Last week, during spring break, my family took a trip to Calaveras Big Tree State Park in California.
We walked through the North Grove, a 1.5 mile path amongst 2000 year old sequoias. There are both shorter and longer paths, camp sites, and much more to do at the park, and if you are interested you can click the link at the top of this page to the official web page for the park.
Early in our walk we came upon this tree stump, which was used as a dance floor way back when.
During this early part of the walk I really was just taking in the sheer size of the trees, which, regardless of seeing pictures, I hadn't really understood.
These trees, Mother and Son, appear to have been pressed against each other, the parts of their trunks facing each other mirroring each other's shape.
Here's the view from between them.
"The largest redwood in Calaveras Big Trees State Park is the Louis Agassiz tree. It is located in the South Grove. This tree is "only" 250 feet tall, but it is over 25 feet in diameter six feet above the ground! The largest tree in the North Grove is probably the Empire State Tree, which is 18 feet in diameter six feet above the ground."The largest Sierra Redwoods have a diameter of 30 feet, and measure 93 feet around!
If you are a teacher, try measuring out 93 feet of string, tying it into a loop, and laying it out on the ground. How many children can you get in that space? Oh, my, goodness! Can you measure and lay out a string 300 feet long to represent the height of one of these trees? Wow!
Just past half way along the trail we came upon The Mother of the Forest.
Does she remind you of Edvard Munch's "The Scream"?
Near her is another testament to human folly. I have to admit, seeing pictures like the one below, I've briefly wondered if cutting the hole through it harmed the tree, but I've always let it go, to be amazed by the very clear size of the trees shown in pictures like this.
The answer is yes, cutting through trees like this does indeed harm them. It's 140 years since this tree was hollowed out, and there is only one small surviving branch.
Here's the remaining life in the tree, the little leafy part at the top left in this picture.
What does this experience mean for me as a teacher and as a parent? I have to admit, after a week thinking about it, I'm still not sure. I don't know my own role in this, not clearly, and so how can I lead children to find theirs? When it comes to reading and writing and math and how caterpillars grown and change into butterflies, all those "normal" things we teach our children, I know where I stand. I'm comfortable dancing my part in the give and take of learning and teaching. It is a dance, a back and forth, leading and following, finding the way together.
And there the answer lies. I'm sharing my experience with you, continuing the dance, learning and and teaching.
We'll find the way together.