Miss Milner made learning how to multiply a competition by giving anyone who could multiply all the combinations between zero and nine “in their heads”, in front of the class, a huge, bigger-than-I-had-ever-seen sucker.
Guess who got one? That’s right, I did. Funny thing, though, I don’t remember licking the sucker more than a few times. It must have been at least six inches across and I think I was disappointed that it really had no taste. It was probably pure sugar, but it was very colorful.
For whatever reason, Miss Milner did not teach us about how you can multiply plants by dividing them. That concept might have been a bit much for us third-graders to grasp as we memorized that “zero times any number is zero”, all the way up to “nine times nine equals 81”.
No, we didn’t learn much plant propagation in the third grade.
But she did give us a word puzzle-riddle-thingie to figure out. Here’s my garden version of it:
Tree is, but shrub isn’t.
Bloom is, but flower isn’t.
Do you know what "is" or "isn’t" from those two clues?
She didn’t use garden words when she presented it to us. It works with other words, too.
Truth be told, I don’t recall learning too much about gardening in the third grade. I don’t even know if when I was in the third grade anyone looked at me and thought "she’s going to be very interested in gardening when she grows up".
Looking at some of my artwork from that era, they might have suspected that I would someday be interested in… world travel? Alternative energy sources?
Or growing tulips?
My niece has just started teaching third grade this fall. I’m guessing she’s teaching those eight and nine year olds how to multiply and I know she’s teaching them a little about gardening.
Just look at this bulletin board from her classroom.
Plus, they have plants in the classroom to tend to, like the African violet pictured above.
She put the kids in charge of the plants to make sure they are watered weekly. It's just one of many responsibilities her students have, that she keeps track of on this bulletin board.
Some of these kids probably didn’t realize that plants need light and water to grow, but they are learning it now in the third grade.
Later in the spring, I’m pretty sure they’ll also be starting some seeds. Maybe one day, some of them will become gardeners and they’ll remember my niece, their third grade teacher, not only when they multiple numbers, but also when they tend their gardens.
I don’t know if that scares her a bit, to know she’s making an impression and teaching lessons that will last her students a lifetime, or if that motivates her to go back every day. I think it motivates her, and I’m proud of her for choosing teaching as her profession and for wanting to make a difference in these kids’ lives.
And I’m pleased she’s teaching some of those lessons with plants and gardening.
Did you figure out the word puzzle? Here are four more clues:
Grass is, lawn isn’t.
Peppers are, tomatoes aren’t.
Fall is, spring isn’t.
Bloggers are, journalists aren't.
Remember, we solved it in the third grade. Do you remember third grade?