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Sunflowers welcome East Elementary students back to school

Kristen Ison, a student at East Elementary, stands beside one of the sunflowers she and her classmates planted last spring.

Christina Mitchell, a UCPS Exceptional Children’s teacher, returned to East Elementary after her summer break, energized and ready to begin a new school year.

While sitting in the cafeteria for the first staff meeting, she happened to look out the window into the courtyard where she was delighted to see the sunflowers her students had planted last spring were now growing tall.

Some had bits of yellow showing through their buds as they prepared to bloom. By the following Monday, (July 22, 2013) when the students returned for a new year, the largest of the sunflowers had bloomed big and bright as if offering a sunny greeting to the students as they sat for breakfast in the cafeteria. Many students wondered how the sunflowers came to be in the courtyard.

Mitchell teaches students with autism in the EC program. Last spring, her students studied the life cycle of plants and how things grow.

Her class planted sunflower seeds in a tiny terrarium and placed it in a neighboring third-grade classroom window so those students could join them in the project and watch the seeds sprout and develop.

Over a two-week period, students learned about what the plants needed to grow (water, sun and soil). They checked on the terrarium three days a week and noted the growth from seeds to sprouts, discussing the changes as the small green stems broke through the dirt and leaves began to appear. It wasn't long before the plants were too large for the terrarium and needed to be planted outside.

Mitchell and James Lowery, a fourth-grade student who likes to help in her classroom, planted the sunflowers in the small courtyard separating her classroom from the cafeteria.

During the last month of school, Mitchell’s students and James would check on their sunflowers, note the growth and see if they needed any extra care. They noticed that the plants that were placed in direct sun had gotten much taller than those in the shade for part of the day.

Summer break arrived and the sunflowers were forgotten, left to grow in the courtyard, receiving rain and sun for nourishment.

As the new school year begins, the beautiful blooms are a reminder that all things grow with the passage of time and that our students never stop learning and growing.

Written by: Christina Mitchell, EC Teacher and Lisa Moniz, Library Media Coordinator at East Elementary.
Posted: Aug 28, 2013 by Debra Bledsoe

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