Third Grade And Gardening

Sometimes, when I multiply numbers in my head, I think back to my third grade teacher, Miss Milner.

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?


  1. I am sorry to say I don't remember third grade. That was a long time ago. Congrats to your niece. I am sure she will be a wonderful teacher. Especially if she is anything like you. You are a great teacher.

  2. One of the few things I remember about third grade was being painfully shy and my teacher calling me Robin red breast. I was so embarrassed!

    Your niece seems to have inherited your creativity.

  3. I think it's great the way your niece gives her student different responsibilities! Sounds like she's a great teacher!

  4. I shy away from puzzles because they always make me feel dumb. The only pattern I can see is that the words in the first column all have double letters and the ones in the second don't.

    I was taught my multiplication tables by nuns and had to learn them to 12x12. Being an Air Force brat, I changed schools/towns often. I always felt a bit smug that I knew my times tables to 12 when most other people only knew them to 10. Thank you, Sister.

    (Now I rely entirely on a calculator.)

  5. Lisa at Greenbow, I think I'd be impatient as a teacher, I'd want them all to hurry up too much.

    Robin's Nesting Place, I was shy in 3rd grade, too. I do love my niece's bulletin boards, especially the one with the worker bees. If I organized my "tasks" like that, maybe I'd be more likely to do them!

    Roses and stuff, I think she is a great teacher, too. She's very good with kids.

    MSS, You are right, go to the head of the class. MSS is, Carol isn't. It is the double letters!

    Thanks all for the comments. Maybe I'll update the post with my 3rd grade picture...

    Carol, May Dreams Gardens, and former student of Miss Milner, V.O. Isom Central Elementary School.

  6. I do remember third grade, Carol, but I remember fourth grade even more. That was the year I learned most of the geography I still know today! Thanks to Mrs. McClain, I can tell you the capitals of Bulgaria and Yugoslavia, except Yugoslavia doesn't exist any more, I think:)
    Congratulations to your niece and I wish her a long, successful career. There is nothing more rewarding than being a teacher (from a retired one)!

    It must be too early in the morning for my brain--glad you gave us the answer to the word puzzle:)

  7. I loved third grade. Except for getting sent to the principal's office for talking too much. Now I get paid for that. Ha!

    I spent three weeks of the third grade in one really cool classroom: my grandmother's! She taught third grade and I loved her so. She even made me a dress to match my friend Audrey's dress and we wore them on a field trip to the Carnation Dairy Plant in Spokane.

    Thanks for the little trip down memory lane!

  8. What a sweet post, Carol, and what lucky kids they are who have your niece as their teacher!

    I can't remember 3rd Grade because I skipped from second to fourth. My poor mom had to work with me at home on those pesky times-tables. Maybe if I'd have gone to third I would have guessed the answer to your riddle!

    My 4th Grade Teacher was Mrs. May - now one of my teachers is Ms MAY DREAMS ;-]

    Annie at the Transplantable Rose

  9. Third grade is where my life long love of reading started. Such a sweet post.

  10. Another excellent post (but then, I am the mother of the wonderful teacher.). She is a great teacher and has a wonderful gardening resource in her favorite Aunt Carol. And we are saving those yogurt cups so they can plant seeds in the spring.

  11. Many congratulations to you on winning 'Best Blotanist' on Blotanical, it is thoroughly deserved.

    Best Wishes,


  12. Fun post, Carol. I was trying to remember my 3rd grade teacher's name, think it was Mrs. Crowson? That doesn't sound right. And who was my fourth grade teacher? Where IS my memory, anyway?

  13. My third grade teacher was Mrs. Oehlert. She was also my kindergarten teacher. Can't remember a thing we studied in either one.

    My niece is going to be a teacher too! She's doing her student teaching next semester and will graduate in the spring.

  14. My class loves having the plants. Friday they applied for new jobs and the most popular job was the gardener. In their application, they all said that they wanted to learn more about the plants.

  15. I missed this post somehow, but I wanted to commend your niece on incorporating plants & gardens into her classroom. My kids school does a good job introducing the kids to plants and growing. They grew grass from seed in 2d grade, and my daughter, in 3d grade, told me that they are going to plant things outside somewhere. (She wasn't too clear on the details.)
    I love your 3d grade art. How come you have kept that up?

  16. Hi, Carol! I'm not a gardener- well, only in my imagination- but I googled Miss Milner to see what I could turn up on her and found this post. She was my favorite teacher. I don't recall the contest you spoke of, but my best memories are of her reading the Bible to us every day. She had us make a class get-well card for Bess Truman one time and I still have a copy of the nice reply letter we all received from Mrs. Truman. I bet we shared some other teachers, although my family moved to New Whiteland in the middle of 4th grade. We moved away from Indiana when I was 15 and I miss it. Johnson Co. was a great place to grow up.


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