Friday, July 23, 2010

Flower Festival - Part 3

Jordann, our oldest granddaughter, will be in the third grade next year. Soon after our return from Belgium last March, she and her brother Joshua spent a few days with us. She decided she wanted to do a science experiment and plant the same flower variety in two pots, keep one indoors, one outdoors, and then observe, over time, the flowers grow. Jordann had learned in school that plants need light to live and grow but had never taken the time to conduct her own test.
Weeks later,Jordann and Joshua returned to spend a week with us. We had lots of fun. We spent one night at a very nice hotel with a great restaurant and a beautiful swimming pool.
Later the next day, after a huge breakfast, we drove to the mountains to a spot just south of Yosemite National Park, and rode the Sugar Pine Railroad. The SPR was a logging railroad and one of the steam engines used to haul logs out of the forest is stiff huffing and puffing away. Here’s a picture of  Joshua and Jordann in front of Old Number 10. 
The conductor announced over the PA system that Number 10 was built in 1934. That’s just four years before I was born and I’m stiff huffing and puffing too!
Here is Jordann with her indoor flower.
This is Jordann's outdoor flower.
Jordann was amazed at the difference in the leaf growth between the plants and the indoor plants' lack of flower blossoms. She will continue to check the plants on subsequent visits.
After Jordann and Joshua left for home, I was watering the yard and noticed this blue flower growing from the intersection of a stucco wall and concrete slab at the front of our house. 
We planted this type of flower as groundcover in the planters that separate the sidewalks from the street in front of our house. Apparently the wind (or possibly a bird) deposited a seed on the slab and the wind wedged it in the crack at the wall.
The front of our house faces West so the little blue flower receives plenty of light. But where does it get water and nourishment? I’ll ask Jordannn that question when she and Joshua return next month. The little blue flower suggests that perhaps it is time to read with Jordannn, The Little Prince, by Antoine de Saint-ExupĂ©ry. The story tells how the Little Prince learns to care for a flower.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Flower Festival - Part 2

Not long after our return from visiting the flower garden at Keukenhof, Holland, the boys and I were playing outdoors. John found a small, white flower in some loose soil and pulled it up, roots and all. I suggested we put the flower in a glass of water, set it on a windowsill, and see what happens. 
John found the roots interesting and we talked about how the flower sends its roots in all directions to find water and other nutrients. I said that since the roots were not damaged, the flower could live for several days in the glass of water.
Here is a close-up of the flower’s roots.
Several days passed. The flower even added new blossoms. John decided to return it to the ground so that it would live through the Spring and Summer. Our son and his family have since returned to the United States and a new Air Force assignment. I’m sure the little flower has survived and is adding its glory to the Belgium summer.
Where’s the math and science in John’s flower experience?  Besides the more complex botany and biology, there’s a simple and structurally important symmetrical form to be seen in leaves, stems, and roots. It’s a structure that helps a five-year connect what’s above the ground and what’s below the ground when they see a planted tree or flower.
Trunk, limb, twig is a branching structure much studied by scientists and mathematicians. Branching is a highly efficient way to collect or distribute something.
In a planted tree or flower, the top endpoints of the branching system are called leaves. Branching maximizes the number of leaves (nature’s solar panels) available for collecting the sunlight necessary for photosynthesis. The roots maximize the collection volume for finding water and subsurface nutrients.
Branching is a highly efficient way to collect or distribute things like sunlight, corn flakes, and taxes. Not all branching systems are like the one shown above that has branches at both ends. Many branching systems are two-way systems. Corn flakes are made at a factory, shipped to a wholesaler, transshipped to a retailer, and purchased by a customer. Money flows in the opposite direction, from customer to corn flake maker.
Branching is an important idea to teach our kids and grand kids and is one of those science and math ‘themes’ we can look for throughout all of nature.

John will be starting Kindergarten soon. With the push to get kids reading and doing ‘math’ from day one in school, I wonder if the first school year wouldn’t be better spent teaching kids a reverence for living things.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Flower Festival - Part 1

“Our highest assurance of the goodness of Providence seems to me to rest in the flowers. All other things, our powers, our desires, our food, are all really necessary for our existence in the first instance. But this rose is an extra. Its smell and its colour are an embellishment of life, not a condition of it. It is only goodness which gives extras, and so I say again that we have much to hope from the flowers.”

Sherlock Holmes
From Memories of Sherlock Holmes, "The Naval Treaty" 

During our recent visit to Belgium our son drove us (grandmother and the grandsons, John and Andrew) to the south of Holland to visit the world’s largest flower garden at Keukenhof. Approximately 7,000,000 (seven million) flower bulbs are planted annually in the park.

The temptation to take pictures easily gives way to the no-cost digital camera snapshot. Here is just one of the many tulip pictures I clicked off.
It takes a full day just to walk through the park. To see every nook and cranny, walk through the mazes, watch every event, feed the swans, and enjoy all the park has to offer would, in my mind, take two to three days.
Even though it was mid-March when we visited, the park was already signaling that Spring was on its way. Bundled up against the cold wind, grandmother and the boys occupy the single chair on an island deck.

Purple seemed to be the boy's favorite color.
What a wonderful day.
To follow up on our visit to Keukenhof, in the next two posts I will share two ‘flower’ activities initiated by two of our grand kids.