meristem

My previous post was about an outdoors science math project adventure on Ash Wednesday, when we looked for Fibonacci spirals in nature and then watched videos on Khan Academy. I mentioned that I learned a word (and then I just stopped the post, yay awkard closings). 

THAT WORD IS MERISTEM.
Meristem is (thank you, Merriam-Webster) formative plant tissue.


So. Meristem.

Leaves (or petals or whatever) get started in the spots on the meristem where a growth hormone (auxin) is most absent. When leaves begin developing, auxin concentrates on that growth. The NEXT new leaf comes in where the auxin has flowed away. It turns out that the optimal placement of new growth (for access to minimally-blocked sunlight) is in a spiral. Leaf placement at 137.5 degrees around the stem creates a *drum roll * Fibonacci spiral, which allows for perpetual spiralling of new growth. Or something like that. I’m not completely clear on the science/math, and there are exceptions (or oopsies and alternate placement).

I WAS EXICTED BECAUSE, in “real life” as in nature, growth opportunities happen when we flood what already exists (our current project/responsibility/duty/task/to-do list items) with resources (time, energy, money, whatever) and then evaluate the gaps that have been created. I dunno about in nature, but in my life what happens is that I get focused on a few specific areas, and other things don’t get attention. Let me be really honest and say that it’s more like the gaps start squealing for attention. 


One of the things that I wish would just magically happen for me falls in with the idea: I wish I could catch the gaps and adjust the flow of resources before there’s a screaming disaster. It’s why I spend so much time building goals and evaluating what works and trying to clear out (prune, if you will) what’s not working. Sometimes I get nervous that I’m wasting resources or that I’m cutting out the wrong things, so I just kinda sit back and don’t do much of anything.

We don’t grow when we’re sitting still, refusing (for whatever reason) to utilize resources. (I DO NOT GROW WHEN I AM SITTING STILL.) We have to keep moving so that we can see the gaps and what’s producing fruit and what is just sucking up energy.

I’ve been working on a project with this in mind, and I’m hoping to share some more ideas soon. 

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Fibonacci spirals


Wednesday, March 1st, was Ash Wednesday – the start of Lent. Every year I want to make Lent a more important Thing (in the way that Advent and Christmas have grown for me), and every year I experience existential angst (bordering on crisis) over this situation. So. I started Wednesday by getting out of bed before I was ready. WITH PURPOSE. I just wanted the day to be markedly different.


I saw a post on Instagram about the Fibonacci sequence – a home-schooling/blogging Mom shared a picture of her son investigating Fibonacci spirals in nature photos. I had a Eureka moment: we could go outside LIKE RIGHT THEN and do our own Fibonacci spiral investigation, and then in the afternoon (when it was supposed to storm crazy) we could talk about the math and keep looking at our samples.


Now. To be honest. My BIGGEST understanding of Fibonacci spirals has to do with photography. You know how most of my photos are off-center? Well. It’s because I try (lazily) to use a Fibonacci spiral to guide your eyes over my pictures to the most important part. But. In what I call “ScienceMath” when I’m making the kids pay attention, a Fibonacci sequence is a sequence of numbers in which each number is the sum of the two numbers before it. The basic version is [0,] 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 55 – but technically you can start with any number and fall into the same general pattern.


Confident that I knew more about Fibonacci sequence and spirals and numbers than the kids knew, yay, we went out. We looked up at the pine trees and down at the weeds and all around at the new growth. It didn’t take long for the kids to start up with “Yes, we saw the spiral look. Yes. Yes, we saw. And that one. WOW, good job finding another one. Okay. Yes. We saw.” but I was prepared for that and kept gleefully pointing out examples and rippin’ off little branches and pullin’ up weed clumps and so on. I also took pictures. After a while we found two cicada shells and I took that as my signal to stop and head home.


The rest of the day was sort of wonky. When I decided it was definitely time to make the boys do the math portion of the project, most of the samples were wilted. Oh well. We graphed out boxes and drew a spiral and did the first few numbers in the sequence (the ones they would readily do mentally). We also watched three GREAT videos on Khan Academy (In the Math for fun and glory section – Doodling in Math), AND I LEARNED A WORD (and will blog about it next).