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Students and tutors at the Church of the Covenant


Students and tutors at Holden Arboretum Students and Tutors Grow at Holden Arboretum

On April 23, 2005, 41 students and 16 tutors from the Saturday Tutoring Program ventured into the woods at Holden Arboretum. For most of our students, the woods were an unfamiliar place, so Holden's knowledgeable guides began with two important activities.

One guide, Gail, asked the third and fourth graders to arrange felt cutouts of trees, flowers, animals, and humans on a felt board. When everything was in place, she asked the students to remove all of the plants. Next she asked them to remove all of the animals except for the most dangerous creature. The students looked at the felt snake and felt spider, but soon realized that humans are the most dangerous creatures in the woods. Gail asked them to give the felt people certain instructions. The kids commanded the felt woman, "Stay on the trail." They warned the felt man, "Don't pick any of the plants." Everyone was ready to follow those rules.

Gail also prepared the students to be observant. She told the group that she had scattered some everyday objects in the grass. She asked them to count how many objects they could see. These were items that everyone would recognize, including a film canister, a clothespin, a ping-pong ball, and a measuring scoop. On the first pass, the kids noticed four items. On the second pass, they spotted eight items. By working together, they found all ten items, and they were ready to observe natural objects in the woods.

The group set off on the trail. Gail gave each pair of students an egg carton with descriptive words written on the bottom. She wanted them to fill their egg cartons with things that fit those descriptions. One team needed to find things that were bumpy or flat. Another pair searched for things that were pointy or smooth. When their cartons were full, Gail and the students looked at all of the interesting things they had found. The students had collected bumpy twigs, flat rocks, pointy burrs, smooth leaves, and many other things that could only be found in the woods.

The group continued along the trail. Gail asked the students how they could tell the age of a tree without cutting it down. The students knew they could count the rings on a tree stump, but they needed to think of another method. Gail explained that most trees grow about an inch in circumference every year. She gave the students tape measures and asked them to find a tree that was 10 years old. They measured lots of trees and found several that were 10 inches around. They found younger trees that were a year old, and the oldest tree in sight was 29 years old!

Meanwhile, Frank was helping the fifth and sixth graders identify small critters that live in the soil. Jolene and the seventh and eighth graders were hiking up a steep hill to study the forest canopy. The first and second graders were finding colorful plants with Barbara. Eventually everyone met back at the visitor's center.

The students had learned to care for the earth, to be observant, to work together, to classify objects, and to use their measuring skills. Before we left, Gail had one more lesson. She told the students to stand tall (like the trees in the forest). She encouraged them to be proud of themselves, and she reminded them to always do their best. These field trips are valuable opportunities for students to meet caring adults like Gail, to visit completely new environments like an arboretum, and to have real-world experiences that will help them excel in the classroom.

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Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)
Cleveland, OH 44106