My son’s Third Grade science class was learning about life cycles, specifically those of plants. Having long ago been type-cast as ‘the go-to gardening guy,’ I was a natural choice to make a guest appearance during their segment of how to tell a seed from a pit or a nut, pod or tuber.
Always eager to help and be a part of my son’s school life, I began boning up on the subject and thinking of examples I could bring in as visual aides. I was confident that my imparted wisdom would be accurate. What I feared was being a bore. Plants are not the most exciting topic for eight year-olds—not in my house, anyway. I knew I needed some juicy, squooshy props to keep the kid’s attention and leave them with at least a morsel of memorable information.
With limited time to prepare, my search was restricted to the dormant winter gardens around my property. It was obvious that my ‘It’ plants was not to be found within the drab-brown seed pods, remaining perennial leaves or stinky, rotted walnut shells left over from the previous season.
I was in trouble.
However, just prior to Panic’s attack, and to my great relief, I stumbled upon a colony of white mushrooms growing in the lawn. Instantly recalling a college botany-class stunt,
I knew that not only had I found the focal point for my talk, but also the finale of the visit—the takeaway for the entire presentation.
Showcasing the mushrooms was an opportunity to introduce ‘spores’ as another type of seed, and illustrate how they were found under a cap, between fish-like gills. Getting the children hands-on into the slime would be the perfect ‘hook.’ The students would carefully place my home-grown fungi on a piece of dark paper, cap-up, to rest until the next morning. My in-class explanation of how spores dropped out of a mushroom cap offered them a hint of the experiment’s yield, but left to discover for themselves the artfully-etched radials the fallen white spores would create on the paper overnight.
The presentation was a rousing success. The kids were enthusiastic, asked many questions and shouted out answers excitedly. Relieved and pleased, I left feeling a welcomed visitor to a foreign land.
On my way out of the classroom, flush with confidence, I spoke to the teacher about planning another visit…perhaps a bit divergent from my usual themes. She was thrilled to plan something, though my offer to demonstrate spontaneous combustion did give her pause.
Jon Feldman is the owner of G. biloba Garden Environments. Reach him at www.gbiloba.com or at 353-3448.