A few weeks ago, we sent our incoming freshmen a surprise in a box. The box contains seeds, soil pellets, peat pots, plant markers, a mini journal/sketchbook, and some colored pencils. Our goal in sending this box is to invite students to step away from their screens and to observe and engage with plants and flowers for a bit. In other ways this activity is a sneak peak into freshman lab.
The intersection of art, nature, and science is what St. John’s is all about. We study form and function. Through and careful and sustained observations, we begin to see the underlying assumptions to an argument. We begin to see what questions we have yet to ask. We begin to understand that seeing and measuring are tools of deeper knowing. We study Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s Metamorphosis of Plants freshman year in lab in part to start to unlearn what we think we know about how things work. We ask students to look with fresh eyes at phenomena that we readily take for granted.
In my own attempt to sketch some native plants growing right outside our administration building, I spent some substantial time looking at these flowers (some might call weeds) and when choosing colors to use, I began to realize that I was not certain which buds were just beginning to form and which buds were declining. The beginnings and endings sometimes look very similar. That made me start to think about revolutions and politics.
Share with us your sketches and drawings of plants and flowers you have grown or observed!