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The Story of our Jonah Tree

Christian Simpson in a recent Success Academy Teaching, made this profound statement: " A tree is never just a tree." Our school has always made use of the seed analogy in some respect with learning, knowing that great educators have the opportunity on a daily basis to plant and nurture possibility in every student that walks into our classrooms. When the great outdoors is being used as classroom space, it is easy to remind our eager learners that the mighty oak grows from a mere acorn.

Years back, a group of Learning Center 7th graders looked at the supply of twigs and small branches in our woods and decided we needed a bench made from this abundance of nature. A location was determined. The bench would sit in front our school where people could have easy access.

The young thinkers quickly started doing the math behind the project, collaborating with those with design talents to achieve the hoped-for appeal. As with most "student maker projects", trial and error was needed to create the stability to prevent the bench from collapsing under the weight of future occupants. A couple of design attempts left students sitting on the ground. Engineering continued in a "tinkering" manner. At last the bench did not collapse. But, unfortunately, something was still missing. The bench wobbled. Cross-supports were added, but the bench still swayed when the right weight rested on it. One student came up with an out-of-the-box solution. If the legs were sunk into the ground a bit, the need for more stability would possibly be accomplished. Jonah was right with his thinking.

Months later, one back leg that attached to both the seat and back of the bench began to take root for signs of growth began. That downed-sapling had some life left in it. Within a couple of years, all signs of the twig bench had long since disappeared with the exception of the one branch that continued to become so much more than "just a tree."

The branches of the sweet gum spread with the growing height of the tree, eventually creating an appealing area in the front of what became the school office. A red, metal bench now sits under the tree's bows. The longed for shade often finds people enjoying this miracle of nature. Jonah's mother teaches one of our makers' electives where she continues to encourage creativity, collaboration and critical thinking.

Jonah's life ended way too early. In his memory, this "so much more than a tree" has been named our Jonah Tree.

Jonah Blake Johnson

10/17/1986 - 12/02/2008

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