Figuring It Out With A Little Help From Our Trees

March 8, 2010 at 10:05 pm Leave a comment

posted by Alisa Algava ‘08, leader of a small Hudson Valley progressive school

“Education is a social process. Education is growth. Education is not a preparation for life; education is life itself.”  ~John Dewey

They had a measuring tape wrapped around a big sugar maple.  A few minutes later, with the help of a handdrill, a drillbit, a spile, and a little muscle, too, the tree was tapped.  (Spile [spīl] n: A spigot used in taking sap from a tree.)  They hung the metal bucket and carefully placed the lid on top to protect the sap that had started to flow.  Twenty minutes later, sitting around a table back in their classroom, the Investigators (our 2nd-4th graders) used the circumference measurements along with Pi and a handy formula to calculate the diameter of each tree they had chosen.  They were making sure that the drill had not touched the heartwood at the center of the trees, but had only bored holes into the sapwood, which can repair itself once the spiles are removed.  They then listed on notecards all the information and facts they know about maple sugaring, and posted them on the wall.

  • You go and put a ‘spiral’ in the tree and tap it and don’t tap heartwood.
  • Maple syrup tastes AWESOME!
  • That the trees feed off the sun’s light.

The next round of notecards got filled with questions – what do we wonder about maple trees and maple sugaring?

  • Do the trees love us?
  • Why does the flow change?
  • How long have the trees been here? How many years have they been tapped?

The following day, the Investigators forged ahead with their new maple sugaring project. They recorded the high and low temperatures (42° and 26°), pointing out that the days must be warm and the nights cold for the sap to run.  They collected and measured the sap from each of their nine trees.  They charted the amounts, compared them, and then added them together so that they could record the daily total.  So far: 3 gallons and 1 cup.  Erika pointed out that her tree only produced 2 ounces and Simone’s tree gave 2 cups.  I observed, “That’s interesting.  Is one tree bigger?”  “No, they’re almost the same size.”  “So why would they give different amounts?”  “That’s what I’m wondering, too!  That’s what we’re gonna figure out.”

New skills – math, science, writing, research, history, reading – and new concepts, too.  What does nature do to keep itself going?  How do people work together with a shared purpose?  How do things grow and change over time?  We’ll all be working to figure it out, investigating together.  The process is equally as important as the product here.  But, hey, the product sure does taste good…I can’t wait for those pancakes!  Here’s to a sweet coming of the spring…

Alisa Algava graduated from Bank Street’s Leadership for Educational Change program in 2008. For the past 15 years, she has taught and learned in public, private, and charter schools in NY, NJ, and RI. She has written a handful of postings on the Alumni Blog about her experiences leading and learning in a small progressive school. Alisa loves learning. She loves moderating The Alumni Blog. And she really loves her nephew.

Entry filed under: classrooms, collaboration, community, constructivism, curriculum, integrated curricula, literacy, math, science, social-emotional learning.

Museums, Public Spaces, and Life-long Learning SAVE THE DATE! May 21st…Back-to-Back Alumni Events

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Trackback this post  |  Subscribe to the comments via RSS Feed

An Online Conversation

Join the conversation among Bank Street College alumni blogging on education policy, practice, and point of view. Explore issues, ask questions, share what's actually happening in our classrooms, schools, museums, and communities. To submit a post, please send it to:

Your Voice

Post your own opinions about teaching, learning, children, politics, special education, school reform, play, the standards movement, student teaching, museum education, leadership, block building, morning meeting, curriculum mapping, collaboration, isolation, benchmarks, bilingual classrooms, social-emotional development, the arts...right here on The Bank Street Blog!

To leave a comment on a posting, please click on the "comment" link beside the posting date. Comments will be reviewed before they appear.



Some of Our Past Bloggers

Alisa Algava ‘08, leader of a small Hudson Valley progressive school
Gloria Arenson ’58, psychotherapist
Bill Ayers ‘84, UIC professor, Chicago
Fred Baumgarten ‘84, writer/musician/naturalist/father
Keith Berman '03, founder/president of Options for College and Bank Street’s LinkedIn moderator
David Bowles ’08 (SFC ’93), museum educator at the Rubin Museum of Art
Elena Canaras ‘07, Special Education teacher, Hawaii
Virginia Casper, Bank Street faculty member
Jim Clay ‘88, director of a Washington DC Quaker preschool
Mary DeCamp Cotterall ‘87, Reading Specialist, Michigan
Judy Coven ’77, retired public school teacher and former Antioch University faculty member
Leslie Day '93, adjunct instructor at Bank Street and author of Field Guide to the Natural World of New York City
Mary Louise (Molly) Day ‘76, Lab School teacher, Chicago
Liezel de La Isla ‘99, Prague International School teacher
Diane Trister Dodge '70, founder and president of Teaching Strategies, Inc.
Meghan Dunn ’08, 3rd grade teacher, Brooklyn
Steven Evangelista ’01, co-director Harlem Link Charter School, NYC
Janine Fetters ‘02, Senior Associate of Parent Engagement at NACCRRA
Dena Florczyk '88, middle school teacher and founder/director of The Nigerian School Project
Hollee Freeman '94, writes about parenting issues for the alumni blog and was featured on BSCAA's April 2012 Career Panel
Ellen Galinsky '70, is President and Co-Founder of Families and Work Institute and author of Mind in the Making: The Seven Essential Life Skills Every Child Needs
Joanne Ruvolo Gannett ‘84, Columbia College art history professor, Chicago
Joan Goldstein ‘67, sociologist and educator
Margot Hammond, Director of the Center for Early Childhood Professionals
Carol Hillman ‘67, early childhood educator, author, and Long Trip co-leader
Pam Jones ‘05, Bank Street advisor and instructor
Lee Klinger Lesser ‘87, trainer for the Parent Services Project
Preminda Langer ‘97, teacher trainer
Claire Milam ’97, life coach, Austin, Texas
Rabin Nickens ‘03, Speaker, Trainer and Educational Consultant
Beth Norford ‘89, consultant and former School for Children teacher
Susy Ogden ‘97
Marion Palm ‘95, Leadership in the Arts alum, writing tutor, poet and singer
Jessica Poser, assistant professor of art education at UIC, Chicago
Jesse Pugh '76, BSCAA President
Meg Rauen ‘06, former Chicago elementary school teacher, NY
Linda Reing, Bank Street Director of Alumni Relations
Rosalind Rothman '62, retired NYC teacher and guidance counselor
Kyla Ryman '92/'97, educational coach and consultant
Ariel Sacks ‘06, middle school teacher, Brooklyn, NY
Linda Appleman (Guidall) Shapiro ‘81, psychotherapist and author
Barbara Silver ‘80, literacy consultant and former NYC first grade teacher
Andrea Penny Spencer, former Associate Dean of Academic Affairs at Bank Street
Debbie Stone ‘84, former teacher/co-director of High Valley School
Rachel Theilheimer ‘74, chair of teacher education at BMCC/CUNY
Theodore Timpson ’05, founder/president of Young Spirit Foundation
Eleanor Traubman '95, is Editor in Chief of Creative Times, a blog which promotes NYC's performing, visual and literary arts
Allison Warren '08, new mom, recent grad, and early childhood teacher
Max Weinberg ‘03, Francis Parker School teacher, Chicago
Ted Wells ‘07, 4th grade teacher at The Park School, Brookline, MA
Tracy Wiessbrod ’03, kindergarten teacher and stay-at-home mom

%d bloggers like this: