It was weeks ago, but it stays with me: Grace brought a microscope to school. Usually we have outdoor science on Thursday, but this was Tuesday and the outdoors called us. Earlier, through the windows of Room 204, we’d seen a huge flock of migrating birds arriving in great numbers on the treetops just beyond the roof line across Hanover Avenue.
Now it was late in the day. The birds were gone. Grace’s microscope sat on the round table, still in the box.
“Take out your crayons and look. How many shades of green do you see.” Hands shot up.
“I have a crayon called asparagus,” called one.
“….And I have spring green,” called another.
And forest green. And yellow green. And just plain green.
“Which crayon would match a blade of grass? Is all grass the same color?” I asked. We hypothesized about that for a minute. And then we got our coats on and went outside. Once outside, my third graders waited for instructions.
“Each of you is going to your spot to find a blade of grass. Take a few minutes and come back. You won’t really see if you don’t look.”
Once we had come back together and I asked them to match up with someone with the same color of grass. We went inside to test the hypothesis of color. It turns out that most of our grass was in between two colors. And the color is even more complex when you look under a microscope. Austin pointed out that you could concentrate on a tiny dot that had a color all its own.
Kayia brought me a magnet from the side of my filing cabinet. “Look,” she said. The magnet is a quote from the Talmud: “Every blade of grass has an angel who whispers ‘grow.’”
Isabella came over and told me that her parents had a Johnny Cash song called Forty Shades of Green. We downloaded it on my iphone.
The music played in the background as the children were grouped around the microscope with their blades of grass.
“What do you see?” I asked.
Colors. Life. A tiny egg.
“You know, some people see a field, but writers see a blade of grass. Your notebook is another kind of microscope. Open up your Quick Writes and write.”
And then… in the whisper of flipping pages, I heard it:
It is true for teachers, too: You won’t really see it if you don’t look.