Although winter's chilly grip still lingers in many parts of the country, your students can invite an early spring and dig deeper into learning. Imagine coaxing buds on bare branches to come to life right in your classroom.
Once deciduous trees and shrubs have had a period of leafless winter dormancy outdoors, spring warmth causes sap to flow, buds to swell, and leaves and flowers to emerge. To entice branches to bloom indoors, cut 1- to 2-foot sections about six weeks before they'd naturally flower in your area (see below). If you're not sure of flowering or leafing-out times, challenge your students to research what blooms when, or to experiment by cutting branches at different times.
Scrape a 3-inch strip with a knife or scissors along the branch bottom, then place it in lukewarm water for a day. Next, move the cutting to a container of cool water and leave it in indirect light. Change the water and, if possible, cut an inch off the stem each week. Invite your students to mist the branches several times a week to simulate spring rains and keep the buds moist and full. When the buds open in three to six weeks, move the cuttings to a bright location.
Early-flowering trees and shrubs (cut in late January/February):
ash, azalea, birch, elm, forsythia, hazelnut, maple, mulberry, redbud, plum, pussy willow, sumac
Later-flowering trees and shrubs (cut in late February/March):
apple, cherry, crabapple, elderberry, honey locust, honeysuckle, magnolia, mountain ash