Sunday, March 25, 2007

PTSW : About the woodlands I will go...



The beautiful blossoms of the Pocket Trail (see below)
remind me of this favorite poem. The cultivated cherries are resplendant right now (as above). The native cherries will break out cheering a little later. I ran Housman's little declaration in a post a year ago, but it won't hurt you to see it again!

Loveliest of Trees

Loveliest of trees, the cherry now
Is hung with bloom along the bough,
And stands about the woodland ride
Wearing white for Eastertide.

Now, of my three score years and ten,
Twenty will not come again,
And take from seventy springs a score,
It only leaves me fifty more.

And since to look at things in bloom
Fifty springs are little room,
About the woodlands I will go
To see the cherry hung with snow.

-A.E. Housman


For all the old geezers visiting The Limb I'll append the updated version by Margaret Haskins Durber, the poet laureate of Lake Wobegon. Garrison Keillor included it in comments on his column in October 2005.
Loveliest of Trees, Now

Loveliest of trees, the maple now
Is turning yellow on the bough.
It stands among the trees of green,
All dressed up for Halloween.

Now of my three score years and ten,
Sixty-three won't come again.
Subtract from seventy, sixty-three,
It scares the daylights out of me.

And since to look at things sublime,
Seven years is not much time.
It’s rather sobering for a fellow
To see the maples turning yellow.
-Margaret Haskins Durber



-----------

The series of posts, A Poem to Start the Week, is my little anthology of poetry, most of which I have used with my students in elementary schools during 27 years of teaching.


Previous Poems to Start the Week:
Flax-Golden Tales
The Dinosaurs Are Not All Dead
Owl Pellets
Mummy Slept Late
Just My Size
The Kindest Things I Know
Miles to Go
Love that Brother
Oh, Frabjous Day!

Other Posts about Children's Literature:

The Lion's Paw top kid's OOP book!
Harry
Aslan is Dead!
Multiplying People, Rice, and Readers
A Teacher's Life

You can read some of my own efforts at poetry here.

A weblog dedicated to Poetry for Children.
Watch Sonja Cole's reviews of children's books at Bookwink.com.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

The Best Wildflower Walk in Georgia

If you have an interest in the flora of Northwest Georgia, find a way to get to the Pocket Trail on Pigeon Mountain near LaFayette in the next few days. (Do not confuse this with the Pocket Trail in Floyd County.) Here's the map -- only use it if you swear to be a good citizen in Eden, no apples!

If you have sworn, pricked a finger, and spit over your left shoulder, then take Ga 193 west from LaFayette to Davis Crossroads; turn left onto Hogjowl Rd; just past Mt. Hermon Baptist, slow way down (you can't see to turn till you are nearly past the turn!) and turn left onto Pocket Rd, which soon turns to gravel, and go till you can't go any farther. Park.

What a show! Our friends Richard and Teresa Ware, editors of Tipularia, the journal of the Georgia Botanical Society (Richard is a past president of the group.) spent the day showing us their favorite wildflower walk. Richard is one of the most knowledgeable botanists in Georgia and leads botanical excursions all over the state; what a treat to have our own guided tour. The Georgia Botanical Society will have a field trip to Pigeon Mountain next Sunday.

I took 149 pictures. Here are only a few favorites - click on a pic to enlarge it:


Cercis canadensis (Eastern Redbud) There is a parking area near the trailhead. The path by the redbuds leads to the boardwalk through the bluebells to the waterfalls. The path to the left leads to the top of the falls and on to other trails.


What a lush array of floral displays. The blue is Mertensia virginica (Virginia Bluebells)


The Virginia Bluebells have pink buds that turn to blue when they open.



A carpet of flowers draped down the hillside. The yellow is Stylophorum diphyllum (Wood Poppy).


Dicentra cucullaria (Dutchman's Breeches)


Phacelia bipinnatifida (Phacelia)


Cystopteris protrusa (Brittle Fern)


Trillium flexipes (Bent Trillium)


The falls area.


