Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Ecstasy in a classrooom

I remember
coming to the farm in March
in sugaring time, as a small boy.
He carried the pails of sap, sixteen-quart
buckets, dangling from each end
of a wooden yoke
that lay across his shoulders, and emptied them
into a vat in the saphouse
where fire burned day and night
for a week.

Donald Hall, from "Maple Syrup"

I am drinking some fine mead made by my daughter and her beau--they had almost given up on it a few months ago. Honey, water, and yeast, when left alone long enough, make one feel like a part of a universe that matters. We play a part, but just a part.

This week's Perennial Project, my year long observation project, is for the kids to go stare at the tree they picked way back in September. The leaves gave up their nutrients, sugar flowed into the ground, and the trees "died."

And now the sugar returns, last summer's bounty fueling this spring's growth. We don't tap trees in this neck of the woods, but we could. Maybe next year we will.

Miracles continue to happen in the classroom. I ate the freshest rattlesnake bean possible in February--Dina brought it up to show me the bean, concerned that her plant was dying. And it was. Somehow her plant had gotten fertilized, and the bean sprout poured its energy into this lovely bean pod.

Without a thought, I ate it, and it was delicious. Another teacher eyed my basil patch this afternoon and offered to "thin" it out. My student teacher has already confessed to gnoshing on some others.

Dina will get extra credit for getting her bean to fruit, but long after the points dissolve to nothing, she will remember her bean, and the ridiculous look of joy on my face as I ate it, the freshest produce in Bloomfield, righ under her nose.

Mead, basil, and rattlesnake beans make the last week of February tolerable. We teach order and restraint, as we must in a public school setting, but wildness creeps through anyway. We share our room with yeast and daphnia, basil and fish. We've raised E. coli that fluoresce with jelly fish protein. We have tomato plants that are threatening to fruit.

And what will a child's heart follow a decade or two from now? Will it be influenced by a battery of tests designed to create super-citizens who will "outcompete" workers from around the world?

Maybe, just maybe, a heart or two will be influenced by the few moments of pure joy experienced by the oldest in the room, eyes rolling up as he savors the explosion of flavor available to anyone who cares to know. Life consumes the living, and all living today will be consumed by life.

That's science.
Just ask Donald Hall.

The photo is of Palestine, the great great grandfather of Willow of Willow Manor, via Creative Cmmons 3.0.
Isn't it a great photo?
It's reason enough for a post....


veterankindergartenteacher said...

What a touching post! You must be an awesome teacher Donald!

doyle said...

Donald Hall is indeed an awesome teacher. I got to share a few meals with him back when he still lived in Ann Arbor decades ago, when I was a student at Michigan.

Get a hold of a book or two of his--his poetry helps you see the obvious, which, I guess, is as good a reason as any to read poetry.

This Brazen Teacher said...

The boy from two posts ago downloaded Avatar last night and we watched it... It made me think of you! Not sure how you feel being compared to James Cameron's multi-million dollar plea to humanity... but I couldn't help telling you this. The personalities of my favorite bloggers seep into my thoughts even when I leave the computer :-)

doyle said...

Dear Brazen,

Thanks for the words--I've not seen Avatar. I usually catch movies about a decade after they've been released.

I spent a good chunk of a period yesterday watching a daphnia under a microscope, then screwed up when I was putting it back into the jar of pondwater, and, alas, squished it.

Anyone careless with daphnia has no business making pleas to humanity. (I was responsible for it, and I failed.)

If I could do anything, it would be to help people use their senses and imagination together to get a hint of how awesome this this is. But that's what artists are for.

And if artists ever succeeded, the consumer economy would collapse. (Hmmm....maybe artists are more successful than I realized.)

willow said...

My great-great grandfather Palestine, teamed up with one of my favorite poets, Donald Hall, is brilliant. Thanks for giving me credit for the photo, Mr. Doyle.

doyle said...

Dear Willow,

Thanks for sharing the photo, and I apologize for not getting the relationship quite right. I'll go fix it.

The photograph is stunning.