UWBG Goes to Cuba!

February 22nd, 2012 by Sarah Reichard

I was a very small child during the Cuban Missile Crisis but I was old enough to know that my parents were quite upset about something. I knew what “bomb” meant and when I heard that word I was very frightened. It is, in fact, one of my earliest memories. I am from the generation that grew up with families installing bomb shelters and in school we used to have drills where we “ducked and covered” in the hallway (I am not sure just how that was supposed to help in case of a nuclear bomb).Cuba image

But even as a child, I knew that there was more to Cuba. Its history is fascinating, with stories of the original inhabitants, the Arawak people, emerging from their villages in 1492 to greet Christopher Columbus with gifts of thread and parrots. Sadly, his log also notes on October 14th that they apparently had little notion of fighting and he was able to capture seven to bring to back to Europe.

Cuba then became a Spanish colony for hundreds of years until the Spanish-American War lead to withdrawal of the Spanish in 1898 and the establishment of an independent government in 1902. It is interesting that the United States fought for Cuban independence but then just a few decades later, became completely estranged amid hostilities. It just underscores the complicated nature of our relationship with our close neighbor to the south.
As a forbidden place, it holds allure. We hear stories about the classic old cars still in use because new cars are not an option. In school we learned about the Cuban revolution, Batista, Castro, and “Che” Guevara. There have been air and boat lifts of refuges in the news periodically. The country seems beautiful, mysterious, adventurous, and tragic all at once.

In the early to mid 1990s, after the collapse Cuba imageof the Soviet Union, Cubans entered their “Special Period.” This time may illustrate the resilience of the Cuban people more than almost any other time in their tumultuous history. Without the input of petroleum from the Soviet Union, and faced with hunger and enormous deprivation, Cubans demonstrated their resourcefulness. They learned to live with reduced transportation and completely overhauled their agricultural systems, using fewer tractors and fertilizers produced from petroleum products. They developed a creative organic agricultural system that included not only fields of crops, but urban agriculture in vacant lots and rooftops.

When President Obama lifted some travel restrictions, allowing U.S. citizens to visit Cuba on a special license, and when a representative of Holbrook Travel, the company that UWBG worked with last year to offer atour of Chile, mentioned that they were able to organize these tours, I jumped in! I applied to the U.S. Department of Treasury for one of their “People to People” licenses and, after waiting, providing more information, and waiting some more, it was granted.

Holbrook has planned a wonderful trip for us. We will be visiting botanic gardens, meeting their staff and scientists and consulting with some of the urban farmers in Havana to learn how they make the most of every square inch they farm. I am really looking forward to our visit to the Zapata National Park, which is part of UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, where we will be guided on a walk by a professor from the University of Las Villas. In addition to the great plants and animals we will see, I am looking forward to the walking tour of Old Havana, seeing those old cars (and maybe a ’56 Mercury Monterey – my grandmother’s car that I drove in high school!), and maybe going out to hear some Cuban music.

I am not expecting to be able to send emails from Cuba, so I won’t be able to blog from there, but when I return in early March I will describe some of our adventures. So don’t go too far!

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Where in the Arboretum is this?

February 22nd, 2012 by Sarah Heller, Community Programs Coordinator & Fiddleheads Forest School Director

The Washington Park Arboretum is full of quiet nooks, unusual plants, and hidden groves where our imagination can run free and our curiosity is hooked.  Bring your family and come find this special spot!

Sequoia trees in the Pinetum collection

Who are they? This is a grove of sequoia trees, also known as:

 Giant sequoia – Sierra redwood – Sequoiadendron giganteum – big-tree – mammoth-tree

 

Did you know?

These giant trees are all more than 70 years old and the tallest is 139 feet tall and 13 feet and 11 inches round.

The word “sequoia” contains all five vowels.

This quiet grove of sequoia trees is a favorite destination of our school groups and summer camps. We might play meet-a-tree or hide-and-seek, or eat our lunch in their shade or discover how trees grow and reproduce, and act out a tree’s life cycle.

 

To find this place you have to cross this:

Photo of the wilcox bridge

 

And walk to the left of this:

 Photo of the play structure

 

Why don’t you come and visit these friendly giants? You could:

  • Play hide and seek
  • Feel their bark and find a cone
  • Have a picnic underneath these mysterious mammoths
  • Find out how many humans it takes to wrap around one
  • Read a story sitting against one of their trunks (all available at CUH’s Miller Library)
    • The Lorax by Dr. Seuss
    • A Grand Old Tree by Mary Newell DePalma
    • Ancient Ones: The World of the Old-Growth Douglas Fir by Barbara Bash
    • A Tree is Growing by Arthur Dorros

 

  • Act out the life cycle of a tree!

Become a seed (curl up in a tight ball) – Now sprout! (Uncurl and kneel) – Grow a branch by sticking out one of your arms – Grow another branch, stick out the other arm – Grow leaves (wiggle your fingers) = Grow tall (stand up, feet together) – Grow roots (spread your feet apart) – Grow rootlets (wiggle your toes) – Oh no! You are being attacked by insects and fungi (start scratching all over – Lose a limb to lighting (make a loud noise and put your arm by your side) – Become a home for wildlife (smile!) – Woodpeckers looking for insects start exploring your dead wood (make a knocking noise) – You are blown down (make a creaking noise and fall down) – Become a nurse log, a new seed sprouts from rotting wood (stick one arm up).

 

  • Play a game!

I Like Trees

One person stands in the middle and everyone else finds a tree to stand in front of. Have each person mark their tree by putting a bandana, backpack or other visible item in front of it. The person standing in the middle (not next to a tree) says “I like___” and fills in the blank with something they like (could be about trees, or anything!). If other people like that thing too then they leave their tree and have to find another tree to touch (one with a marking in front of it). The person who called out “I like ____” also tries to find a tree to stand in front of. One person will be left without a tree and then it is their turn to stand in the middle and say “I like___” about something. Keep playing until everyone has had a turn in the middle.

 

Tree Tag

This is a great game for younger kids. Have each kid pick a tree. Maybe encourage them to get to know their tree a bit before the game starts. When you say “tree” or “sequoia” (or whatever word you decide to be the “go” word) the kids run and touch another tree. Do this over and over and the kids will love running from tree to tree and waiting for you to call out the word. Mix it up a little and say other words to help build the anticipation before you say your “go” word.

 

Resources:

Jacobson, A. L. (2006). Trees of seattle. (2nd ed., pp. 362-363). Seattle: Arthur Lee Jacobson.

 

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