If we think of life as a track and field event, it’s easy to see ourselves as long distance runners; bolting out of the starting blocks and leaping over hurdles that challenge us on our way to the finish line. To us, life can start to seem very linear. We learn a lesson, experience painful or joyful moments and then “move on”. Clearly in our own lives, things are not like they used to be and tomorrow, they will not be like they are now. The broader picture of life, however, looks a little less like a marathon and a bit more like jump rope. You know the game where two people are twirling a rope and you have to jump in at just the right moment and hop without tripping for as long as you can. In life we leap into a cycle that started long before we showed up and despite our little vanities will continue long after we stumble out. Things keep coming (and going) around and around. In our annual journey circling the sun we see seasons come and go and then come again. All around us nature is reminding its inhabitants that sustainability is tied to renewal. Nowhere is this more evident than in a vegetable garden. I have long railed against the all to typical (and often only) gardening experience provided to so many young children. A bean seed is placed into a styrofoam cup with some store bought potting soil and placed on a windowsill. While the student does get to see the miracle of germination, more often than not they also witness the desperate, fruitless struggle the undernourished and overwatered seedling makes to break through the glass. In a few weeks the row of shriveled remnants are discretely swept into the trash without the class ever seeing what beans were meant to do: make more beans. When a class of pre-k students can receive pea seeds from the previous year’s class, grow them, eat most of their bounty and save some to pass on to next years pre-k’ers, they can start to see themselves as part of a bigger cycle rather just an individual runner on their own road. This is the first year pre-k has saved some of the seed from their harvest for next year’s class. A class of fourth graders helped them pull pods off of their shriveled (but successful) vines. Already, they see themselves as givers in this game of jump rope. Although I don’t expect to see jump rope as an olympic event anytime soon, this rhythmic pastime will continue to remind me that I’m part of something bigger. So will pre-k’ers and their peas.
Pre-K students have transplanted their seedlings.These children will pass by several times a day,watching their flowers grow to become an integral part of our pollinator garden. Special thanks to their garden buddies, the sixth grade girls class, who showed them how it’s done.
What is it like to be in Pre-K? What is it like for everything to be new? Just a few years ago they knew nothing, literally nothing, but their world is expanding at a rate that would make our adult heads swim. The new information that they have processed in the last six months is probably more than the new information we have absorbed in the last six years. For them everything is new. It’s no wonder that “why?” pops up so often.
Last week the Pre-K classes were introduced to the garden. Where do you start? Try explaining to a four-year-old that their t-shirt is made from cloth, that is knitted from threads, that are spun from fiber, which comes from a pod, which is the fruit of a flower, that grows on a plant, that comes out of the ground, because someone planted a seed, that was pulled out of the fiber, from a plant that was grown last year. You can say all this while showing them a cotton plant that has white fluffy balls of cotton bursting from pods and all you will get is a quiet blank stare….. and then someone will see a butterfly, or a ladybug or a centipede and suddenly everyone’s excited. Sometimes its just best to say “Here’s the garden! What do you think?” Sometimes it’s best just to give them something to do. We planted seeds…. in little pots. It’s a rite of passage. Everyone should at some point in their formative years watch a seedling rise amazingly out of a clump of soil. Unfortunately too many children have watched tiny seedlings sprout up but then wither and bake miserably in the afternoon sun or drown in a flooded cup on the windowsill. Our plan is that in a week or two these students will take these zinnias and sunflowers and plant them in our garden. They will watch them grow strong and eventually bloom and when the butterflies show up, everyone will be excited. Hey… it’s a start.