Phlox divaricata (Wild Blue Phlox)



Do you see the moth?


Aquilegia canadensis (Wild Columbine) I had to do a little rock climbing to get to these guys.


The view from the top of the falls.


Erythronium americanum (Trout Lily)

From the Pocket Trail we drove around the mountain to the east side where we found more wonders:

Conopholis americana (Squaw Root)


Jeffersonia diphylla (Twinleaf) - the only spot in Georgia this is known to grow.


Blue Hole (This water comes from deep within Pigeon Mountain in Ellison's Cave -- and Ellison's Cave is a story itself! (Here is one fellow's tale of a trip to the bottom of the "Fantastic Pit" in Ellison's Cave.)



and even more Trout Lilies!



Learning in the Great Outdoors



The very first edition of Learning in the Great Outdoors: The Carnival of Environmental Education is coming right up and , so far, the response has been.... well, underwhelming. I have had three submissions, two of which seem to be pure spam.

Help!

Pass it along, if in your surfing you've run across websites or blogposts that you have found useful in
  • teaching about the environment
  • learning about the environment
  • enjoying the environment
..or just a site that includes some remote connection to enviromental enjoyment, preservation, recycling, destruction, hiking, nature trails, environmental policy...

Even better, write a post about the environment and ways you learned in the outdoors!

From my original call for submissions:

If you are an educator, a parent, a science buff, a naturalist -- anyone interested in sharing nature with children, I hope you will join our monthly conversation. Maybe you have a memory of a great outdoor learning experience that you participated in as a child. Maybe your children had a teacher who provided wonderful experiences in the natural world. Maybe you just visited a great nature center and saw a program that we all could profit from. Maybe you chanced upon a website that provides some great insight into the environment. Whatever your contribution, please share. You may use the handy submission form in the sidebar to the right. I promise to fix the picture soon. The first edition will be out on April Fools' Day -- no significance there, I hope.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Happy Birthday to Me!





March 22 has rolled around again. I feel pretty good for a sixty year old. I'm a little outa shape, a little overweight, have a little high BP and a little high cholesterol -- nothing terrible so far.

But 60!

That sounds like somebody else. It can't be this kid. I still feel like the same guy, and he's not 60.

My mother has posted a bit of hyperbole about me. She and three of my sisters and other family threw me a little dinner where we devoured wonderful chicken and dumplings, two delicious salads, green grapes, and a homemade cake with ice cream. The Median Sib's husband, an accomplished songwriter from Nashville, called to sing an original composition in honor of my birth - it had allusions to my politics in it, but I was laughing so hard I missed most of it. I do remember this tidbit of internal rhyme, "...Obama's Mama..."

I cannot hold my eyes open-- I'm heade up to bed. If you want to see more about the old coot, check out last March.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Education Reform Needed

Democracy Should Seek
The Development of the Individual

I last wrote about a speech by Tim Pawlenty, Minnesota’s governor, concerning school reform, and expressed the idea that school reform should be based on sound ideas about motivation.
Wow. It's the school's job to motivate students? I suppose that's so if students are all hatched in test tubes and, having no parents, are wards of the state. Failing that, it is, to put it simply, the job of parents to motivate their offspring, by any legal means at their disposal, for you see, children don't always comprehend what is best for them and tend to give little thought to the future. It is a student's job to take full, daily advantage of the educational opportunities provided for them by their teachers.

It should go without saying that teachers must provide that opportunity. Of course teachers should be encouraging and should work to present interesting and engaging lessons, but ultimately, learning is not all about entertainment and the classroom is not a movie about a motivational football coach who takes a group of losers to the state championship on the force of his personality. Learning takes work. If a student is unwilling to do that work, no amount of teacher motivation will prevail.
Mike | 03.14.07 - 12:20 pm | #

These thoughts, by Mike, above, I’m sure would be welcomed by many school professionals on the front line of school work, who, regardless of their best efforts, are experiencing much student failure. Failing schools usually have quite a long blame list: society, TV, drugs, the culture. Much blame goes to parents, and, the biggest blame for student failure is often put on the individual student, himself or herself. As Mike writes: “Learning takes work. If a student is unwilling to do that work, no amount of teacher motivation will prevail.”

