Inspired by the poem The Butterfly by Pavel Friedmann, Tamaques Elementary School teachers Mary Montes and Marisa Truselo launched a powerful garden program called Hope Grows.
“In our reading class as we were learning about the Holocaust,” explains fifth grade teacher Marisa Truselo, “the children read a poem called The Butterfly that uses butterflies as a metaphor for the 1.5 million children who died during the Holocaust. We shared our experiences with the 1st grade team because while we were learning about what butterflies represented in this poem, the first graders were learning about butterflies from a different aspect.” Finding this common thread between the two grade levels was the beginning of a collaborative effort creating 1st and 5th Grade Kindness Buddies and the development of a wide array of lessons and activities that integrated the garden across the curriculum.
“We began our journey focusing on kindness, and it organically grew into honoring the lives of children lost in the Holocaust through revitalizing our butterfly garden,” remarks Mary Montes. “Hope Grows is a perfect summation of the entire experience trying to grow a culture of respect in the school and hope for the future generations while we strive to be better citizens. It connected all of our learning across the curriculum and brought it out to the garden.”
The project included a sustainability element as students saved milk cartons to enter the 2016 Carton 2 Garden Contest. “Our 5th graders had researched a hero named Emanuel Ringleblum who lived in the Warsaw Ghetto. He was a brave historian who collected information about the terrible atrocities happening to the Jewish people and buried these documents in metal milk containers,” explains Marisa. The milk container connection provided inspiration for a host of creative garden projects offering hands-on activities to teach more complex concepts.
First grade students studied the life cycles of butterflies and researched the plants they need to thrive. They learned how to read a seed packet and used math skills to count seeds and measure. They then planted their butterfly host plants in the milk cartons. As a finishing touch, the students wrapped the cartons in recyclable silver paper and used old magazines to cut out inspirational words to decorate the cartons. Expanding into the English curriculum, they then arranged their word-decorated cartons to create their own 3-D poems out of poetic “building blocks.”
Fifth grade students practiced math and engineering skills by drafting designs for displaying the milk cartons in the garden. The students held a contest, with the winning design showcasing cartons arranged to form the word “Hope.” Additionally, the 5th graders wrote notes of hope for a better world and buried them in tin teapots in the butterfly garden to symbolize Ringleblum’s milk containers. Students had the opportunity to delve further into history by hearing the firsthand account of a local Holocaust survivor. Marisa shares, “We invited a Holocaust survivor named Frieda to speak to the 5th graders about the importance of lending a hand, not being a bystander, and never losing hope.”
Through exceptional planning, Mary and Marisa provided their students with learning opportunities that supported both academic and personal growth. By the end of the year, students gained important gardening skills, in depth knowledge of habitats, and an understanding of the importance of attitude and perseverance when faced with adversity. If you would like to learn more about this inspirational program, visit the 2016 Carton 2 Garden contest winner page and click on the Community Involvement Winner to view a video about Hope Grows.