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Monday, March 8, 2010

The View From Room 202

All teaching and learning in my classroom gets suspended at a few key, window-centric points during the school year. The most notable of these is the moment when it begins to snow. Whatever it is we're doing with fractions is nowhere near as enthralling as a 120 square foot view full of snow. Yes, that's right, our classroom window is gigantic. It extends all the way from the floor to the ceiling, and across more than half of the classroom. I'm not complaining about the size of the window--don't get me wrong. It lets in a lot of light and adds to the modern feel of our school building. And really--a short break so we can all just stare at some falling white flakes is a pretty great use of those 3 minutes. I'm just saying that there's a great likelihood of some kids staring out the window when the full wall of glass is one of the main attractions in our classroom.

A while ago I came across a website where teachers could send in a snapshot of the views from their classrooms. Many of the views feature trees, playgrounds, grass, and parking lots. I'd actually kill for a view of a staff parking lot, but alas, we have no such thing at which to look through a window or otherwise, and I park in a much-coveted alley that gets filled up very quickly. We are on the second floor and overlook busy Florida Avenue, a Chinese food restaurant, a warehouse, and a corner lot covered with stones where the gas station used to be. Talk about not getting much done in class--they removed the underground fuel holding tanks one year and productivity in the third grade took a dramatic downturn for a solid week.

It's charmingly urban out our window, though nothing much usually of note. One year a kid saw some people fighting, another year a teacher saw someone steal something out of her trunk (and actually ran out to stop him). We periodically have to stop a lesson for sirens, but other than that it's just a road and some cars. A steam vent from the warehouse gives off some fairly dramatic bursts, but it soon just becomes part of the everyday landscape. For the majority of the day, the scene out our window is just an average city street, though even that, I learned the other day, is quite fascinating if you're eight years old.

On Friday, I ate lunch with the kids who sit closest to the full wall of glass and sure enough, there was some fairly routine road-type stuff happening down in the city below. What seemed routine and rather boring to me, though, dominated the entire lunchtime conversation. A car had somehow ended up by the side of the road with its hazard lights on, directly below our window. Well, this caused no end of speculation about how it got to be there, if it was or was not abandoned, and a lengthy discussion of the various uses of brake lights. Dominic kept staring down at the car, forming various hypotheses about its situation and the plight of its owners. At one point he abandoned his chair altogether in favor of a more prime car-watching spot sitting on the floor to have a better view of the road below us.

Mia joined him a few minutes later, sprawled out on her stomach, watching the car while eating her sandwich. "Maybe its engine is dead." she said. "A car doesn't have a heart. Some people call the engine the heart of the car." That was pretty much the extent of the action with the car on the side of the road, but it did occupy the whole table for the entire lunch time. As we were cleaning up, a car-transport type truck drove by, carrying eight cars. Exciting views from room 202!

2 comments:

Nate said...

Great description! I was definitely one of those kids who stared out the window...wait, I still do that!

Lacey said...

I'm writing in response to the portion of this posted that was reposted on The Quick and the Ed and the subsequent comments.

I’m Lacey Brown, Education Coordinator for Casey Trees. Casey Trees works with groups in communities across the District plant trees on private property (rather than street trees). My job is to work specifically with schools to help them plant trees on their campuses (http://www.caseytrees.org/education/school-planting/index.php). While Casey Trees does not offer grants, our school tree plantings are available free of charge to all public, charter, and private school located in the District (and we offer our community tree plantings to all other groups free of charge as well).
Interested schools must first submit a completed Community Tree Planting (CTP) application: http://www.caseytrees.org/planting/ctp/documents/CTPApplication9-15-09.pdf . Tree plantings of all sizes are eligible. The deadline for fall plantings is June 15th and the deadline for next spring is November 30th.
Accepted schools are stewarded through the planning and pre-planting process by Casey Trees’ Education Coordinator. In order to develop a treescape plan that meets the unique needs of the school and to ensure that all necessary parties are in agreement on the actual planting and subsequent watering plan, Casey Trees will coordinate three meetings held on school grounds with all the involved teachers, faculty, and the school principal.
A week before the tree planting, Casey Trees holds a Tree Rally for the group of students planting the trees to introduce students to the species of trees they will be planting, show them how to properly handle and plant the trees, and promote discussion on the value of trees. On planting day, we supply all resources: trees, tools, staff expertise. Students dig tree holes, place trees, backfill, mulch and water. Post-planting, I lead a watering rehearsal to teach how to install and use watering bags.

In addition, we offer schools our ROOTS curriculum, tied to DC standards, which connects educators and students to schoolyard environments. Teachers download lessons from our website (http://www.caseytrees.org/education/school-planting/documents/ROOTS-low-res.pdf); we can help deliver lessons. Schools can also apply to do a tree inventory which trains students and teachers to identify trees, take measurements, report tree conditions, inventory plantable space in schoolyards.