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Small worlds: leave no litter behind.

In case you haven't noticed, we have replaced the GalleryCards with a new series--Art and the Natural Environment. The monthly installments introduce us to small worlds--fragile communities of plants and animals. To further expand on the series, we have designed this October issue around art and the natural world.

Throughout history, artists and writers have captured the beauty of small, natural worlds. Others have appreciated the aesthetics of small worlds through non-destructive recreational activities. The fascination with small worlds is due, in part, to the varied life forms and the interconnectedness of water, soil, topography, climate, vegetation, and many other factors, including human disturbance.

Human disturbance is an important factor in the imbalance of small worlds, like the wetland environment featured in this month's Art and the Natural Environment. For sure, I am guilty of disturbing the natural balance of wetlands on Cape Cod. According to the official letter from the Town of Falmouth, I was in violation of the Wetlands Protection Act, Code 10.55: Foreign Vegetation in Wetlands.

Our waterfront property has a beautiful view of Martha's Vineyard across Vineyard Sound. It also has old oak and pine trees with fragile branches that are susceptible to heavy wind, which was the case last winter. On one weekend visit, we had to remove a lot of damaged tree limbs. Weekend visits during the winter months do not always coincide with dump hours, so I had to pile everything up until a spring visit. Admittedly stupid, I made the pile of vegetation too close to the tide line and marsh. Fortunately for the plant and wildlife of our small wetland world, a commissioner spotted the error and issued the warning. I wasted no time in hiring someone to make the dump run, thus restoring the natural balance to a small, fragile world. This was a life lesson learned--leave no litter behind.

I began to wonder about the connectedness of elements and interferences in the small worlds of schools and classrooms. A school is a small world, a composite of classroom micro-climates, made up of students, teachers, administrators, parents, bus drivers, office personnel, custodians, cafeteria workers, and others who play an important role in the life of the school. When all things are in harmony, the inhabitants feel proud, connected, and committed. They care for each other. They support and help each other.

In viewing classrooms as small worlds, perhaps Bill Cosby (in Letters to the Next President: What We Can Do About the Real Crisis in Public Education Teachers College Press, 2004) described their fragility best:

"I'm looking at the junkiest room I've ever seen. It is a classroom in an American public school; it is public education in America today. A child did not make the room junky; generations of litterers--legislators and presidents--did. Given the mess, it is a wonder that our children are able to do even as well as they do. We must be grateful that there always have been talented and determined teachers who find their way through the maze of rules and special interests and do what they became teachers to do: help their students shine. Our neighborhood schools are cluttered and crumbling. Of course, I'm assuming that anyone applying to be president probably never went to a poor and neglected public school where books have missing pages, walls have peeling paint, and children have nothing to write with. Wealthy people comfort themselves that money is not the issue. But nothing dear to America was ever maintained without it. We need money to secure great teachers, money to update teaching methods, money for technology and supplies, and money for time. Time is a precious commodity and teachers need it to plan lessons and meet with students, parents and administrators. When the junk is cleaned out of that junky room, its structure is sound: Public education is a good foundation on which to build a better life for each of us. And if we want to prove to these children who never made the mess in the first place that education is worth the trouble, our schools have to inspire them so they can do what they ought to do."

When conditions are right within a wetland, creatures thrive. When conditions are right within a school, people enjoy being there to teach and to learn. The secret to a harmonious small world is to leave no litter behind.
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Article Details
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Title Annotation:Editor's Comment
Author:Katter, Eldon
Publication:School Arts
Article Type:Editorial
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Oct 1, 2004
Words:732
Previous Article:That'll be the day!
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