Though a bit morbid, one of my favorite quotes is from the great Albert Einstein. It reads, “Once you stop learning, you start dying.” As adults we can get complacent and busy with the lane we live life in and do not take the precious time we have on this earth to keep learning. This has been pointed out to me in a profound way this week.
If you did not get a chance to see our new Outdoor Green and Ecology Classroom during Celebration of Success, I urge you to take a look at it the next time you are on campus. A group of faculty led by Mr. Adam Ciluffo and aided by the Ecology students, has put together a vibrant space in a short period of time. It began with a “home made” wood shed (nothing Home Depot pre-fab about it!) and has expanded with a greenhouse and garden. Showing the usual level of NHS ingenuity, they are re-purposing the single use coffee “K cups” as planters for a variety of seeds. The whole green is pleasing to the eye and offers countless opportunities for students to learn. I am told that it is going to continue to expand even further in the coming months and years.
A few weeks back I received an e-mail asking for volunteers to sign up for a week and make sure that the garden was properly watered. I quickly signed up, but then realized that I knew absolutely nothing about gardening. Having spent a good deal of my life living in urban areas has led to me being the ultimate “City Slicker”. I can you expert tips on how to avoid traffic or find free parking in New York City and can give dining tips (both quick and sit down) in about 20 different airports, but the garden bed that lies 100 feet from my office was as foreign as Mars. Right before summer began, Mr. Ciluffo and Ms. Zampatori provided a tutorial on how to get the rainwater that comes from the roof of our shed to the rain barrels (very impressive!) and make sure that the plants were not undernourished or ove-rwatered. I noticed that I was the only one who seemed to have any confusion or was asking questions.
This week was my first week to ensure the survival of the plants and vegetables. The pressure was on! Like many parents, I have strongly encouraged (forced?) my own kids to take part as well. They fight me until we get here and then they love it. At first we had fun reading all of the different labels of what was being planted. I could have sworn that tomatoes grew on trees. We watered the plants on Wednesday morning, but was shocked at how dry the beds looked on Wednesday night after a very mild day.
The highlight for me has been the past two days. Yesterday some lettuce began to pop up through the soil. This morning, next to the lettuce, I saw what I thought was a weed. Upon closer investigation, it is the purple lettuce that sometimes finds its way into salad bowls when we go out to eat. With a head full of curiosity (no pun intended), I returned to my office to learn all I could about lettuce. I won’t bore you with the details, but as a person in my mid-40’s I have learned more about vegetables in the past few days than I had in the previous two decades and developed an interest and curiosity in gardening.
Why do I share this? Life goes by quick…stay alive by learning more about the world around you. Norman Howard has begun to put together a summer curriculum that is nonacademic and will come more into focus in the coming years. If you are still reading this, get out there and challenge yourself to learn something new this summer; if you are a NHS parent, make sure to incorporate your kids. The quality of your life will expand and grow like the NHS garden!