Ted's teaching tips

9th March 2001 at 00:00
The miracle of life is endlessly fascinating and this unfolding fern reminds us of the power of regeneration, the excitement of a green spring after winter's cold, grey hands.

Spring Why does spring occur when it does (the Earth's axis is tilted during winter in such a way that the sun is at a low angle, with short days and long nights; in spring the angle changes so the sun begins to shine more directly; day and night become equal, the vernal equinox on March 21)? Why do trees grow at this time (as temperatures rise and snow disappears, food-bearing sap rises and concealed buds, hidden under scales, emerge)? Is spring the same all over the world (six months' difference in southern hemisphere; some areas have a very short spring; tropical countries have only two seasons, wet and dry, rather than our four)? What is the psychological effect of spring (the sight of flowers, green leaves, lambs and other baby animals cheers people up after winter)?


What do you know about ferns (have fronds, not leaves or flowers; thousands of different species; long history on the planet as fossils go back 400 million years to the Devonian period; can be a constituent of peat, along with sphagnum moss)? How do they grow (spores are released, need damp conditions to germinate; shaped like a crozier at first and then unfurl as they become older; a few are found in water; most grow in tropical countries, but Britain has plenty)?


Think of some examples of human regeneration (a city recovering from an environmental - earthquake, flood - or civil disaster - war, unemployment). What about people? How do they recover (getting better after illness; recovering from bankruptcy; or, a sensitive topic, coping with bereavement)? Look for examples of the power of the life force (plants pushing up through concrete or tarmac; babies being born and surviving in adverse circumstances).


Describe how you and a friend go on a spring walk, telling of what you see around you and whether it cheers you. Write a story about a spectacular example of regeneration: someone fighting a disability, a community rebuilding after a war or disaster, a group of children who clean up an area and make it attractive.


Spring signals renewal, but can human beings recover from all setbacks?


We are extremely robust, able to combat adversity. You have only to look at the way people rebuild after a war, recover from illness, survive in a cruel environment. Even the most savage misfortunes can be rectified if people are determined.


Every winter and war has casualties. Even the strongest have their breaking point. Events such as the death of someone close, serious illness or emotional turmoil, can permanently scar, however robust people are.

Ted Wragg is professor of education at the University of Exeter

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