My daughter’s sunflowers have finally bloomed and they are grand! In an earlier post I wrote about the beginning of this garden and how both my children now have their own gardens. Both gardens and gardeners are flourishing and it is a joyful thing to behold. Something like how we feel when about mid-way during the teaching year, we realize that things are coming together, the students are in their routines, and real learning is taking place.
We watched these sunflowers grow throughout the early summer. Some days they seemed to grow six inches or more. The most exciting time was when the plants began to create blossoms which we knew would be big and glorious, and they are. What we did not know, or even think about, is how these big beauties might attract some new visitors to our yard….
But one day recently when I had the sprinkler on in the garden behind my house, I spotted a flash of bright orange. There was quite a lot of activity around the sprinkler that day that included about a half dozen blue jays, some crows, a pair of cardinals, a catbird, and this newcomer. The bright orange visitor was bobbing in the juniper bushes that hang above the birdbath adjacent to the sprinkler. He/she clearly was more cautious than the other birds and kept disappearing into the brush. I ran and got my bird book and binoculars, determined to identify it. I mentally noted its various features: size, shape and color of tail, color of beak and feet, color and shape of head, color of feathers. Success! I had my first ever Baltimore Oriole visitor. Since then he/she has shown up a couple of times and I look forward to its reappearance. Its bright orange body is such a striking contrast to the other birds we are used to seeing.
My daughter was on the lookout for the oriole, when she spied another newcomer. She described it to me as being very bright yellow…not orange! Puzzled, we looked for the bird in our bird book and learned that…lo and behold…it is an American Goldfinch, another stranger to our parts. Upon further reading, I learned that one of its favorite snacks is sunflower seeds! So…plant a sunflower, and a goldfinch (and a Baltimore Oriole?) will come!
Maybe we should think about the implications of this event for our teaching. After all, aren’t we all planting seeds every day in our classrooms? What are the seeds we are choosing to plant? Are we nurturing their growth or do our “seeds” need more attention than we are giving them? Who will be attracted to the fruits of our seeds? How will we sustain their interest? It’s a simple lesson, but the sunflowers and the new birds they attracted reminded me that sometimes we overlook the obvious in our plans.