Sunday Selections

Second Sunday of Advent: Plants

IMG_6441It is night
The oak trees are dreaming

In their deep night dream-sleep they mumble

They mumble a windsong of fireflies
They mumble a dreamsong of fireflies

They mumble a windsong of moonfire
They mumble a dreamsong of starfire

The leaves dream: dark dreamsthick dreams
The trunks dream: light dreamsfluttering dreams
The limbs dream: deep dreamstangled dreams
The roots dream: sky dreamssun dreams

It is night
The oak trees are dreaming

-Patricia Hubbell
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Find last year’s poems here.

Grade 5: Botany Block

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The first day of our Botany block was the perfect spring day: the air was chilly, but the sun was warm. All three of us worked together and turned over both garden beds. I was feeling *pretty* proud of myself for choosing the *perfect* month to study plants outside. Mother Nature, however, has a wicked sense of humor. The rest of the month was cold and windy and gave us more snow than we had all winter. I can tell you, studying plants indoors is not fun at all. We did do our reading, although I found the Charles Kovacs Botany book unengaging and The Mary Frances Garden Book dated and tedious. As I had planned on using both of these books as our spines, I was pleasantly surprised by two beautifully illustrated picture books I off-handedly checked out of the library: The Gift of a Tree by Alvin Tresselt and A Seed is Sleepy by Dianna Hutts Aston and Sylvia Long.

The Gift of a Tree by Alvin Tresselt tells the story of the life cycle of a tree, concentrating on what happens after the tree dies. (Incidentally, it was first published under the title The Dead Tree in 1971. Oh, the 70s, what a wonderful decade to be born into.) The tree becomes home to a variety of animals and insects, eventually decomposing and becoming fertile soil that nourishes the next generation of oaks. This little story connected the dots of so much that we have studied in grade 5. Starting way back in September with Ancient India, I gave Vincent the symbol of a circle representing the ideas of life, death and rebirth. We have touched on that symbol throughout the year, but this book let us really explore the idea of reincarnation/resurrection/rebirth in almost every block. This was one of those serendipitous moments where I fall in love with the Waldorf curriculum all over again.

Resources:

  • The Gift of a Tree, Alvin Tresselt
  • Keepers of Life: Discovering Plants through Native American Stories and Earth Activities for Children, Michael J. Caduto and Joseph Bruchac
  • Seed, Leaf, Flower, Fruit, Maryjo Koch
  • A Seed is Sleepy, Dianna Hutts Aston and Sylvia Long
  • The Mary Frances Garden Book, Jane Eayre Fryer
  • Botany, Charles Kovacs

Projects:

  • Field Trip to the local botanical gardens
  • Bark Rubbings
  • Botanical scavenger hunt
  • Botanical mobile using items found on scavenger hunt
  • Kitchen seed exploration and collage of seeds found
  • Forced cherry branches inside

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For more posts about Botany, click the images below.

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Lesson Plans for March 2013

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March always seems to be the beginning of the end of the school year. Just 3 blocks to go, then testing in June, then yippee!!! It also seems to be the beginning of the beginning of the next school year. I dragged my planning bins out of the attic last week and have started to fill them with resources for second (!) and sixth (!) grade. This is the collection phase. I have next year’s blocks on my radar, so if I see anything on the Used Curriculum yahoo group or anywhere else, it goes in the bins.

I remember when I first came to Waldorf and the internet chatter turned to planning for next year at about this time. I could not wrap my head around the concept. I was having a hard enough time just making it through the current year. But with three years under my belt now, it seems much more manageable and almost natural. I read a great quotation somewhere recently, “Don’t compare your beginning to someone else’s middle.” I wish I had known such things back then. I could have saved myself a lot of grief.

While it may seem tantalizing to look ahead to next year, I try to solidly stay in the here and now. And right here, right now, we are going to be learning about plants. I’ve decided to combine main lessons this month: for Jude, this block will be called “Gardening” and for Vincent it will be called “Botany.” Pretty sneaky, huh? There will be a lot of overlap and collaborative work, but obviously, I will get much deeper and more technical with Vincent. Here’s an idea of what my plans look like:

Vincent: 11 years old, 5th grader We haven’t done any formal Botany this year, despite my best laid plans. I’ve decided to divide this block into 4 one-week mini-blocks. Week 1 will focus on plants in general; Week 2, seeds; Week 3, trees; and Week 4, flowering plants. In addition to traditional lessons in terminology and characteristics, we will be doing a lot of practical work, outside exploration and artistic interpretation. I love this sense of balance so intrinsic within Waldorf pedagogy. I am planning to compile something like a scrapbook for this block, rather than a regular main lesson book.We will be using The Mary Frances Garden Book by Jane Eayre Fryer for a read aloud during main lesson time, and also Seed, Leaf, Flower, Fruit by Maryjo Koch. This is a beautiful book I found at the library that has a nice blend of scientific facts, lovely quotations and gorgeous watercolor illustrations. I may or may not use Botany by Charles Kovacs. This volume has not resonated with me like his others have.

Jude: 7 years old, 1st grader Jude will be doing a lot of digging in the dirt, listening to stories, painting, drawing, modeling and handwork – really just a continuation of what we have done all year. I plan on reading A Seed is Sleepy by Dianna Hutts Aston and Sylvia Long, The Tiny Seed by Eric Carle, The Gift of a Tree by Alvin Tresselt and because Easter is this month (March 31) I also want to read a few chapters from The Burgess Flower Book for Children by Thorton W. Burgess, narrated by none other than Sir Peter Rabbit himself. I hope both boys will have our garden beds ready for planting by the end of the month. We’ll see.

Sheila: I have admitted before in this space that I am not a gardener, so I think I may have been unconsciously avoiding this block. I am striving to teach out of my joy and find what energizes and inspires me with each and every block we do. I have had to dig deep on this one – pardon the pun, but it is apt. If you looked around our property, you would be under no illusion that anyone with a green thumb resided inside. We have 2 good-sized garden beds, a scraggly, struggling “orchard” of fruit trees, and in the spring and summer a bunch of plants and flowers in pots that when I remember to water them, look half-way decent. But if I take the act of gardening to a spiritual level, that is where I am able to find my joy. The potential of a seed, the tenacity of plants to grow, the symbiosis between the sun, the rain and the soil – I could go on and on, marveling at the sheer glorious wonder of it all. That is what I hope to impart to the boys. There is no unbelief: Whoever plants a seed beneath the sod and waits to see it push away the clod. He trusts in God. – Kate Douglas Wiggin

 

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Look for links and the recipe of the month in subsequent posts.