I twirled a box top in my hands and grinned at my kids, who were lined up after library check out. “Come on, we’re going on a walking field trip.”
“What are you talking about, Ms?”
“Oh man, she has that Ms Look.”
“Where are we going?”
“To the bus loop.”
One of my students wrinkled her nose. “The bus loop?”
Outside, I drew the kids in a tight circle around a clump of pine needles, leaves, dirt, and silt. We crouched down. “What do you see?”
In the gutter of the bus loop, dozens of maple trees had taken root. We examined them, and then I used the metal “Buses Only” sign to scrape a clump off of the street. I slid it onto the box top, and in the classroom we popped it onto our very sunny window sill.
Maples, May 7th
The next day, I brought in two small pots with some potting soil. We lifted the mat of pine needles and examined the roots growing sideways on the bottom. I cut a circle out of the needles and placed the maples over the soil. We watered them well and put them in my sunny, sunny east-facing classroom window. The maples sat next to an ivy that had rooted in water, and two pineapple tops. (They were from pineapples I’d cut up when we were learning about simple machines.)
As the maples grew, I thinned them out.
“Ms! You can’t kill them!”
I looked at my student. “You eat meat and you’re angry I’m going to cut a mini tree down? What happens if six trees try to grow in this small pot?”
The students talked a bit before one said, “The roots won’t have as much room to grow.”
The kids learned to turn the maples from time to time, because they wanted to lean toward the sun. They learned how to check the moisture level of the soil. They learned how to brush against the maples gently, to strengthen the stems.
When visitors came to the room, students would show them our jungle, and explain how we’d rooted the pineapple tops, how we’d clipped the ivy from the secretary’s plant, how we’d found maples in the bus loop.
“Ms, the leaves are red when they are small, and then they turn green.”
“Ms, can we plant these at the school?”
“Ms, will you bring these back in the fall so we can see them?”
And just like my students, the maples grew.
Maples, June 7th