In Head Start class, tree is for the birds Children plant Christmas fir outside school CARROLL COUNTY EDUCATION

December 07, 1992|By Anne Haddad | Anne Haddad,Staff Writer

Long after other students around the county are dismantling their Christmas trees, the Head Start children at Piney Ridge Elementary School will be able to look out the window and watch birds fly around their evergreen looking for a snack.

Next winter, the tree will still be there, a little taller and wider.

The class went on a field trip Friday to a tree farm and brought back a live 11-year-old fir to plant outside the school in Eldersburg.

"It will grow some more," said class member Robbie Hughes, 4, of Sykesville.

This week, the class' 18 children will decorate the tree with popcorn garlands and other treats.

"Yeah, for the birdies," said Michelle Hallameyer, 4, of Sykesville. Needless to say, the children hope their decorations disappear before their eyes and into the mouths of blue jays and cardinals.

The field trip was part of a unit Cheryl McDonough devised to teach her class of 4-year-olds about the winter holidays -- Christmas, Kwanza and Hanukkah -- and the winter solstice.

It might have been just another lesson, except for the offer from Pine Forest Farms, a tree farm on Emory Road in Finksburg.

Owner William Keeney and his companion, Susan Schwartz, donated a tree to the class. As the children watched attentively, Mr. Keeney used a mechanized shovel and a tractor to dig up the fir, then balled the roots into a burlap bag.

Afterward, Ms. Schwartz took the children to a small wooden shelter on the farm where they each got a pine cone, a few gingerbread men and sugar cookies. She also had checked out of the library a stack of books about trees. She gave them to Mrs. McDonough to share with the class this week.

Ms. Schwartz had some familiarity with the Head Start program from her previous career as a preschool teacher. She is now a registered nurse for Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Maryland, which gave her time off, as a company community-service project, to invite the class out.

The idea of having the children visit came to Ms. Schwartz after she met Linda Ebersole, who coordinates the five Head Start programs in Carroll County schools.

"We met while getting a manicure," Ms. Schwartz said. "We started talking about 3-year-olds and 4-year-olds. They're kind of my favorite people. We just started talking about what things we could do together."

Before long, the two came up with the tree-farm visit, as well as a health unit using Ms. Schwartz in the future.

"So this collaboration is just the beginning," Ms. Ebersole said.

Head Start is a federally funded program that prepares children for kindergarten.

Back at Piney Ridge, custodian Fred Hyser was waiting with a hole he had dug for the tree. Once he saw the fir, however, he realized he would have to dig a little more, so the children waited inside for a few minutes.

"Two hundred pounds," Mr. Hyser estimated the weight of the tree with its earthy ball of roots.

After he eased it from a low wagon into the enlarged hole, the children went out in groups of five to scoop dirt out of the wagon and pack it around the tree roots.

"Anything with dirt, kids have fun doing," said Delorse Jason of Eldersburg, mother of Head Start student Daniel Bright. She was among seven parent volunteers who accompanied the class on the trip. Others included Robbie's mother, Barbara Vetters. Michelle's mother, Marie Hallameyer, came to the school afterward to watch the planting.

While one group was outside packing soil around the trunk, others were inside making a garland for Kwanza and icing cookies for after lunch.

Kwanza is an African-American cultural holiday celebrated the week after Christmas and named for the Kwanza River in Angola.

Mrs. McDonough and parent volunteers helped the children make a long garland out of construction paper loops in black, red and green. The black stands for the skin color of African-Americans, the red for the blood of their ancestry and the green for land, life and new ideas.

While the Christmas tree provides birds with nourishment, the children will make a snack for themselves when they learn about Hanukkah next week.

On Dec. 17, the children will see a menorah, the candelabra used in the celebration of Hanukkah. On Dec. 18, the day before the Jewish holiday, the children will spread peanut butter on slices of bread, then place eight pretzel sticks on each slice to symbolize the menorah candles, and a raisin atop each pretzel for the flame.

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