Breaking the news about GMO to a group of JR Highers is heavy. They look at you with a weird stare and listen quietly. They remember technical words like genes and virus. They sit still.
Today we talked GMO. I taught this subject several times now, to different 7/8 graders. All reacted the same; almost like they'd been waiting for the information.
I tell them straight that Genetically Modified Organisms break my heart. I get choked up at the thought of GMO's wild in their world, left for them to deal with someday. I don't want to be the one to burst the bubble, but then, I do want to make sure all middle schoolers are introduced to the concept of gene modification before they vanish to high school.
Youth are waiting for the information. They don't get down about the psyco-knarly potential of GMO like I do; they are still kids. But I see their brains working, and every student takes the time to take the information in.
My co-worker Ms. Jenny told me today that she agrees with a youtube video she saw that says universal forces are working together with us Earthlings, to help and guide humanity in the right direction. I agree with them both. GMO-attentive middle schoolers are key to positive cultural evolution.
A third grade boy with big brown eyes and freckles raised his hand in reflection circle to share an observation from the day's work. We had spent the class moving rocks and clipping back invasive grass. In the process, we uncovered plenty worms; worms half the length of a spaghetti noodle and the circumference of an electric wire flopping around in their always fascinating Exposed Dance.
He said, "I noticed lots of FBI (Fungus, Bacteria, Invertibrates). And I noticed that worms help us dig. I was finding worm tunnels to get my hand in and help get out the rocks."
"What effect do you think worm holes have on the roots of plants?" I asked?
His eye brows shot up and he said, "I know! The roots can use the holes to grow!"
And poof, just like that these brilliant young gardeners put together something I had to study to know. I read that worms help aerate the soil and provide paths for stretching roots in a book somewhere when I was learning about worms so I could teach about them in garden class just seven years ago. And this boy just taught himself, from his own hands in the soil, at nine.
Somehow becoming garden teacher also became becoming waste coordinator. I call myself "sustainability coordinator," but that is really just a fancy term for being responsible for making planet-friendly choices for 164 children's and 37 staff member's daytime trash. When I first started teaching, I was flabergasted by the amount of trash filling the cans after every day; some of the rubbish biodegradable, some recyclable, some reusable. There was the youth of America learning how to clean-up their messes in oblivious tosses at large containers that are taken away by nameless, faceless people and emptied into larger vats until they reach the last, hugest vat - the dump. Just like it was circa 1985 when I was in school. Public school has to be the change we want to see in the world. Obviously the situation was ripe for recycling efforts. I didn't think twice about setting up the basics, and it only took a few months to set up the rest.
IPCS now recycles cardboard, paper, aluminum, plastic 1,2,5, HI 5 aluminum, HI 5 plastics, batteries, capri-suns, and compost. Mr. G built our school's "Recycling Headquarters." Our public school is a recycling model for other institutions. Our first graders could tell you all kinds of information about recycling and some children even bring in their family's cardboard because they don't want to throw it away. Mr. G and I were trying to figure out the story behind some surprise Heineken bottles that showed up and found out that a fourth grader had brought them from home.
I am thrilled by all the recycling hooplah at our school. But the fact is, a public school can only have a concerted recycling effort with a go-to staff person. I made myself that person so I often find myself with fermented juice splattered all down my leg, or hauling 30 pound bags of paper like a recycling Santa.
But today I wasn't alone. Several A+ students shared the responsibility of removing the straws, squirting out left-over juice, and flattening capri-sun pouches. It is my least favorite self-imposed responsibility. You have to dodge cockroaches and lava beetles sqirming out of the capri-sun depths. You gotta watch out for the spray that goes off target and showers rotting sugar water all over your legs and slippers to form sticky juice mud. I was thrilled to safely engage students in the grossest job we got and they were helpful, smart, and inquisitive. We talked all about up-cylcing and lava beetles and cockroaches and native gechos and non-native gechos and centipedes and plastics that never go away and landfills. They successfully strategized an effective team method of doing the work and chatted the whole time.
I learned that being the change means engaging the youth in the change at every step. Even the capri-suns.
Ms Krista says:
Everyday encounters with real garden sprites; tortuous panorama of the surf; old-growth collards; machete lessons; mantis rehab; pesto pasta. Days as a public school garden teacher on the Big Island are filled with unexpected gems of wisdom and infinite inspirations. Introducing my life as a school garden teacher...