We celebrated Earth Day in Sunday School with a little project: build a terrarium. We were going to grow some radish seeds that had apparently been bred so hardy that they could survive a group of 4 – 6 year olds and their teacher who seriously lacks a green thumb. I got downstairs early. I covered the tables with newspaper and then filled a jug full of water. We were going to use a pair of plastic cups for the terrarium. I checked and was relieved to see their recycle code was “1”.
The kids showed up a little bit late; the story upstairs ran a little long. We sped through our circle time and went straight to the project. Some were disappointed there were no fish (no, that’s an aquarium). Others were mad I decided I would be the one to scoop the dirt into the plastic cups… those most disappointed were the ones dressed in the nicest whitest dress clothes, of course.
While I was scooping, one child made his brother eat some of the radish seeds. Soon, all the kids were deliberately sticking them in their teeth. One of the parents hanging out in the classroom mentioned the seeds would grow radishes inside their stomachs. While (probably) not true, it did get the kids to leave some seeds for the terrarium. The kids got more interested when I added water to each of the cups of dirt. So, now I had a dozen kids, dressed in their nice clothes, with cups of mud in front of them. This mud had just the right proportion of dirt and water to form a semi-gelatinous goo. I split the remaining seeds and one kid got the giggles.
“It’s plant poop in there!” he laughed. “Diarrhea!” That gave me an in.
“What is plant poo?” I asked as I urged the kids to drop their seeds in the goop. A couple of the kids laughed and a few others gave me a long “eeeeeeew!”
“Plants give off waste,” I said as I started taping the second cups on top of the dirt and seeds. “Does any one know what it is?” No one did.
“They poop oxygen,” I said. I got another long “eeeeeeew!” from the crowd.
One girl remembered. “We breathe oxygen,” she shouted. “We breathe plant poo?!” I nodded and got a bunch of giggles and another long “eeeeeeew!” as I finished taping the terrariums shut. I get roughly an hour’s worth of time with the kids on Sundays to try and teach them something about one principle or another. As they left with their terrariums (with only minor spills), I heard more than one mention “plant poo” in passing. Maybe they’ll put it together that plants help us in lots of ways and therefore we must take care of the earth. At the very least, maybe they’ll end up with some radishes.