Mr. T & The Poet’s Tree

  • Location
    San Francisco, California, California
  • Status
  • Age Level
    Any Age

The Problem

This project idea comes from 9 year-old Tyson, who is in the third grade. Tyson really enjoys plants and being outside in nature. He would like to have the experience of planting and caring for a real tree, in conjunction with a special book project that he will be working on with his grandmother. They will collaborate to write story of hope and compassion that involves the history of immigration to the United States through Angel Island. The mini-grant will help to purchase a cherry tree, soil and planter, as well as give Tyson some money to buy art supplies that he will need to create the illustrations for his storybook.

Our Plan

ArtsEd4All will help Tyson and his grandmother to document and share what he has learned with his family, friends and community. We will also learn about the history of cherry trees and the important contributions of Chinese immigrants to American agriculture. America’s most popular variety of cherries for eating are “Bing” cherries — which are named after Ah Bing, a Chinese foreman at Henderson Lewelling's farm in Oregon, who cared for the special row of the new variety of seedling cherry trees in 1875. Today there are over 1000 varieties of sweet cherries, but the Bing cherry is still tops both in popularity and production. Tyson and his Paw Paw (grandmother) are planning to work together to make a very special storybook. They will collaborate on writing the story and Tyson will illustrate. It will be very helpful for him to be able to observe a cherry tree closely in real life, as he makes the illustrations for his storybook. Their story is about a little boy who is sent, all on his own, to work in a family business. He crosses the ocean, leaving his home China to come to the United States, only to be confined in the Mook Ook (Wooden House) on Angel Island. Located in San Francisco Bay, the Angel Island Immigration Station served as an immigration port between 1910 and 1940. Through the process of writing and drawing, Tyson will share what he learns about the condition and contributions of early Chinese immigrants coming to the United States. Tyson and his Paw Paw are excited to collaborate on this story of love, gratitude, and healing that bridges generations, with help from the natural world. Tyson & Paw Paw will work together to create a new inter-generational ritual involving recycled materials, poetry and the cherry tree. Each Spring, Tyson & his Paw Paw will write a poem to hang on the cherry tree, and they will invite all of their friends and family to join them. ArtsEd4All will help to create an archive of the poems that will be openly shared, along with the process of planting the tree and creating the storybook.

Themes Addressed

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    Reasons for Hope

The Benefit

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Here is how the project went:

Everything went really well. Tyson loved planting his trees, and he is taking good care of them. He is hard at work, creating his illustrations, and he and his Grandmother were grateful to be able to purchase some special art materials for their book project with the mini-grant. We received help and advice from so many people along the way, which made this project very fun and collaborative. Everyone was very encouraging, and that was a big plus, because we found out how there was so much to learn about caring for cherry trees that we didn’t know!

Through this project I/we learned:

Through this project, we certainly learned a lot more about cherry trees! Andi's cousin Todd, who is also an Angel Island descendant, absorbed a lot of knowledge about planting vegetables and fruit trees, passed on from his grandparents who tended their home gardens. Todd shared some very important advice with us about cherry trees— we would certainly need to purchase a second tree if we wanted fruit in the future, because most sweet cherry trees do not self-pollinate without the help of honeybees. Jan suggested that we go to Green Acres in Elk Grove to look for some nice trees. Since we knew that Tyson would like to enjoy cherries, we purchased two trees - one cherry tree is a Bing; the other is a Lapin. Tracy, who works at Green Acres, offered Tyson some great tips on how to plant and care for his new cherry trees. We hope that Tracy's advice can help others who might like to plant a cherry tree.

What I/we might change:

Tyson worked really hard to plant his trees, and he soon learned that the digging a hole for planting the tree was only a small part of the work! Early on, he learned about the importance of daily watering. If we had to think about doing this again, we would think about a nearby water source to help make watering a little easier.

My/our favorite part of this project was:

Paw Paw’s (Grandma’s) favorite part of this project was seeing how excited Tyson was to receive his tree on his birthday. He was so happy when his friends all pitched in to help him carry the tree into the backyard. Tyson couldn’t wait to try out his brand new set of ParKoo art markers to add some eye-popping color in his drawing — some nice red cherries for his story!

Some tips, tricks or fun facts about the project:

In the coming weeks, Tyson will be picking out a few of his illustrations to share in a special art exhibit that will be created for National Angel Island Day at the de Young Museum in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park. In 2010, former president Barack Obama proclaimed January 21 as National Angel Island Day, calling upon the people of the United States to “learn more about the history of Angel Island and to observe this anniversary with appropriate ceremonies and activities.” The museum is presenting special free Saturday program of poetry, music and art, “Echoes from Angel Island,” dedicated to the ancestors and descendants of Angel Island immigrants, will invite the public to learn more about Angel Island history through the works of art, including Tyson’s illustrations from the story book that he is creating with his grandmother, poet Genny Lim, which is now titled “The Bird from Heaven.” We look forward to celebrating the day with a poem about Tyson’s cherry tree!

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