Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Tree Hugger

So today was our yearly field trip to the district nature center to travel back in time and "live like a pioneer".  For any of you not versed in Michigan history, that means visiting the log cabin and barn, and heading to the "Sugar Shack" to see how sap is magically turned into maple syrup.  The kids absolutely love, love, love it!  They get to try out tools the pioneers used (saw, corn planter, grinding wheel, etc.), bake cookies in the cabin, make candles, play with pioneer toys, tap a sugar maple tree, and watch sap being boiled into delicious maple syrup.   It's a full day of learning and fun.  It's exciting to see the kids of today experience how different life was years ago.

But today, being March in Michigan, the weather was chilly and rainy and just yucky.  I had reminded all the little ones to make sure and wear boots and bring coats and hats today.  And being the wonderful group of kids they are, today they arrived with their little sack lunch in hand and dressed in boots and rain gear.  They were ready!  No weather was going to stop us from having fun today!  Lucky for me, my daughter had purchased me the perfect gift last Christmas - a pair of rubber rain boots with warm socks.  I was prepared!  For once, I wouldn't be freezing and improperly dressed for an outdoor, all day field trip.  

The best part of the day for me was when we were in the maple trees.  The guide was showing the students how to tap the spile into the tree.  They had just measured the tree to make sure it was big enough to be tapped.   (See how much we learn in 3rd grade?)  As one little girl turned the hand drill into the tree, another little boy skipped off to another tree.  And I overheard this as he wrapped his arms around the tree and hugged it:

"Oh, hi, maple tree.  You are a strong, good tree.  But you aren't big enough yet to be a tree to give me maple syrup.   You need to wait another 10 years.  Don't be sad, tree.  One day you will make sweet maple syrup."

I smiled as I watched him join us again as the sap dripped into the bucket and the amazed little students watched and oohed and aahed.  They tasted the sap and smiled and giggled and made faces and asked questions.  

As we left today, I thought about my little tree hugger.  This wonderful, sweet little boy talking to the trees.  

And that, my friends, is one of the many reasons I love my job.  My day was spent in the trees and in a "Sugar Shack" and in a log cabin making cookies.   

It just doesn't get much better than that.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Nap Time

We have been learning about life in the 1800s in Michigan.  Mainly about the settlers and how many arrived in Michigan via the Erie Canal and how Michigan became a state in 1837.   The little kids really love reading and talking about Michigan history and they always make great connections and ask good questions.  It's fun to watch the little wheels turning in their head as they understand big ideas and generate more questions to help them learn.

So today, as we sat on the back carpet talking about how tough (and different) life would be in the 1800s in Michigan, I directed their attention to a picture in their book of a pioneer woman pushing a plow.
If you look carefully you can see a little box by the handle of the plow with a little bundled up baby in it.  I asked them to look at the picture closely and one little darling quickly noticed the tiny baby on the plow.

"If you lived as a pioneer in the 1800s, everybody worked," I explained to them.  "The men, the woman, and even the kids!  Boys and girls your age would have had chores to do every day that kept them busy," I explained.  The pain on their faces was evident.  The thought of working all day had them worried.

"Life as a pioneer was tough," I added.  "You had to cut down the trees to build your cabin, plow the fields to plant, make your own candles, wash your clothes by hand, and make all your food."

They looked displeased at the mere thought of a life so drastically different than their own.  So I said it again for affect.  "Everybody had to work!"

"Even the baby worked!" interjected one little one, pointing to the baby in the picture.

"Yeah........ he worked on a nap!"  said one funny boy.    And it was quite clever, so we all had a good little chuckle.

I don't know exactly what it was, but something about that picture with the napping baby, and my classroom of little cuties, had me smiling the rest of the day.  

Sometimes, it really is the little things.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Stars & Stripes Forever

It's not like there aren't funny things that happen every day in my classroom and inspiring stories to blog about.  There are.  Last year I walked around with a notepad in my pocket so I could record the funny little stories and the happy moments that go on constantly during the day.   This year, with no notepad in my pocket, the spontaneous and silly things that happen are, sadly, forgotten most days by the time I arrive home exhausted. 

I'm so relieved that this week it is staying lighter longer at night (daylight savings time) AND our cold, cold winter has let go of us a bit and we've had temperatures in the 40's and 50's. The sun has even been shining.  It's like a collective sigh of relief as our spring begins to slowly arrive.  Soon, teacher friends, we'll be able to go out for *gasp* an extra recess to enjoy the nice weather.

So today, this happened.

I was asking the students to finish up their reading and put away their book boxes.  One student, who had just returned from a reading class plopped down in his seat and caught my attention.  As the other students hurried about, he looked at me and said, "What should I do?  Just sit here?"   

It seemed a very silly question with an obvious answer so I looked him in the eyes. 

"Well... no.  You should stand on your head and do a headstand while singing the National Anthem," I said to him with a serious face.   I even motioned towards the back carpet area invitingly.   He smiled.  

I arched my eyebrows as best I could.  A challenge.

And then he pushed his chair out, stood up, hustled over to the back carpet and kicked himself up into a perfect headstand.   

"How does that song go again?" he asked me with his upside-down face.  

"Ohhhh-oh say can you...." I began.     And he picked it up from there as his face turned a faint shade of pink.

Let's just say it took about a nanosecond for the other little ones to see that something very unusual was going down at the back carpet.  And they certainly were not going to miss it.  Soon, they gathered, from near and from far.  They joined in the song.  Because they are kids.  A couple of them danced a bit and they circled around him singing and encouraging him.  They may not have known all the words, but they made up for it with their determination and resolve.  

And he did it! He brought his legs back down to a very appreciative audience who were now madly clapping and shouting words of admiration.  I wasn't sure if his red face was from being upside down or from embarrassment from all the attention.

As I pointed them back to their tables to get back on task after the impromptu show, the little boy looked over his shoulder at me as he said, "You know, I can do back flips too!" 

"Impressive," I told him.   "But no."   

I don't just work with a bunch of energetic, spunky, talented kids.  I truly work with little superSTARS who are talented in so many ways.

Every last one of them.