Weed it and Reap

Fifth grade classes make vegetarian tacos with
homemade tortillas for their Thanksgiving lesson.

Last week I taught a Thanksgiving lesson to two fifth grade classes. I described Thanksgiving as a time of year when everyone is cheery; people reach out to thank everyone in their lives for their love and support. For week folks get geeky over new and old recipes. Then, after much anticipation, they come together with the people that matter most to give thanks for food (and chow down). Though we don’t endorse gorging yourself into a sloth-like state, our FoodCorps projects are not too different from what I just described.

You could say here at Harp we celebrate Thanksgiving every day. Going a festive step further, I say we celebrate New Year’s every day too.  We give thanks and study food, and we reflect upon the problems with food in our society. Much like a daily New Year’s resolution, we seek to do better when we recognize opportunities for improvement. Every class we discuss how to better our eating habits. Our kids are tiny world-changers; and I am forever thankful for all they teach me.

Science club students with Harp’s feathered friends. 

I would like to share a few of these lessons.  I believe children are adults without inhibitions. Not only can you learn a lot from a child, but they are also great sources of hope and entertainment!

Lesson 1: Kids LOVE themselves. I asked science club what they were thankful for. Diego responded, “Diego.” It caught me off guard. “You’re thankful for yourself?” I inquired with a big grin on my face. “Yes I am!” he belted with pride. I go home and think about it and decide that the first step to living a healthy life is valuing one’s self. I admire Diego for his confidence and enthusiasm!


Lesson 2: Kids are great dancers. As I stated above- kids are adults without inhibitions. So, picture how you dance when you are alone after a long day at work. Now picture twenty kids doing that in public. One day in science club our lesson ended five minutes early. I put on a child appropriate Beyonce song and instructed the kids to copy my dance moves. I am a good dancer, but I pale in comparison to my kiddos. They made sure to tell me that. The first time a student insisted on leading the group, I asked her how she didn’t get nervous acting so goofy in front of her friends. She said that good friends love you no matter how silly you act, and that people who make fun of you are probably just nervous, so you shouldn’t worry about them. “Never be scared of being you, Ms. S”. Wow, I am the one that’s supposed to be teaching them, right? I think of this every time I lift twenty pounds next to a strong athlete at the gym.

Making apple stamps!

Lesson 3: Children are competitive; they love to win the prize.  I remember this as I make lessons: add an element of competition and then rig it so everyone wins. A child’s competitiveness is very different from that of an adult. As an adult, you compete for the best paper in college so that you will get the best letter of recommendation. You compete for jobs that will affect nearly every aspect of your life. On the other end of the spectrum, students compete to identify a vegetable first so that they can take home a carrot that says “science club’s star student”. One day a student was very upset she didn’t get a carrot to take home. Her friend ripped off part of her carrot, so that she wouldn’t be sad. Yes, they love competition, but they love their peers more.  These small acts of kindness happen all of the time. While they seem so simple, they are full of meaning.

My students never stop teaching me how to be fearless and selfless. They are so brave and innocent. I am thankful for all of the adults in my life, but this year I am most thankful for the 640 tiny teachers I get to work with. The best learning environment is one in which the students learn and teach. “They” say children are the future. It might seem scary when you’re watching them dance like madmen, but for the most part that statement fills me with hope!