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Tea and Growth - A Class Project

Today's blog is from Joanne MacNevin who has been teaching for 16 years, both abroad and in Canada. She is currently an EAL teacher on PEI, working mostly with junior high students. She loves gardening, and works it into the curriculum whenever she can. She says, "I always have a cup of tea with me. My favourite tea for work is Earl Grey or Lady's Slipper, though I prefer London Fog from the Farmers Market on the weekends."

Thank you, Joanne for sharing this delightful story with us and our readers! We hope as you do that next year will be better.

My hands wrap around my mug of tea as I watch the morning sun creep in through the windows, spreading its light and warmth over the many plants that have taken up residence in my living room. Its warmth is eased by the light, crisp morning air coming in through the screen door, bringing with it the sounds of the morning that have yet to be touched by the energy of the day. 

My tea choice this morning is Cream Earl Grey, made from tea leaves I bought at Lady Baker's Market booth. This isn’t my usual choice of tea for an early morning spent in my living room. It is, however, the tea I usually choose for mornings spent in my classroom, getting ready for the day. I thought, it would be the perfect choice of tea, since my plan for this morning involves tasks that would usually be done with some of my students in my classroom. This morning, at home, I plan to re-pot the jungle of flower and vegetable plants that crowd against the windows in my living room and kitchen, plants that were originally planted by my students, as part of a small classroom gardening project. 

The small classroom garden is something I’ve done for years, with varying levels of success. Our choice of plants changes from year to year, depending on what seeds I can get, and what the students are interested in growing. As I sip my tea, I recall the year that a couple of students decided to grow several sunflowers. Usually, I can’t get sunflowers that are grown indoors to survive very long, or grow very well, but these flourished. One of them grew to be almost four and a half feet tall. The students had to design a support structure out of sticks to help the thing stand up as it grew and bloomed. They’d measured their height against it every day. Two years ago, I got tomato plants from Van Kampens that flourished in the classroom, giving some students their first ever experience eating fresh tomatoes directly from a plant that they’d grown and cared for. 

This year, I was very lucky to work with another teacher who got a grant through Agriculture Canada for a two-tier grow light. This grow light was wonderful. The students planted different types of flowers, and a range of vegetables, including string beans and tomatoes. The beans are doing the best. Before students left for March Break, the bean plants were already blooming. I was looking forward to seeing the students’ reactions when they saw the beans and tasted them for the first time! I thought that some of the beans would be ready to try shortly after March Break. 

And then the world shut down… but the plants kept growing!

I’d hoped that things would improve enough for us to get back to class in April, but that is no longer a possibility. And many of the plants have outgrown their little pots and need more space to stretch out their ever-growing roots. So this morning, after my tea, I will be re-potting plants in the hopes that they will continue to grow and flourish. The beans are blooming and growing. I’ve eaten several of them, and they are delicious, tasting of summer and sunshine. 

I pour a second cup of tea - it is always difficult to forego a second cup - before diving into the world of plants and soil. Steam rises from my mug, bringing with it the warm, citrusy smell of bergamot. I hope our classroom garden is this successful next year, when hopefully the students will be present to enjoy the vegetables of their labour. 



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