It Starts with a Seed
As teacher-researchers, we feel strongly about nurturing children’s connection to nature through playing, making, and sharing. Stories are one way we play and share with one another, seeking understanding and connection, and further developing empathy. How might we, through playful inquiry, consider the stories that nature has to tell? What stories might we uncover within the natural world? What might happen if we got to know each of those stories, and the intersections between them, and grow a story together?
Re-introducing Story Workshop this year, I asked the first and second graders: What is Story Workshop?
Story Workshop is when we are looking to find stories. -S.M.
Making stories! Once we find stories we build on top of them and eventually… -S.R.
It all starts from a seed and grows bigger into a tree.- G.R.
And then the tree grows off leaves.- O.C.
The seed is the first idea.- S.R.
It’s just one idea…- S.D.
And then there’s real life experiences.- O.C.
The seed is like the idea and then the trunk grows and there’s more foundation and you go to different materials and you write and you grow your ideas into bigger stories.- S.R.
They get bigger and bigger as they grow inside your mind.- M.D.
Sometimes when you make one story it turns into other stories.- L.D.
And that makes a forest of stories and that’s a library!- P.W.
(With a sing-songy voice) Once there was a little, little plant. It dropped a seed which grew a tree, then a seed, and then another seed fell down…- J.K.
And that goes on and on.- P.W.
How does all this tree and seed talk connect with writing a story?- E.P.
The tree thing happens in your brain.- P.W.
And you write it down and put it out into the world.- O.C.
As we listened to the children, we heard several children constructing and making sense of this metaphor while others found the connection confusing. We invited a small group of children to explore the comparison through materials in the studio. When the children returned to the whole group, they brought with them their drawings showing the different parts of what happens to a seed when it grows into a tree and how that might relate to nurturing stories and ideas.
Some sneak peeks into what they said are:
“The rain helps the seeds and the trees grow.”
“The branches hold the leaves and ideas together.”
“Wind can blow the seeds. It carries them away to new places. Like different authors being inspired and making different stories.”
“Plants can send their seeds into the air and sneeze them out… like publishing.”
“It’s good sometimes for the termites and bugs to eat the tree. Then the tree will turn to dirt and be a good place for seeds to grow.”
William H. Calvin, author of The Cerebral Code, shares:
“If we are to have meaningful, connected experiences…we must be able to discern patterns to our actions, perceptions, and conceptions. Underlying our vast network of interrelated literal meanings… are those imaginative structures of understanding such as schema and metaphor, such as the mental imagery that allows us to extrapolate a path, or zoom in on one part of the whole, or zoom out until the trees merge into a forest.”
Metaphorically relating the nurturing of an idea to a seed growing into a tree has implications across our curriculum. The metaphor has concrete tangibility and invites play for the children to continue to make meaning through it, and they have. From the first conversations about Story Workshop, they have been playing with how a seed can be an idea, a story, or the act of publishing. As the teacher, I trust that we can ground ourselves in the metaphor while also using it as a catalyst to provoke our intention of connecting to the natural world.
While the how’s and why’s have endless possible paths, I share these original few seeds as the possible foundation for our ongoing project work and questions that have guided us forward. Through the nudge of playful inquiry, we continue to invite more of their understandings and questions about, and empathy towards the natural world. I look forward to sharing how these seeds grow in the upcoming months.