Being thankful is a response

It’s a two and a half day week for my students, and just about everyone (including me) is looking forward to Thanksgiving and the four day holiday weekend. My original plan had my high school students making black bean soup in a slow cooker; dicing the garlic and onion that’s been curing on a rack since harvest, washing and sifting the “Midnight Black Turtle Soup” bush beans grown and shelled in the garden and measuring spices for a soup I want us try.

But then, over the weekend, I heard this sentence, “Being thankful is a response.” Something in those words really resonated within me. It’s like looking at gratitude from a new angle, a new perspective. It made me think about some of my students who show difficulty in accessing emotional responses that come so easy to most of us.  Another, albeit unrelated thing that grabbed my attention this past weekend was a DIY update on the wreath. The magazine I was perusing showed a branch made up of many twigs, with dried flowers glue-gunned artfully over it. It was hung  on a door and it looked beautiful!

These two ideas began to ruminate in my head and out came “Twig of Thanks,” my response to the two seemingly unrelated recent experiences mentioned above. I hadn’t planned on doing a “What are you thankful for?” type craft project, especially with my high school students, but something just seemed right. The dried flowers we saved over the past season are beautiful (and since we use them so sparingly they are a hot commodity), and the thrill of using the glue gun is strong for most kids! So with these two assets, I introduced the project to a few of classes with students ranging in age from 14-17.

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Twig of thanks 024I was really happy with the outcomes and level of participation I got from almost all. One student told me she had nothing to be thankful for, so I suggested she just use the twigs and flowers and forget the writing portion. The student agreed, set to work and by the end of class had several colorful  paper squares littering the background acknowledging the things she realized she was thankful for. Another student quietly refused to do the project, but sat seemingly poised to begin. I wanted to give him a chance to decide to do the right thing, since he’s had a bit of a bumpy road in garden program recently; he’s a little too cool for school right now. He never did anything with the botanicals, but when class was over, he left a small remnant at his seat. It’s pictured above to the left.

Being thankful is a response. Often the human response of gratitude is instinctual, but it’s not for all. Students of mine who live with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) can show difficulties with social and emotional responsiveness. A project like our Twig of Thanks helps to tease out an awareness of thanks which some of my students may not have been consciously aware of. Let’s face it, with or without ASD, many people need reminders to reflect on all the blessings and gifts we take for granted in this amazing country.

If you have a moment, take some time to think about the idea of thankfulness as a response. In the comments below, share your thoughts! A Happy Thanksgiving to all!





About Green Chimneys Garden

Green Chimneys was founded on the belief that children will benefit from their interaction with nature and animals. Horticulture comes to life in our educational school gardens, allowing Green Chimneys students to heal, learn, and grow. Learn more about about our nature-based approach to special education by visiting
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2 Responses to Being thankful is a response

  1. Thank you so much for this! I found you from the comments in my blog and I am grateful to have found yours. I will share your stories with my girls, I can tell from your writing that you are passionate about your kids and you have touched a part of my heart that is very moved by children with challenges but such very special abilities. I actually have a few tears streaming right now, so thank you for reminding me to be grateful today!

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