Sow There! Math and other reasons to grow out of season, Oct. 19, 2018

Sugar snap pea seedlings rise above the soil. (Heather Hacking — Contributed photo)

PUBLISHED: October 19, 2018

If you have children or grandchildren, please help them grow sugar snap peas. You can fill a paper bag with hundreds of bulk seeds at Wilbur’s Seed and Feed on Meyers Street in Chico, Place a few in a dish with half a tablespoon of water. Check the water each day.

In about three days the magic begins to happen. There’s nothing like a thick, perfectly obvious seedling to teach the life cycle of a plant. Bonus that they serve examples of green snap peas in the school cafeteria.

If you want to add in some reading comprehension to your garden lesson, read Jack and the Beanstalk later that night.

When I brought in the sugar snap pea seeds, my students didn’t really know what was in store for them. Neither did I. This is not the right time to plant them.

I just knew I had seeds going to waste in my cupboard and I should take them to school. When I showed the children the sprouts, they looked mildly interested. Some noticed them when they were washing their hands at the sink.

I teach at a charter school and my children eat lunch in my classroom. A few weeks ago, I announced that the first children who finished their lunch and cleaned up their desks could help plant the seedlings in soil.

Most of the children didn’t hear me. A few did hear me. Those few managed to clean up their desks at a speed for which I would not have previously believed they were capable.

I had intended to only grow five plants in the classroom. That’s because I had only five small plastic pots in a pile at the side of my shed.

A garden volunteer stopped by the class and I bragged about my seedlings. Soon more pots appeared.

Most importantly, more children learned how to clean up their lunch quickly.

Now the question is what to do with these beauties. The plants are balanced precariously on a chair in a south-facing window. It’s the wrong season to grow them. The happy tendrils are ready to grab onto something. The children still have work to do to prepare the planting area. The plants might die over the winter.

But I can’t be bothered with realistic details. The plants are beautiful just as they are.

Magic days

You remember what a magical place a garden can be when you’re looking through new eyes. Recently we had our first real work day, if you can call it that.

Three adults were ready to guide young hands in some serious weed-yanking. I had crammed in a lesson about the life cycle of a plant — from seed of life, the taking of nutrients, air, water and sun, then the full circle of seed production.

That information may or may not have been absorbed by young minds. However, I am certain that the class wanted to be outdoors to see things for themselves.

This was our first foray into the actual garden. The children were gentle at first, as if walking into a postcard. White “butterflies” glided through the air and green tomatoes clung to the tall plants. One white flying creature (a cabbage moth if you haven’t already guessed), landed on a boy’s finger and stayed there for a long time.

I think I saw this scene in a Disney cartoon, with Snow White singing in a lovely soprano voice.

Another boy yanked some weeds, but was soon digging in the soil with a stick. He kept digging because he kept finding things — a worm, a slug, an earwig. A crowd gathered to view these new wonders. I followed the lead of the garden moms, who asked children to bring snails and slugs to a bucket, where the living creatures would be removed from the garden.

Two weeks later, the garden adventure included adding heaps of fresh soil to the garden beds. We had intended to plant seeds of spinach and kale. Yet getting their hands dirty was so much fun we ran out of time.

I might need to get my kids out there sooner than our allotted garden time. Should we shave some time from a math lesson? Is gardening more important than math? I’m thinking we’ll make a point of measuring how much the plants grow and count seed-planting as part of the equation.

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