Last year, a parent donated 220 Amaryllis Kits to the after school garden club I ran at our local elementary school. It was not the first time she had made such a donation, but the volume this time was much larger! 220 Kits! Wow! I had about 40 students enrolled in garden club and knew I wanted the kits, but also knew I needed to find people with which to share the abundance of these colorful and majestic holiday plants. I went about doing just that and reached out to some teachers I thought would be interested in a presentation and planting session and/or just receiving some kits for their class.
I am friends with a fourth grade teacher at one of our district’s other elementary schools – we have four. It is not the school the garden club was based at. She jumped at the chance to have me do a presentation and help plant the bulbs. Soon, the two other fourth grades were on board as well. So, I spent a few hours one day last March talking about flower bulbs, the plant life cycle, and planting Amaryllis bulbs. The forty I used for garden club (last December) and the 75 I used with the forth grade classes did not add up to 220 bulb kits. So, I contacted one of our high school math teachers with whom I have regular educational philosophical discussions and asked if he could use some of the amaryllis bulbs. He took 100 of the kits to use with his Algebra II students in a joint project with the Ag-Tech teacher at our high school. We are fortunate enough to have a green house in which the plants were cared for and measured for the 6-8 weeks it takes for the plant to reach full height and bloom. From what I understand, they did rate of growth measurements and calculations that only the type of equations solved in Algebra II can solve! Reportedly, it was a success and a popular project with the students. Lastly, twenty kits went to a first grade classroom in a near by district, again because I am good friends with this teacher and had contacted her about the possibility of this type of project.
I jumped the offer this parent made the year before because I had her daughter in garden club as a third grader. She had contacted me in December of 2015 about left over Amaryllis Bulb Kits at a local distribution center at which she works. She needed to find a place for them or they would be thrown out! Her classroom teacher had been contacted as well. This was my first experience with extra kits and large donations. So, I took enough for garden club that year (25), plus some for the other two third grades in the school in which her daughter attended and I had garden club. These three teachers are the same cohort in which I have taken their students for a writer’s circle for the last six years. They are huge supporters of my student enrichment efforts. I felt almost 100% sure they would accept the donation and also allow me to present to their classes on the bulbs. And, they did!
Amaryllis are beautiful holiday plants and much can be gained from a plant life cycle lesson using them as the base. External plant parts can be seen and readily identified, as the growth proceeds. The flowers are large and showy, resulting in a flush of pride for the student. The first year we did this, it was timed so well that the plants went home with the parents just before Easter/Spring Break, after they were presented to the respective adults at parent teacher conferences.
Just before my presentation, I realized the Amaryllis project was a great opportunity to reinforce some basic math skills. So, I came up with a standardized measurement sheet. Students would take and record height measurements 2x per week for the six weeks we grew them in the classrooms. I asked for both inches and centimeters. Additional observations were asked for as well, such as date of bloom. I visited classrooms once a week and recorded their progress by taking photographs of the plants. At the end observation period, the measurement sheets were collected. Of course, some of the data was missing and some made no sense (for example, the plant shrunk instead of growing). But, by all accounts, the students enjoyed the project and some really took it and ran with it., accurately measuring their plants without teacher guidance on the designated days. I ended up with amaryllis data points for 75 plants, which was enough to formulate a few math questions on growth (not rate of growth like the algebra II students were able to do the following year), but simple addition and subtraction problems that applied nicely to the everyday hobby of gardening.
So, why did I choose this as my slice today? Well, yesterday I posted some of the Amaryllis photos as part of a Daily Blog Photography Challenge in which I participate. It is also that time of year when this kind parent has contacted me about the bulb donation. I am wondering what will happen with it this year, as I ended the garden club this past June. She has my email and I have a new set of students at a different school. I am sure they would love to plant the bulbs, as well. But, time moves forward, with things and people changing in the process. If I do not hear from her, I will grab some paper white bulbs, just as I used to do every year before we had The Amaryllis Project! It has been such a worthwhile lesson for my students.