Just days after posting my review of, Kate Who Tamed the Wind, the March 2018 issue of Smithsonian arrived in my mailbox featuring a story about trees. I always write about children’s picture books, but I couldn’t pass up the chance to mention this article, “The Whispering of the Trees,” because my mind was going wild with all sorts of connections as I read it. German forester, Peter Wohlleben, talked about the anthropomorphized characteristics of trees through their network of root systems. Likewise, at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Suzanne Simard, professor of forest ecology, explained her discoveries about the “sensitivity and interconnectedness of trees” in the Pacific temperate rainforests of western North America. She states that “mother trees” help neighboring trees by “sending them nutrients, and when the neighbors are struggling, mother trees detect their distress signals and increase the flow of nutrients.” She says that when she walks into a forest, she feels the “spirit of the whole thing, everything working together in harmony.” http://www.smithsonian.com
Mention of the temperate northwestern rainforest made me think of A Bear’s Life and Wolf Island in which authors, Ian McAllister and Nicholas Read, track the lives of these animals as they live off the land in the Great Bear Rainforest where salmon is a seasonal mainstay of their diets. Simard talks about salmon nitrogen that is absorbed by the trees from the leftovers of the bears’ meals and then “shared” with other trees via the root network. http://www.amazon.com
Similarly, when Simard states that mother trees help struggling neighbors by increasing their nutrients to share with them, I am vividly reminded of Kate who shared her trees when she planted them to solve the wind damage to her neighbor’s house sitting high on a hill (see my last post for details).
I think we can all take a lesson from the trees – “everything working together in harmony.” The balance in Nature – the sharing of nutrients in tree networks and the kind sharing of little Kate with a neighbor in need – is what might be needed in human communities right now.
The Smithsonian article is far over the heads of my younger students, but I can and will share the gist with them. Just as Nature is connected, so is learning, and so are humans. How about connecting this in science to the food chain, photosynthesis, plants, and other life cycles ? Young kids learn about communities in social studies. How is the work and responsibility shared? What are the rules of your home, your school, your community? What are the “rules” of Nature? What can we do to help others in our home, school, neighborhood, and community? Kindness, sharing, caring, Nature – all connected, all matter!