Connections Yield Growth!

This past weekend, I attended the annual family reunion on my wife’s side of the family.  Uncle John and Aunt Deb Boyer have been hosting the reunion for years on their amazing farm, Honey Haven Farms, in Ashland, Ohio.

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Not only do I look forward to seeing family and eating the best, freshest sweet corn, but I get to catch up with Uncle John to learn about the latest updates and ideas he has cooking up.  I have always known Uncle John to have a smile on his face.  Behind that smile, I know he’s always thinking about ways to improve on his yield as well as the experience for everyone who visits the farm.

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Like an anthropologist visiting a foreign country, I asked Uncle John to show me what was some awesome idea he was implementing on the farm.  I was fighting the urge to think nothing new has changed in how a vegetable can be grown.  From the simplicity in growing a vegetable from a seed, how could one “build a better mousetrap” in the area of farming?

With the biggest grin on his face, Uncle John led me to the tomato greenhouse.

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You can immediately see two sizes of tomato plants in the picture above: the small ones in front of the picture above, and the larger ones behind.

My mind began racing.  Was there a difference in plant food?  Sunlight? Water? Seed? Soil?  What else could it be?

Uncle John explained the process of how two plants were grafted together to accelerate the growth process.

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Grafted vegetables are created when the top part of one plant (the scion) is attached to the root system of a separate plant (the rootstock). The rootstock contributes vigor and disease resistance while the scion is chosen for fruit flavor and quality.

Can you believe it?  Can you believe the growth that happens when a connection is made from one plant to another?

Although not as visible than the plants above, but isn’t this the same when connections are made for learners?

Jean Piaget (see, I still remember him from my college days) nailed this notion in the concept of schema, a cohesive, repeatable action sequence possessing component actions that are tightly interconnected and governed by a core meaning.

Wouldn’t it be great if we could see the same kind of visible growth occurring when we make connections with students in learning?  To see what happens when we take the time to build on prior learning to connect new learning with old.  To see what happens when learning is “grafted” with previous experiences.

During the lesson plan process, it is important to reflect on concepts and skills that build on prior ones.

Look at the standards for those connections.

Get to know your students and what experiences they’ve had.

Finally, think about Uncle John’s tomatoes, and make those connections for students!

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