Friday, September 20, 2013

Learning to wish....3rd grade

Ceiba de la Esperanza

This summer, we took a quick trip south of the border to Playa Del Carmen, Mexico for a little rest and relaxation.  Yet, for a teacher, rest and relaxation always ends up being a new lesson or an educational experience.  At the end of a day full of site seeing, snorkeling and fun in the sun, we walked through a gift shop area where an amazing tree was installed in the middle of the plaza.  From its limbs hung paper leaves, thousands of them with written wishes.  The tree was title the Ceiba de la Esperanza  and represented the sacred tree of the Maya, symbolizing the center of the universe and, presently, referred to as the Tree of Life.

The installed tree towered towards the ceiling with green leaves hanging from its limbs.  

You couldn't help but to stop and read some of the wishes.  Each little leaf told a short story through a "deseo", making me wonder about who the author really was.

This idea reminded me of the time I spent in Japan and visiting the amazing temples throughout the country.  Along with meditation and prayer, all temples had wishing posts and fortune trees. Visitors from near and far expressed their wishes, offering them to the greater powers that be, to come true.

These planks of wood and twisted paper become living installations of art, expressing short stories of strangers united by dreams, hopes and needs.

After a bit of googling, I discovered a Wish Tree project created by Yoko Ono that travels around the world.  

To begin my 3rd graders journey around the world, my two friends Yianna and Helios introduced them to the idea of making a wish through an email message.  This was the springboard for sparking their imagination and making Yianna and Helios 'real'.  

We began to create our own wish tree with simple materials but big ideas.  I was very impressed and proud of my students' thoughtful and reflective wishes.  Some were an expression of something that was happening right now. Others were looking at a bigger picture of the world.  Heartwarming and heart wrenching, each student told their unspoken story.  It's really amazing what can be said in just one sentence.

William Faulkner writes in his book The Wishing Tree:
“(...) next year she would have another birthday, and if she just remembered to get into bed left foot first and to turn the pillow over before she went to sleep, who knows what might happen?” 
― William FaulknerThe Wishing Tree

green construction paper
leaf template
colored markers (sharpies)
and a tree (real or fake)

I normally do not use templates, but for this quick one day project, I really wanted the students to think about their ideas.  I, also, emphasized that the tree in Mexico provided the visitors with the same leaf template.  So, they traced, they cut, they wrote and they hung their leaves on the branches of our very special school tree, dedicated to a fallen soldier.

And then it rained......For the remainder of the 3rd grade classes we had to move the wishing inside to a newly installed brown construction paper tree.  Perhaps not as exotic and real but the message was still the same.

So....wish upon a tree and let the world see your short story.

What's your wish?  
Share it with 
Yianna and Helios! 
(promise they will write you back)