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Each Tree has a Personality

I love to substitute teach for elementary schools, the younger the kids the better! I am always a bit sad when I enter a K or Pre-K classroom in the autumn and see the inevitable, construction-paper, apple trees all lined up along a wall like wooden soldiers. Each one is indistinguishable from another except for the child’s carefully scrawled name on the back of the paper.  I am sad because every tree is identical. When did you ever see an apple orchard with rows upon rows of the exact same tree? The parents come for open house and say “How lovely! Which tree is yours?” The students try to figure out in vain which of the duplicate trees they made.

I understand why it is preferable for the teacher to have all the pieces precut, and an example tree for the class to look at. Each child is given one trunk, 2 branches, 1 piece green foliage and 5 apples- the materials necessary to create one apple tree. It’s hard watching them labor over the exact placement of each apple, constantly looking to the teacher’s example and sneaking a peak at what their fellow students are doing to be sure they have everything perfectly placed.

I would love to see the result of giving the students the tree pieces and no model to copy. Kids have an idea what a tree is and what it looks like. Let them truly create their own image of an apple tree. The we would have a proper orchard! Each tree as wonderfully unique as the child who envisioned it.

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