Saturday, January 24, 2015

Bloom Where You Are Planted

Plants adapt to the environment by modifying their leaves, stem and roots. Desert plants such as the cactus modify their leaves into thorns to prevent loss of moisture through transpiration. Plants such as the lotus grow in water, have modified stems with pores and have short roots.

Plants growing in dry, arid regions have long tap roots that allow them to search deep underground for moisture. In very cold regions, the leaves of plants are needle-shaped. Plants that grow in tropical rainforests have broad leaves to allow more transpiration to take place, as the humidity levels are very high. Plants grow deep roots to adapt to their environment.

What would happen if you took a rooted plant and replanted it into a foreign soil?

In many ways people are like plants. The longer people stay and live in one place they grow deep roots. They live with or near their families and extended families. They have jobs, activities, and hobbies. They meet friends at school, on the job, and at social gatherings. The longer they live in the same environment; their roots grow longer and stronger. They become deeply rooted into their culture.

What would happen if you took a person deeply rooted into their home country, language and culture and replanted him/her into a foreign culture?

According to Wikipedia, Culture Shock is the personal disorientation a person may feel when experiencing an unfamiliar way of life due to immigration or a visit to a new country, a move between social environments, or simply travel to another type of life. One of the most common causes of culture shock involves individuals in a foreign environment. Culture shock can be described as consisting of at least one of four distinct phases: Honeymoon, Frustration, Adjustment, and Mastery.

The most common problems include: information overload, language barrier, generation gap, technology gap, skill interdependence, formulation dependency, homesickness (cultural), infinite regress (homesickness), boredom (job dependency), response ability (cultural skill set) There is no true way to entirely prevent culture shock, as individuals in any society are personally affected by cultural contrasts differently.

My students were excited on their first day of 4th grade in a new school, in a new country! They just smiled and nodded their heads. They were eager to read, write or shall I say copy from the board and from their “assigned buddy” that sat next to them.

Weeks passed and the excitement slowly dissipated. They became agitated, withdrawn and isolated themselves from classroom activities, recess and lunch.

During science they observed graphic organizers of plants adapting to their environment. During their ESOL time I drew these pictures:

 I began my lesson.

“We are like plants!”
I drew a picture of a sunflower with deep roots. I had a World Map and the students showed me their home countries. I asked what they liked about their native countries. I recorded their responses on the roots of the flower. Next, I drew the 2nd picture.
“This happy sunflower was taken from his soil and repotted to a new soil. How is the sunflower feeling? Happy or sad?”

The students’ facial expressions showed me that they were quickly making personal connections.

“How can we make this sunflower adapt to his new environment?” One student, replied, “Water!”

“What will the water do to the plant? The roots?”

Another student shouted out, “Plant grow! Root!

“Yes! Plants need water to grow roots! How are we like plants? What can help grow roots? How can we adapt to our new environment here at school?”

As I allowed the students to think I extended the root below the plant and wrote the word, “Learn English.”

The students were becoming more engaged as they thought of one to three word phrases. I recorded their responses.

Months later the students became more involved in their daily school activities. Some of the students were playing soccer, Girls on the Run, and learning to play a string instrument for the school band. The students began to bloom where they were planted!