When I awoke Tuesday morning to a brighter than usual light, the concept that it could actually be sunshine seemed far-fetched. After so many rainy, cool days, I wasn’t the only one that was confused by this change. When I arrived at school that morning, the students were also mystified by this abnormal phenomenon. In response to the change from gray to blue sky, we immediately took our seedlings out onto the porch to soak in some natural light and headed as a group out to Pinky Point for Morning Meeting. A sunny day with temperatures in the 70’s was indeed welcome, but also had us downing water left and right to stay hydrated. Meanwhile our seedlings went limp and keeled over, begging to be rescued from what we thought was the ideal situation for them. I guess it will take us all a little while to get used to what is more typical May weather, and finally replace our snow boots and winter coats stashed in the classroom with shorts and sun hats.
We’ve been tracking the progress of the fruit trees on campus this spring, fully aware that the timing of blossoms and pollination has been delayed by the weather. Last week we read a variety of recent news articles to broaden our understanding of the relationship between bees and apples. Students adamantly discussed the plight of bees due to fungicides that apple growers spray to ensure healthy trees and good looking fruit, questioning whether there could be a bee-safe alternative, or if consumers could learn to appreciate fruit that is not perfect. We read about bee drones and wondered about the amount of energy being expended on creating a bee replacement versus helping bee colonies to thrive. Because we were curious about how bees in Maine are faring, we chose to read an uplifting article about the current trend with our native bees. Lastly we pondered the Cosmic Crisp apple for a second time, wondering if ripping out existing orchards and planting millions of this new variety of apple tree is the best idea. The students expressed concern about the Cosmic Crisp falling short of expectations, as well as furthering the lack of diversity within the world of apples.
Last week we took a field trip to the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens for a pollinator lesson and exploration of the gardens. Our class learned about the anatomy of a flower, and why pollinators are necessary to ensure the success of not just flowers, but all kinds of food staples (We rely on bees to pollinate 71 of the 100 crops that provide 90% of the world’s food!). Armed with a data collection sheet, students investigated the gardens searching for pollinators of all kinds, keeping tallies of the flower colors where they observed any pollinator action. They began to draw conclusions about the connection between pollinator characteristics and their ability to visit plants, based on the size and shape of the flower, as well as scent the insects are attracted to. Through class research, we’ve also learned that our local pollinators visit the apple trees during a short window when the temperatures are just right, the blossoms are abundant, and the sun is shining. Sure enough, as soon as the rainy weather cleared out, we began witnessing a lot of bee activity at the farm and in the Orchard Field. This is reassuring to us, and makes us very, very happy.
Keying into one aspect of workings of the natural world in such a focused way has been fascinating and eye-opening for us. It has allowed for observation, questioning, data collection, and debate. Being aware of our reliance on small creatures, and the interdependence within ecosystems is humbling for us all.
Have a great weekend!