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Report From An Opinionated Gardener – April 29

I spent the day at a local elementary school talking about plants with six first grade classes. Six classes, in case you missed it the first time. You know how they say that dog years are equivalent to seven years in human terms? Well I’m here to tell you that ten minutes of normal, adult time is equivalent to ten hours of teaching elementary school kids. They are the future, they are dear, and they are exhausting.

We should all be bowing down to the teachers who work with young children…and instead of stripping their unions of bargaining powers we should be adding many years and dollars to the teachers’ contracts. The governor of Wisconsin should spend a day working in an elementary school is all I’m saying. But I digress…

Today’s topic for these first graders was plants and plant parts. I took in packets of seeds and pots of herbs, annuals and houseplants. After a presentation we brought each class outside to plant bean or lettuce seeds in pots that they can take home later. One of the pots of plants I passed around was peppermint.

Most of the students were amazed that the flavor that made peppermint candy so tasty was from a plant. One student made a huge leap of thought when she asked me, “If the peppermint flavor comes from a plant, does that mean peppermint candy is a healthy food?”

What a fantastic question! And what a disappointment to learn that although the oil that flavors the sweet treat might originate in a green and growing plant, the candy itself was mostly sugar, so not a beneficial food all in all.

I loved the fact that the girl who asked this question was in a thinking groove, however. She was seeing, hearing and thinking and then making a logical next step by asking, “Could it be…?” This is what we should all, adults and children, be taking from the world around us. Challenge for the weekend: go into your landscape with open eyes and minds, always asking questions.

Common mint was one of the favorite plants for the kids today. As it is willing to grow in between my asphalt driveway and the foundation, I have to say it's my favorite too....provided it's contained.

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