One of my most memorable experiences was a spring day in Gainesville, Florida, when I noticed a crowd of people outside the building I was in; they were all gazing upward. I hurried out to see a seething mass of sandhill cranes circling overhead, their rippling cries filling the air. They had risen up from nearby Paynes Prairie, and were massing for their annual return to their breeding grounds on midwestern and Canadian rivers and wet prairies.
Apparently they were awaiting the emergence of the right leader. Eventually one crane left the group heading north. A few birds straggled after in a ragged V that aimlessly dissolved back into the group. Soon another crane made a failed bid. After four or five false starts, a leader emerged that drew the wheeling flock into a solid line aiming northward, the leader who would start them on the long journey with that ancient knowledge that must be taught to each succeeding generation.
A charmingly enthusiastic science teacher from Arkansas just received an award for helping her students learn about nature and environmental sustainability:
Hackler [Intermediate School] is one of six schools in the state winning the Arkansas Green Schools Challenge, sponsored by the Arkansas Chapter of the U.S. Green Building Council and the Arkansas Association of Educational Administrators.
A science and social studies teacher, [Barbara] Penrose is teaching her students much more, such as how make compost and how to grow vegetables to feed their families. Actually, Penrose teaches the fourth-graders more than that; she teaches them to appreciate and care for the environment around them.
… Penrose not only teaches her fourth-graders about protecting the environment and recycling, as you might expect, but also “fun” things like worm composting for the school’s vegetable and butterfly gardens. Though an annual butterfly release, they learn about pollination, and they’re developing a marked nature trail to teach identification of trees, wildflowers, birds, and insects.
Wonderful stuff. I wish my school had been like this!