One Leaf Rides the Wind
by Celeste Davidson Mannis
Discussion and Activities
For pre-reading ideas and background information on multiculturalism, see Around the World in 80 Books: A Multicultural Guide.
The young Japanese girl, enjoying the tranquility and beauty of a Japanese garden, wears a kimono, a traditional garment with great significance in Japanese culture. Historically made from silk, distinguished by its open, flowing sleeves, and decorated in patterns or free-style designs, the kimono plays a continuing ceremonial role in modern Japanese life.
Using a child-size outline of a traditional Japanese kimono, have children trace and cut out their own kimono pattern on white roll paper. Using paints, glitter, glue, and/or colored-paper for collage appliqué, allow them to decorate and display their kimonos with symbolic elements discovered and counted in this garden journey. Completed kimonos may be partnered with original or selected haiku written in the traditional 5-7-7 syllable three-line format.
The symbolism of the Japanese garden may be given a scientific spin as children are guided in the planting and care of their own potted Bonsai trees. The bottom half of a milk jug, 3 to 5 inches deep with drainage holes cut into the bottom corners and covered with a piece of pre-cut screen, makes a perfect pot for beginners. With close supervision, each student may cover a thin layer of gravel spread in the bottom of the pot with an inch-deep layer of soil and perlite. Illustrate, via a diagram, how a seedling's roots (maple, willow, pine, or juniper) carry nutrients needed for growth. Place roots on soil, sifting more soil over them until they are covered. Gently press down to insure that no air pockets remain. Sprinkle the soil until water begins to drip out of the drainage holes. Keep the plant out of direct sun, and water it lightly as needed. Wind covered wire around the trunk when it is sufficiently grown yet still easily bent, to shape it as desired. Continue to care for tree, trimming branches that sprout in "wrong" directions.