When I was a child, my mom invented a new holiday in lieu of Easter. We didn’t do the Easter Bunny, or Peep candies and all of that. It may have been because we were poor when I was a kid, or because my mom found the over commercialization of Easter distasteful, or because the giant Easter bunny at the mall made my little brother cry, or because I had expressed a lot of interest in other things. For whatever reason, we landed on Spring Chicken Day.
Spring Chicken Day is the first day of Spring, and instead of getting new clothes, and hair things, and new ties for my brother, we did spring cleaning to get ready for the spring Chicken to come. We found all out old things that didn’t fit or we didn’t like anymore, and we donated them or traded them at with the neighbors or friends at school or at the church we attended when I was growing up. After that, my mom would take us to a second hand store to pick up some new/used clothes to replace the ones we had grown out of, and we talked a lot about reusing things, and sharing. It was never something we were embarrassed or ashamed about. Actually, I remember being very excited about Spring Chicken Day. I watched A LOT of PBS as a kid, and I remembered a lot of programs about recycling and conservation, and to me, Spring Chicken Day, followed soon by Earth Day was part of what made Spring and Summer so special. It was how we celebrated and took care of the Earth we live on.
Another big part of Spring Chicken Day, as we kids got older, was planting our garden. My mom would give us seed packets, and we would get to pick out garden tools from the second hand store as well, which would later be wrapped, and given to us from the “Spring Chicken”. Then we would spend the day planting new things. Sometimes it was beans, sometimes corn, sometimes flowers. It was always wonderful to have the responsibility of the garden, to take care of it with my brother, and make sure the plants got enough water and were protected from the hot New Mexico sun.
The passion I had for these lessons continue with me through school. When I was in 4th grade we had a student teacher who tentatively started a curriculum about water conservation, native plants and animals, and protecting our state of New Mexico, where I lived at the time. I loved it, and that passion for conservation stuck with me until college in Oregon where I took classes in Environmental Studies, Environmental Education, and Environmental Chemistry. You never know the difference you can make by sparking a child’s interest.
Today is the first day of Spring, and I spent time last week planting seeds with the children in my preschool. We talked about Rachel Carson, and recycling versus throwing things away. I may not be at home with my mom or my brother any more, but those values of cherishing the planet have stuck with me. I was able to share my book about reuse and upcycling with the kids in my class, There is No Away, and it has been a big hit. I wonder how they will look back on these spring activities in 25 years. Hopefully with the same fondness I do. Hopefully, they will be the next ones looking for solutions, with that same dedication and passion.