Recently, Chris Biffle has been encouraging people seeking Whole Brain Teaching certification to include quotations in our reflections. I have been mulling this over and seeking out my many lists of quotations. Revisiting some of these wonderful quotes has truly been a fun experience. As I was reviewing these quotes, I came across one that made me think of an experience I had with my students this year. I just had to share it!
"Much education today is monumentally ineffective. All too often we are giving young people cut flowers when we should be teaching them to grow their own plants." ~John W. Gardner
In the past, as a fifth grade teacher I have not done a Mother's Day project. I have allowed my students time to write poems, cards or letters. As Mother's Day approached this year (my first as a third grade teacher), I realized that I was going to need to set aside time for the students to do something for the women (or in some cases the men that have been like moms) in their lives. I really left this planning to the last minute. SO, on the eve of the Friday before Mother's Day I was frantically searching the web. I finally realized that most ideas (especially the ones found on Pinterest) would take a lot more preparation time than I had available.
I was stumped! I looked out my front window and in the twilight saw the flowers I had planted with my husband. Now those that know me ... know that I am NOT a plant person. I tend to forget about plants and only remember them when they are shriveled up! My grandma is a PRO with flowers and my mom also enjoys flowers. I realized that the kids would want to DO something for their mom's not just color a template and cut it out.
Early Friday morning I drove to Wal*Mart and bought two flats of some type of annual flower (I can't even remember what they were), potting soil, plastic spoons (aka mini shovels), and some BLUE solo cups. I also bought three packages of permanent markers and SEVERAL bags of foam stickers. The previous night I had also printed out some tags that said "Planted by ___________ for __________________". We were going to put these on popsicle sticks to put in the cup with the flower.
As soon as the students entered the room and saw the flowers the excitement level raised SEVERAL notches. I couldn't believe how excited they were. "Do we get to plant the flowers?" "Oh! I have never planted a flower before!" "Is she really going to let us plant them or is she going to do it while we are in music?" Wow, just the sight of these flowers had them talking!
I kept hearing these thoughts, worries, and questions throughout the day. Finally, before going to music we started decorating the blue cups. I, of course, had to lay down the rules for the markers and tell them how many foam stickers they could each have. They took these directions and rules and RAN with them. I couldn't believe how creative they got with so few supplies.
When they returned from Music, the planting began! I gave a short lesson on how to plant the flower. I had them repeat the steps and teach them to their shoulder partners. Everything was going great. Toward the end a little girl came up to me with a HUGE smile and said my flower is planted! Bless her heart... she had put potting soil in her cup and then just placed the flower in the cup. She hadn't dug a hole or anything. At that moment I realized something as "simple" as having the kids plant flowers was so powerful. So many of today's kids don't have the experiences that I grew up with.
In an age when we are being encouraged to do MORE and MORE technology based instruction... we cannot forget to do the hands on things. This past year my students have enjoyed just a few of these: planting a flower, making a bagel bird feeder, filling a bird feeder, finger weaving, making hand made cards and poppies for veterans.
So let me just encourage to avoid handing your students cut flowers, let kids grow their own plants!