I always wait with the students as parents arrive to pick them up from our garden club meetings. Invariably, there is a student, usually one of the younger ones, who becomes nervous that their adult will not arrive to take them home. Pick up was from outside the school this week, as we planted the butterfly garden. And, this was the cause of concern for at least one of my students. As dismissal time drew near, Lewis voiced his concern over his mom not knowing we were in the garden, instead of the library. Intentional or not, this student also left his backpack inside the building, not following my direction to bring everything outside because we would dismiss from the garden. His concern grew as he realized he was the only one to have left something inside. As more and more students were retrieved, I told Lewis I would take him back into the library to pick up his backpack.
Just as we were headed up the hill, his mom appeared! I asked that she take him into the school to get his backpack and told him good-bye. It was our last garden club meeting. I could not bring myself to tell the students this. The twelve-year-old club has always been joined anew, each year, in the fall. So, I felt that emotions would be less close to the surface for both the students and me if I chose not to let the students know the club was ending. To not tell, was a selfish decision, I know. But, one that I really felt was in the best interest of all.
Just as I was cleaning up, Lewis came running back to the garden. “Mrs. L., Mrs. L.,” he shouted, “wait!” He ran up to me and immediately started digging in his backpack.
“I have something for you,” he said.
Digging, and more digging, in the bottom of the backpack. I started to wonder what it was that he had for me. After a few minutes, he pulled out a penny, a dull, worn down, obviously used, penny.
“This is for you”, he said as he placed it in my hand. “This is for the future, so you can make a difference, and have people stop spraying pesticides. You can change the world.”
Wow! I really didn’t know what to say. These words of inspiration came from a third grader! He had listened to our lessons. He had synthesized the material. He knew that the problem of habitat loss for monarchs or other species was a global problem. I smiled.
All I could say was thank you. A big hug followed. But, the smile on my face told it all. The seed of environmental stewardship had been planted in at least one of my students. It was a great way to end our group. I always will treasure that penny and especially, the words that came with it.
What a heartfelt gift. While I never talked directly to the students about saving the world, it seems that is the message that was received. What a great idea! Yes, Lewis, let’s save the world.
*The student’s name in this story has been changed to protect his identity.*