little girl with seeds

A third grader at Madison South Elementary school grabs some seeds for her tsuchi dango, a ball of clay, dirt and seeds that can be planted in the ground.

MADISON TOWNSHIP -- Madison South Elementary's Earth Day celebration tickled the senses Friday as students explored the world of seeds through touch, taste and smell.

The event took place Friday in partnership with Califarmer, Every Body Eats and Newman Technology. Students in all grade levels rotated from station to station for hands-on activities and lessons on the science of seeds and their nutritional value.

Students also learned about Japanese culture and the Japanese farmer and philosopher Masanobu Fukuoka. Fukuoka reintroduced the ancient technique of tsuchi dango. Tsuchi dango is a method for fighting desertification by forming balls of mud and seeds and scattering them in areas with little vegetation.

“Mr. Fukuoka would make thousands and thousands of these,” said Andy Vaughn of Califarmer. “Everywhere he would walk, he would throw them along the road and then things would start to grow.”

At one station, students got to make their own tsuchi dango balls to take home and plant. The children made a thumbprint in a little ball of clay, then filled the hole with dirt and wildflower seeds before molding clay over the opening.

“What will happen is the rain will crack open the clay, exposing the soil and seeds and then they'll be able to grow,” Vaughn explained.

While Richard Untal of Califarmer manned the tsuchi dango station, Vaughn taught students about the three parts found in every seed -- the seed coat, the embryo and the cotyledon.

Hannah Ball, founder of Every Body Eats, talked to students about the seeds commonly found in kitchens. Containers of beans, rice, almonds, sunflower seeds, dill and coriander sat on the table in front of her.

Students swarmed the station, eagerly examining the variety. Some plunged their fingers into the jars, others carefully plucked a seed out and held it close, examining its colors and textures.

“If you look really close, they kinda look like dinosaur eggs,” Ball said to a group of girls huddled around the chia seeds.

Ball also told students about the various ways people consume seeds -- from traditional foods like rice and beans to seed-based products like almond flour and coconut milk.

“All of these things benefit our brain, our digestive system and our heart and it's important to get as many seeds in your diet as possible,” Ball said. “A few of (the students) haven't heard that before so they're kind of mind-blown.”

Kaori Tatum of Newman Technology taught students about Japanese culture, including basic greetings and a sampling of senbei, a rice cracker with sesame seeds. Tatum also pointed out Mansfield's Japanese sister city, Tamura, on a map and taught students how to write their name in Japanese.

"This is very important to me so American children gets to know a little bit about outside of this country, because unless we teach them and let them know they don't even know we exist and all the Asian countries, it looks like mix to them," said Tatum, a Tokyo native. "I want to teach them it's not just China.

"There are other countries in Asia. So I think this is very good opportunity."

Mike Anderson, physical education teacher at Madison South, praised the multidisciplinary nature of the event.

“It's great for the kids to understand where their food comes from. It's wonderful that they’re learning Japanese. The kids were so excited about seeing what their names look like in Japanese," he said. "The kids have really enjoyed it. I think they like the hands-on type things. They were just excited to learn something new.”

The Earth Day celebration was this month's "Ram Rally," a special reward for students who met behavioral expectations during the month of April.

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Staff reporter focused on education and features. Clear Fork alumna. Always looking for a chance to practice my Spanish. You can reach me at