Searching The Evergreens

Please excuse the lack of photos in this post. They are currently trapped in my classroom, as I forgot to upload them before I left today. This post wouldn’t stop rolling about in my head, so I needed to get it down. Pics to come later.

Evergreens is a non-fiction book I picked up through the Scholastic Canada November order. I wasn’t going to purchase any more books for my ridiculously large library, but I desperately wanted some new, non-fiction pieces to inspire us to look closer at the everyday objects around us. The book is not a long piece of writing, but the photographs are beautiful and showcase a type of tree which my students see around them every day. I shall, in all honesty, admit that I wasn’t going to read the story before our planned Monday “Outdoor Exploration” time. I simply saw that the students were finishing their lunches, and what better way to finish eating an apple, than having a story read to you. I won’t go into the details of our discussion concerning pine cones, needles and resin here. Connections were made between bark and skin. A deep discussion over the differences and similarities between resin, sap and blood occurred. Questions were asked that will require further research and exploring. One student exclaimed, “we have an evergreen at home!” Well, the floodgates opened with comments about the trees at school, and it was decided by the kids and myself, that a scavenger hunt was in order.

We grabbed our jackets and boots, and headed out. Shock erupted when we saw the school pruners cutting up the trees at the front. There was deep concern and much reassuring that the workers were not going to cut down the trees, especially “our tree”. (Our tree is a tree we adopted and have been looking at since October.) One of the munchkins asked, “Does it hurt the trees when they are cut like that?” There was such deep concern for the trees from this little one, that we had to stop and discuss whether trees have feelings. Finally a decision was made that being pruned, may be like getting a haircut. It doesn’t hurt, but you miss your long hair.

Eventually we made our way over to our big messy field where the evergreens grow. Right away, the searching began. They had a short list of things to find: an evergreen tree, pine cones, needles and resin. What a treat it was to watch the excitement over the discovery of a pine cone, of a branch that had fallen but was still covered with green needles. A tree was found with some bark ripped off and the brilliant red from the cedar tree drew much attention. Comparisons occurred of pine cones: is yours smaller, mine is bigger, I have one that is open and yours is shut, look how tall yours is, and on it went. Then we hit the mother-lode: resin. The shouting began when we found resin drops from the tree bark and a large, crusty gathering of the stuff was investigated with magnifying glasses.

We were out there for maybe 30 minutes today. Not once was there a child acting up or behaving like a turkey. The students were engaged. At one point, I pulled my ancient iPod out and gave it to a student so she could take a picture of her resin discovery. Well, the kids all wanted a turn, not at taking photos, but at pointing out discoveries for her to document. I cannot wait to take the iPads outside for them to document their play and their discoveries.

You may think that these students of mine are outside all the time in their home hours. You may think they are used to being outside in the rain and mud. They aren’t. These are indoor city kids. At recess and lunch, they are on a concrete playground, and not in the mud and dirt as they should be. Getting them used to being outside and being aware of their boundaries outside took time, trust and even a few phone calls to the office. But it is worth it. Each child, on their own today, decided to bring back a treasure. A stick, a pine cone, a branch, some bark were the treasures they wanted to take home, How could I say no?

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