Happy New Year!

I began the New Year right – with kids!  Follow this link to newspaper coverage of the event!

The morning of Jan 6 was spent with Ms Tammy Cruz and her delightful class of 23 fourth graders.  Frank elementary school is in a lower income part of town.  The school itself is very old and was built in the early part of the last century. I was so pleasantly surprised that my expectations and assumptions of this school were completely off the mark when I went inside.  The interior was clean and bright, freshly painted and modern.  Portraits of famous people from Gandhi to Einstein lined the walls.  Ancient pictures of students from long ago were also on display.  Mr Frank, the school’s namesake, was pictured in a beautiful, ornate gold frame, his silver hair long and flowing, an adventurous look on his face.

The kids desks were arranged in a circle as I made my way to the center with a cart filled with boxes of plants, small pots, media and worm castings, rooting hormone powder.  I had created a coloring sheet earlier which I handed out to the kids and used it to explain how worms benefit plants and in turn people.  I taught them the importance of soil in creating healthy plants plants and how worms benefit soil. We discussed how people need plants to create oxygen  to breath and live on this earth.  They were a fabulous audience – polite in raising their hands, they asked good, thoughtful questions and were an enthusiastic audience. 

But the fun really began when I started pulling all kinds of different plants out of the box.  I showed them how to take stem tip cuttings, how some plants can be divided into smaller plants, how offsets can be broken off bulbs and ‘spider plants’ off their runners.  I showed them how to plant their cuttings and how to water them in. 

Their eyes as big as saucers and they couldn’t wait to get in there and touch and feel everything.  They gasped with delight at the thought of picking out whichever  plant they liked to propagate and plant and tend  over the next few months.  Their very own plant!

The idea is they will have a small plant, that they themselves grew and nurtured, to give their mother on Mother’s Day.  Hopefully this will happen and they won’t kill them! 

Maybe I was just in the right New Years frame of mind but I so much enjoyed this time!  At the end of my presentation – about an hour – they all clapped!  We took a a bunch of group pictures and I left them all kinds of plants and pots and media to play with over th enext few weeks.  Its like being Santa Claus!  These kids  were so precious.   They made me remember how wonderful and important the teaching profession is! They made me feel like a really great teacher!  The one everyone loves!

I can’t help but think some of these kids may not have a real stable home life.  Lots of people are out of work right now which can lead to bigger problems with drugs and alcohol.  But this school shines  as a place of order and sanity in a  crazy world. Some of the kids smelled kinda  funny (but I guess a lot of 4th graders do..), and looked a little rumpled; the kids didn’t have the fanciest clothes or shoes.  I think most of them probably eat free breakfast and lunch at school and get a healthy snack mid afternoon.  Ms Cruz held up a baggie of fresh red peppers which was the snack for later today.  How cool is that?  I wonder how many fruits and veggies these kids get at home?

In the end I was left with my faith renewed at the power of education.  If only we could spread education around the world instead of war.  What would happen if we educated young people so they didn’t end up hopeless and turn to a life of drugs and crime?  What if we spent ALL THAT MONEY ON SCHOOLS, not bombs or jails?

 Somehow I know this day I inspired some young mind.  I know  I set a spark of interest in one of these kids;  for plants or horticulture or becoming a teacher or scientist in the future or maybe to just be a great gardener this summer!  I am so blessed by this work!

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