love to garden. My parents were both teachers, and we always had a garden that my brother and I would help to water, weed and enjoy the abundance of tomatoes, peppers, garlic, eggplants … you name it. That joy of gardening was passed to me from my parents.
I love to get into my garden after a winter and prepare the soil by raking off the old leaves, adding mulch, pulling out the spring weeds and planning what will be planted where. When I think of teaching, I also think that each year I do that same preparation. I get my classroom ready, I organize the library, I buy journals for writing and I plan what the year ahead will be like. Since joining the Tower Hill community two years ago, I have been excited to share in the joy I have for teaching with the joy I glean from gardening. In preparing for the Outdoor Classroom my first year and knowing that there would be a garden, I was intrigued by the possibilities that space would lend to teaching. Watching that space come to fruition and have its official opening last fall was an amazing experience. What could I do with my students to share in the excitement of putting your hands in the dirt and watching plants grow?
This spring, my class helped to plant an herb garden in hopes of using those herbs next fall for our “Soup for Souls” service project. We even added to the already existing strawberry patch with five new plants inside the gate for easier access. The kids then took charge of weeding: learning how to weed, the difference between a plant and a weed, and why weeds need to be removed. We became “gardeners of our school” and enjoyed the opportunities we had planting and caring for our plot.
We then took our talents to the local community and became “gardeners of Wilmington,” where we spent a morning assisting the staff at Lutheran Community Services to plant the community garden there. It was there that I shared in a proud and profound teaching moment. Watching 19 third graders get in the dirt to plant over 30 or so tomato plants, pepper plants and beet seeds was remarkable. While yes, the spiders and roly pollies were pretty cool, I saw my students take pride in knowing that they were making a difference in their community by planting seeds that would then transform into food for so many. We had economics discussions on the bus returning to school about the cost of a pound of tomatoes and how many tomatoes we just planted. My students knew that we were supplying residents of Wilmington with fresh food throughout the summer, something we often take for granted.
I find joy in watching students thrive each year in my classroom. I hope I can inspire them to watch their own seeds grow into something of which they are proud.