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  • Jacklyn Janeksela

Seeding in Pods and Signs as Memories

"Gardens and children need the same things - patience, love, and someone who will never give up on them."

—Nicolette Sowder

As an educator, I wonder (and sometimes worry) if what I teach today will have an impact tomorrow. 

Creative expressions, social emotional learning/awareness, mindfulness, ecophilia, and nature wonderment are just a few elements I bring to educational spaces; like seeds, growing during our time together, and perhaps beyond. When considering how best to represent the bilingual learning pod experience during a pandemic, I carried intentionality close to my heart. How would I be able to carve out a tangible item that would be enough? How could I make it something that would reflect them, their growth, and the community? I was grateful when Emily from The Beautiful Stuff Project plus Paula and Lisa from Somerville Community Growing Center agreed to a collaboration. 

My aim was to have a moment frozen in time—a touchstone to which students could reference (and cling!) and a reminder of how much I care for them. The sign would be a place they could go and see themselves, this current moment, knowing they had all they needed to survive and thrive today and well into tomorrow. And in that sign, maybe, just maybe, they might see me, too, holding them close and supporting them the best I could, with a heart full of softness. 

A few goals I had in mind:

Craft legacy—a visual space the girls could point to and share with loved ones and perhaps walk down memory lane. 

Reflect growth—a way to mark time, observe cycles, and mirror plants; as the garden grows, so do the girls. 

Cultivate community—an extension of the learning pod, the girls worked together to add themselves to a public space.

Perhaps you'd like to take a field trip to The Growing Center? Or walk on by to see the debut of welcome signage from the sidewalk! If you're not sure if you should take the trip to a community green space consider this, "You should sit in nature for 20 minutes a day... unless you are busy, then you should sit for an hour" - Zen Saying

The students, four 3rd graders from ESCS, were present every step of the way.  From start to finish they showed up with enthusiasm, care, and focus. They were proud of themselves; and so was I. Their faces glowing, maturing even, before my very eyes. Speechless, one of them said when seeing the final project for the first time. 

I am a firm believer that the best education does not happen at a desk or in a classroom setting, but rather engaged in exploring, hands dirty, eyes-wide—in active relationship with life. 

I guided and watched as the girls designed, learned color contrast, mixed, cut tile, selected and worked with various (often new!) materials, used teamwork, supported each other in the process, and honored self-care with snack breaks and tree house gatherings. And lifted up the final product to hang, the four of them, like sisters, working together! 

I watched them change from indoor, virtual classroom students to confident, capable engineers, artists, project managers, designers, and social workers. We existed for a few hours in safe, outdoor, adult-supervised spaces where fresh air invigorated and the sun inspired. We came alive again! And I realized that while we had been creating a gift for The Growing Center, we were gaining so much in return. The gift was doing the project and bearing witness to each other. Sharing that space in time is a reminder of how golden today is, this very moment, this very breath. As the mindfulness guru himself, Thich Nhat Hanh, states, “The present moment is filled with joy and happiness. If you are attentive, you will see it.” 

Thank you to the parents for their contributions, to Emily from The Beautiful Stuff Project, and Paula and Lisa from The Growing Center. Without them, this project would not have been possible. And thanks to my partner, Adam, for believing in me! For without his belief, I would be a very different human, indeed.

A Spanish language version of this post will be coming soon.


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