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Sunday, 12 December 2021 18:11

The Sugar Jar Tree

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     Many years ago Antioch School Kindergartners would cut a Christmas tree to decorate for school.  Since not all families and children celebrated Christmas, they decided to make it more inclusive.  After all, the tradition of bringing greenery and evergreen trees in during this dark time of year dates back to the earliest solstice celebrations, long before Christmas was celebrated.  They called it a giving tree, and the Kindergartners would choose a cause for families to donate to and the tree would be decorated with items for that cause.  Some years it was hats, mittens, and scarves.  Other years items for hurricane relief, food for local food banks, and even items for the birds at the Raptor Center were placed on and under the tree.  Last year, when we weren't in school in person during December, we weren't able to make plans about a tree.  I never know for sure what each group will do with this tradition, but without a recent memory of it, I wasn't sure if it would be of interest this year. 

     Additionally, the group had been very busy finishing number days and writing a play together.  The beginning of the play flowed easily, and act one was written in one sitting.  Several sessions later, though, act two hadn't been concluded.  With much discussion and sleeping on it, the children concluded the writing of their play in about a week.  That work didn't leave much lead time for discussing a giving tree.  I introduced the idea the next week.  The children wanted to get a tree, but beyond that were focused on the play.  After sleeping on it, I realized that several things about getting the tree would need to be adjusted this year to make it work.  It also dawned on me that a tree played a pivotal role in the end of their play.  The next day, when we were discussing the tree, I just asked, "Is anyone else thinking what I'm thinking?"  Immediately, one of the Kindergartner's eyes lit up, "The tree could be in the play!"  And so the impetus for getting the tree shifted and came into focus for the group. 

     The afternoon we went to the Yellow Springs High School Forest to get the tree was partly sunny and not too cold.  The children were full of enthusiasm.  "We love this camp!" they declared as we set up around the fire pit at the School Forest.  When we started towards the planted spruces, pines, and firs, one child immediately had a suggestion.  "We should get a tree that's not too tall, so we can carry it."  At each tree that someone declared was the one and someone else declared wasn't, they were able to add to their list of characteristics.  But there were still a lot of trees that weren't too tall, with needles not too prickly, full branches, branches not falling off, and not too short.  Then one child added, "It should be in the shape of a sugar jar."  Then she explained the shape--a round bowl like body with a handle sticking out on top.  This really helped narrow down the choices.  The final thing they needed to come to a decision happened when I got busy with something else--I don't remember what exactly, maybe tying my shoe or helping untangle Penny's leash.  At that point, I heard a Kindergartner say about yet another tree--"How about this one?"  And a moment later they all announced to me--"This one!"  Time and space are sometimes all that are needed to come to consensus, and they had done it! 

     The tree currently is residing in our indoor classroom.  It's easiest to move it out to the outdoor stage for play practice from there.  So far the children have decorated it with a name tag saying "The Sugar Jar Tree" and a series of short poems written on paper and hung on the branches.  Perhaps a giving idea will come up later, or maybe it won't.  Perhaps a new tradition is being forged.  Time and space will tell.

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