Saturday, January 22, 2011

Late harvest

As I was poking around the classroom garden yesterday, getting the plants ready for the weekend, I found a pea pod dangling from a tiny pea vine.

The child who nurtured it will get "extra credit"--I used promises of points to get the some of my lambs 'interested' in putting dried peas into icky peat moss. She won't remember the points. She will remember the pod.

I hope she remembers the countless times she breathed on her hand--carbon dioxide and water released deep in her cells. Our plants are built on the carbon backbone of our exhaled breaths.

I do not pretend to know anything of God or gods. I enjoy reading the words of cultures past, to see what they saw when words were still so young that they were used carefully.

I can recognize grace, though--a pea pod given to us for the cost of our breath and a little bit of water.


I just came in from picking a few scrawny Brussels sprouts from very chilly plants--two of them now gracefully bend towards the ground, forming archways, seemingly honoring the earth that bore them, the last harvest of last spring's garden.

The sun is returning, slowly, so that our exhaled carbon dioxide can be used again, with grace.

 I can show the kids the graph above--the annual wobble in CO2 levels reflects the dance between the light of life and the ensuing darkness each winter.

Chloroplasts and mitochondria, ancient critters in cells that keep much of the living alive, work in tandem. Chloroplasts capture the energy of the sun in sugar, and mitochondria release the energy as the sugars tumble back to water and CO2.

A child feeds on the lies of our culture. Magic erupts from screens, voices erupt from wire. We are consumers on the infinite, and we tell the children lies because we believe them ourselves.

She memorizes the photosythesis equation without understanding,  because we tell her she must, in order to graduate, in order to get to college, in order to earn money, in order to eat.

A tiny pod just might put a tiny seed of doubt in her. It came from nothing, or so it seems.
It's tangible in a way photons can never be, no matter how thin the computer, how bright the screen.


So I will keep teaching about electron transport chains and ATP and things that can be tested with no more than a scantron and a pencil. I get paid to do this, and I enjoy it.

Our classroom garden provides the real lessons. Heads of wheat are erupting from plastic bottles, impossibly yellow squash flowers lean over plastic trays, and the peas keep wrapping themselves around everything in their path.

Not everything thrives--some of the children get quiet when their seedling wilts, a few get angry. There are always more peat pots and seeds in the back, and eventually another seed gets planted, converting our breath again to the living.


Do not confuse grace with religion, nor technology with science. I know nothing. None of us do.
The veggies came from the back yard, the graph originally from NOAA

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