Materials: Many students brought gardening gloves and trowels. I provided more trowels that we had collected over the years and two spades for tough digging. Each class had a package of thirty solid yellow daffodil bulbs. Solid yellow was chosen to symbolize friendship, remembrance and sympathy.
The early morning of daffodil planting day promised a nice clear cool day. Yesterday's lesson rolled through my mind as I was driving to school and I caught myself smiling about how engrossed they were. I knew they were looking forward to today.
Literature Connection: After lunch, I told my students that before we would plant the bulbs, I wanted them to do a little silent reading about daffodil bulbs and the connection to Greek Mythology by revisiting the University of Illinois bulb webpage. This little reading ties into CCSS and understanding myths.
I wrote the word "myth" on the whiteboard and we discussed what it meant. They connected text to text by referring to Percy Jackson and Thor. I explained that Greek Mythology was used to explain why something came to be and that this story explained why daffodils exist. They logged on and quietly read about Narcissus, Hyacinth and Crocus.
The "silent read" time gave me a few moments to double check my equipment for planting: They each had a bulb from the day before. I have extra gardening gloves for those who didn't bring them. I checked my box of trowels and made sure the spades were ready.
When they finished we discussed what the main idea of the articles. One student shared that he understood that people who were obsessed with their beauty look in the mirror a lot and that Narcissus fell in the pool admiring himself. The discussion helped support mastery of CCSS 4SL.1.d.
As we wrapped up our discussion, I told them that I wanted them to understand more about the reason we are planting our bulbs today.
9-11: I asked students to come up to the SB and sit. I told them that today was a day that we would plant bulbs in memory of those who lost their lives on September 11, 2001. I explained that the video I would show them would show what happened and wanted them to understand that we have moved forward, but those families directly affected would be remembered and honored in our community by planting daffodils. This video from the History Channel is well done and appropriate for 4th grade.
Sensitive Discussion: The first hand that went up after the video belonged to a boy who questioned, "Why did they do this?" I carefully answered by explaining that I couldn't imagine, but that a very deep hatred was behind it. I explained that the people who caused this were extreme in their thinking. I also explained that Muslims are peaceable people, but this group is not. And then, I turned the conversation to words about how important that we be peaceable people. My classroom is based upon TRIBES learning community that really revolves around treating others as we would want to be treated. And so, the agreements we keep and practice about mutual respect was emphasized. The purpose behind remembering 9-11 for 4th grade hopefully generates understanding of the importance of peace, tolerance and acceptance of differences in order to exist in the world.
Integration and connection of science to social studies just makes sense. Science influences history. While daffodil bulbs are not connected to 9/11 in any other way, our community has linked botany to symbolism and has made an impact on our local history. The woods filled with flowers makes a difference in the way we remember this significant event.
As this class is some of the first that were born after 2001, this event has not really been as significant in their lives as in past students' lives. As they watched the film, I watched them. I watched their faces and read the thoughts of "why?" in their minds. I felt uncomfortable for a few minutes as if I had removed an element of innocence that I hadn't experienced in past classes over the years. This makes me question if this is important? After the planting, I decided that yes, it is. I realized that after all of the discussion, the message of peace and the responsibility we have to one another to be tolerant and peaceful was what stood out in their minds. It didn't generate fear or worry. There were no questions as in the past. The first class in 2002 worried that we would be bombed or attacked.
That sad fear is gone from these children. But what was generated by the discussion was some thought behind understanding that hatred has no place in our lives. They were able to connect it to what is going on in Syria. This piece of their education today is a step toward peace and compassion for others.
I gathered all of the fourth grade students under the canopy in the front of our school where I could easily be heard. I asked for volunteers to hold up a bulb and explain the parts. Students could remember the names of the parts of the bulb! I asked again what a bulb was and a student said that it had the entire life cycle of the plant inside it. I asked how it differed from a seed? They told me that they knew the bulb needed to be buried deep and that seeds are just planted. Another student explained that the bulb had the basal plate and that seeds don't have that. This supports his understanding of 4 LS 1.1 as he formulated an argument that compared the seed and the bulb. I asked which direction the bulb needed to be planted. They all held up their bulbs the correct direction.
I explained how large the hole should be dug and told them they could do a mass planting or plant one bulb at a time. It was their choice. I explained that each hole had to be at least 6" deep. We have 6" ruler that help us to measure the hole. We discussed that the ruler needed to be straight up and down in the hole and that leaning it against the side would give a false measurement. We discussed permafrost and squirrels loving to eat them. I emphasized the importance of leaving the brown skin on the bulb for nourishment and protection. I asked them why wearing gloves was important? One student shared that it was protect their hands from the soil. Correct!
I explained that the bulb needed to be placed and gently pushed into the hole. I explained that when planting them in a garden, we can fertilize and prepare the soil, but because this was a naturalization project, that we relied simply on the natural soil in the area. They have seen the 4000+ bulbs in the woods from the 10th anniversary planting, so they know that the bulbs will bloom without any treatment of the soil.
I told them that it was necessary to replace the soil they had dug out and then to do the Daffodil Stomp: You jump, first to the right and then to the left and then stomp stomp stomp your feet!
I led students out to the site along the bike trail Picking a spot to plant was easy! I checked to see that students knew the direction the bulbs should go. Soon over 65 bulbs were in the ground. The ritualistic Daffodil Stomp was being performed all down the line. It was really fun!
My team and I talked about how adjusting this assignment to meet NGSS standards really made it come alive! We all agreed that students knew what to do with the bulbs and could plant them properly because they understood the external parts of the bulb and how it needed to be placed in order to survive. Having them use the text, draw and then deduce from their observations and evidence was exciting to see. Critical thinking was practiced and applied to real life. It was awesome!
During writing class the next day, students wrote their first entry to their portfolio, reflecting on their experience using the Bulb Planting Reflection Sheet. We talked about how this sample writing is a personal narrative. They responded to the question on the front page. The back page is a response they will complete in the spring when the bulbs are in bloom for Daffodil Project Part 3. They spent over 20 minutes writing. Since this is their very first writing sample for their portfolio, I did not instruct their writing. It is a raw sample that was edited before it was turned in. Next spring, when they write about the daffodils blooming and the external parts of the flower, they should be able to see the progress in their writing. This document serves as a reflective assignment in the spring.
In this video I talk about different student samples of their thoughts about the Daffodil Project. As I read each one, I was thinking about how well my students write for the most part. Sequencing seems to be a problem for some. They jumped from one subject to the next. But, most students included a piece about 9/11, how to plant the bulb, the thoughts about the experience and the parts of the bulb. Good stuff! Now for spring!