I assume at some point soon, I will be adrift. A club I founded and led for the last twelve years is ending. I am electing to end it, even though it is still very popular with the students. The club, an elementary garden club, is for any student in grades two through five at one of our local, public elementary schools. Over the years, I have had any where from 25-63 students enrolled for our once a month meetings on horticultural topics. Of late, the club has become more based on environmental issues like monarch habitat decline and the loss of our forests. We have even discussed cacao or chocolate and where it comes from and the social issues involved with the growing and harvesting of these beans that become one of the world’s most delectable treats. We could have spent an entire year on any of these topics – monarchs, forests, and chocolate. Instead, we spend a monthly meeting discussing these and other topics of interest – corn, carnivorous plants, flower bulbs, milkweed, plant life cycles, bamboo, fruit trees, vermi-composting, pumpkins, and fungi, among others.
Over the last twelve years, the topics have consumed me. Hours upon hours have been spent preparing the lesson plans and activities to accompany the lessons. We usually have an interactive discussion for forty-five minutes, followed by a hands-on activity, based on the topic, for forty-five minutes. The lessons are interdisciplinary, meaning that I bring in components from math, language arts, and social studies, not just science. Math questions related to our garden club topics have been developed and distributed for a school wide raffle for the last three years. Children’s literature is brought in with stories by authors such as Tomie dePaola on the legend of the poinsettia and the story of popcorn. Haiku on bees were written this year and several are to be published in a national compilation. Vocabulary is expanded as I explain my love for words and what a particular one means. Cultural practices such as three sister’s plantings, and maple syrup collection are introduced along with geographical representations of the habitat of carnivorous plants or the location of migration for monarchs in the spring and fall. There has been something for everyone, and anyone, who has an interest. The more I read and search to prepare my lessons, the more I learn and the better I can discuss the information with the students. If there are questions, we find out together. I have never pretended to know everything. Yes, garden club has consumed me for the last twelve years.
Now that I have made the very difficult decision to end the group, I am starting to wonder about what will replace the hundreds of hours spent each year working on developing and teaching these lessons, new math questions, activity assemblages, care of the butterfly garden, and communications with staff, students, and parents. I expect for a while, I will be adrift. I think it will be alright. I need time to think about how and where I can next impact our youth to become environmental stewards. I have always wanted to publish my curricular materials. Now, there will be time for that. I have started to speak at conferences and meetings about developing a garden club. After all, we were successful – we ran for twelve years. I have been asked to be a guest speaker for local community groups and classrooms on topics especially close to my heart, like monarch habitat conservation. There are 18 more graduate credits for me to complete before obtaining my Master’s degree in Environmental Education and Interpretation. Maybe, I can take an increased credit load to finish. I just know none of the empty hours will be spent preparing for garden club.
Yes, I expect to be adrift soon and for the drifting to last for a while. My hope is that it will not last too long. My passion for teaching about the environment will soon anchor me in a new place so I can plant more seeds of environmental stewardship. The drifting will end and I can be consumed again. I just need to walk through the door.
Preview: If you are interested in why I have chosen to end this club, please return to the blog tomorrow for my post regarding the end of garden club. Thank you!
Inspired by the Daily Prompt: Adrift