Contributed by Lower School Science Instructor Eileen Fennelly.

Starting with questions is just one of our Mount Vernon norms. “Where are these flowers from? Why does this tree have flowers, but the others on the Frontier do not? Does this tree have a name?” Kindergarten student Tucker had these questions and more as he spoke with his teacher Kathryn Cooper while playing on the Frontier. Mrs. Cooper brought Tucker to the Science Lab to decide how we could identify the tree.

The two returned to the frontier with the Picture This app to identify the tree. “I found out it is a Carolina Cherry Laurel. How can I let people know its name? People should know what its name is just like I know my friends.” Tucker sat down and drew the tree and wrote its name. He took the drawing to Shaun Kirkwood, our Maker teacher, to ask if he could laser cut a sign for the tree.

The next day Tucker hung his sign on the Frontier, but he still had some questions, “Mrs. Fennelly, can we name all of the trees? Can I have a tree club?” 

Of course, you can! How can you invite people to join you?” 

Tucker decided to use the announcements to invite students to join him. Director of Lower School Molly Hudson interviewed him so he could explain his idea to the rest of the school. He had a good response and so far the Kindergarten group has identified eight trees on the Lower Campus. We meet every Tuesday afternoon to identify and draw trees or hang the signs they made. This project is growing each week with students from other grade levels joining in and learning more about the environment on our campus.

This project seems simple, but Tucker’s questions have renewed our exploration on campus, inspired his friends to help him explore, and instilled a sense of responsibility in these small children. They take their job seriously as they identify, create, and hang their signs on “necklaces” around the trees so they do not hurt them. We hope you enjoy the trees.