Mike’s comments seems to say that the system is fine -- that the problem is the individual within the system. I’ve come to believe the opposite. I believe it is the system, itself, that is the chief determiner of system success and that, therefore, our school system needs major reform. Students achieving far below their potential, at both low and high levels of achievement, I believe, is a symptom of system fault.

Pawlenty expresses the fear that today’s lackluster high schools will imperil our future economy, and, as a solution, he recommends an increase in student requirements and sanctions. It hard to imagine that Pawlenty’s reform idea is serious. Even if it works, and some students begin to function at new minimum levels, it makes no sense that our future economy will be saved. The future will demand great leaps in the educational levels of our citizenry, not simply marginal improvements.

These great leaps will not come about via new government regulations, but by allowing a clear vision of educational purpose to direct the redesign of public education. Winning -- making good grades, getting awards, getting scholarships, etc. -- seems to define current educational purpose. The argument pushing current school reform is that the system needs to be changed so that there are more winners -- no child left behind -- and fewer losers.

The problem with the current system, however, is not that there is not enough winners. The problem is that a system that uses its authority to define winners and losers is probably not a system that produces quality. The old Soviet system identified “winners,” who were allowed to shop at “dollar stores,” and who were assigned the best government apartments. Producing more winners would not have solved the Soviet’s overall problem. The Soviet system did not produce quality -- even for its winners.

Those of us who are winners, because of the present education system, usually want to think that public schools are working fine -- particularly for the good students. We want to think that the public schools’ sorting of winners and losers is appropriate: Why fix what is not broken? But the truth is, a lack of quality pervades the entire system, and a poor quality of education encumbers winners and losers alike. Winners and losers, alike, are often learning at a level far below their potential. Winners and losers, alike, are often involved in wasteful tasks that contribute nothing to their individual growth or maturity.

School reform must start by answering some basic questions, the first one being: what in the world are we trying to accomplish? Our answer must be centered in democratic values, and must be the type of answer that would not be embraced by the North Korean Ministry of Education. Our schools must do much more than guide students to align with authority, much more than train students to be society’s future workers.

The purpose that should guide education design, it seems to me, is simply this: the development of the individual. Our democracy continues to fund public education because democracy depends upon the strength and wisdom found within each individual. New levels of human maturity will be needed to meet the challenges of the future. We need a system of public education that can answer this challenge.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Randon Flickr Blogging: 0088

Hold it, boy!



Brush-cutting and bush-hogging at the Crawford ranch is one thing, George, but this is a whole 'nother matter ---- and despite the legendary precedent, cutting cherry trees here is not gonna make you first in the hearts of your countrymen!
(Click on the pic to see the original.)
----

Tom Hilton at If I Ran The Zoo originated and posts "Random Flickr-blogging" every Monday and invites other participants. Check out how it works here.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

PTSW : Flax-golden Tales

I am a storyteller.

I love to gather some folks around me and set out a big delicious lie for them to devour. Yesterday was our quarterly PJ Day, when our fourth-graders receive yet another extrinsic reward, this time for meeting a reading goal. (Sorry, Mike!) It was my turn to tend the rewardees for the day. I told several stories and was pleasantly surprised when a few students, including one very bashful little girl, wanted to regale us with their own tales.

These are the stories I told yeaterday:
"Bud and Jim Go Skinny Dippin'" (The story and the post have some basic similarities, but it ain't the same. Both probably occasionally stray somewhat from the true history of the event.)
"Matilda Stood on a Grave" - my drawn-out and localized version on an old ghost story standard.
"The Tailor" - my version of a quick, cute, little tale specially related to storytellers.
And of course I recited "Jabberwocky". It's expected of me every time I tell stories.

I usually introduce a storytelling time (or a poetry time) by reciting Shel Silverstein's brief introductory poem, "Invitation" from Where the Sidewalk Ends. I learned this one about ten years ago when I was asked to open a Tellebration program here in Rome. Let's start this week with Shel.

Invitation

If you are a dreamer, come in.
If you are a dreamer, a wisher, a liar,
A hope-er, a pray-er, a magic bean buyer...
If you're a pretender, come sit by my fire
For we have some flax-golden tales to spin.
Come in!
Come in!

- Shel Silverstein


-----------

The series of posts, A Poem to Start the Week, is my little anthology of poetry, most of which I have used with my students in elementary schools during 27 years of teaching.


Previous Poems to Start the Week:
The Dinosaurs Are Not All Dead
Owl Pellets
Mummy Slept Late
Just My Size
The Kindest Things I Know
Miles to Go
Love that Brother
Oh, Frabjous Day!

Other Posts about Children's Literature:

The Lion's Paw top kid's OOP book!
Harry
Aslan is Dead!
Multiplying People, Rice, and Readers
A Teacher's Life

You can read some of my own efforts at poetry here.

A weblog dedicated to Poetry for Children.
Watch Sonja Cole's reviews of children's books at Bookwink.com.


Saturday, March 17, 2007

A Few Recent Matson Cartoons




I haven't sent you off for a chuckle at the expense of Shrub and Co. lately. Here are a few Matson cartoons to check out. Just click on the detail to visit the real thing at R.J. Matson's website.

By the way, when you vote next, remember that polls indicate that 75% of the upstanding folks who choose the Republican nominees still support The Decider. When you vote for a Republican you are voting for the choices of the Ann Coulters, Sean Hannitys, Dick Cheneys, Alberto Gonzaleses, etc. of the world.







Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Learning in the Great Outdoors



I hope you will join the very first edition of Learning in the Great Outdoors: The Carnival of Environmental Education. As I searched online for other educators who are working to use the environment as a context for all kinds of learning, I began to wish for a clearing house for that topic. Finding none I hereby audaciously set out to do the deed myself.

If you are an educator, a parent, a science buff, a naturalist -- anyone interested in sharing nature with children, I hope you will join our monthly conversation. Maybe you have a memory of a great outdoor learning experience that you participated in as a child. Maybe your children had a teacher who provided wonderful experiences in the natural world. Maybe you just visited a great nature center and saw a program that we all could profit from. Maybe you chanced upon a website that provides some great insight into the environment. Whatever your contribution, please share. You may use the handy submission form in the sidebar to the right. I promise to fix the picture soon. The first edition will be out on April Fools' Day -- no significance there, I hope.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Random Flickr Blogging: 6534



Don't you feel better now?
Click on the pic to see the original. Play the slideshow and relax with gorgeous landscapes from the Czech Republic.
----

Tom Hilton at If I Ran The Zoo originated and posts "Random Flickr-blogging" every Monday and invites other participants. Check out how it works here.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

More Nature Trail Madness

The nature trail project at our school continues to occupy my thoughts. The deadline for a pair of grants I am working on is April 27, so I need to clarify, quantify, budget, gather approvals, map, etc. Our planning day Friday was a chance for me to take an hour and a half to tromp about the woods of our campus and just beyond it. I took 80 pictures. I worked at finding a logical path down the steepest portion of my proposed general route. This is a great time to plan a route since the visibility is so good without leaves on the bushes and trees.

I also explored the Berry College woods immediately adjacent to ours...

...and found another opportunity for an extended trail (to add to my proposals at some later date!)

It turns out that the nineteenth century railroad from Rome to Summerville passed less than a quarter mile behind us...




and the ruins of a CCC camp are there including a lovely little wetland where the CCC had dammed...


...the stream that washes across the layers of sandstone where thousands of little snails gather their nourishment...



Dentaria heterophylla - Slender Toothwort (I think.)

...through open hardwood forest hillsides...


... down to our current nature walk.


Coming downstream I spy familiar territory ahead.


Our little nature walk!

A trail from our Nature Walk to the wetland would be only about o.2 miles long.