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Planting the Pawpaw Trees

By May 20, 2022All Programs

Earlier in the year, we heard from a former parent, Mei Liu, who offered the school 100 Pawpaw seeds and seedlings (a native plant), along with everything needed to get them growing.  Below, you can read the letter she wrote to Michelle Morrison, HOS, on the significance of the Paw Paw to their family and to Montessori. On Earth Day our Toddler children planted some of the Pawpaw seeds. 

This week Mei Liu returned to the school with her son Henry and daughter Joyce to bring 6 seedlings for PMonts to plant on either side of the small pathway to the upper parking area, as well as other seedlings for our two partner organizations, the Sourland Conservancy and the Ridgeview Conservancy.’ 

Dear Mrs. Morrison,

How are you? Hope you are well.

My name is Mei Liu, all my three children, Joyce Sun, Annie Sun, and Henry Sun attended Princeton Montessori School (from 2005 to 2009) before we moved to Short Hills, New Jersey. Joyce was in Mrs. Sen’s kindergarten class. Annie was in Mrs. Brenner’s and Mrs. Sen’s classes, and Henry was in Mrs. Brenner’s class. 

Joyce went on to The Hill School and is now attending Wesleyan University. Annie is an 11th grader at Loomis Chaffee School and has been admitted to Harvard. Henry is a 10th grader at Montclair Kimberley Academy. 

The Princeton Montessori school has played an important role in their life. We truly appreciate the excellent education they received. 

We would like to give a special gift – pawpaw trees and pawpaw seeds, to the School to show our appreciation.

Henry and our family have a long history with pawpaw trees, starting with Princeton Montessori  School, Montessori teachers, and Montessori education. It has become something special in our family and our relationship with the community we live in.

In the fall of 2009, when Henry was 3 years old, his Montessori teacher Ms. Penta brought a special fruit called pawpaw to her class. She told the kids that the fruit is from the Pawpaw tree, a native North American tree but is now almost distinct due to heavy farming in the past 200 years. She told the kids that we should respect and take care of nature. She asked who would like to taste the fruit. Henry was the only kid who raised his hands and tried. That Christmas, Henry received two Pawpaw seedlings as a Christmas gift from Ms. Penta. (This Montessori school was recommended by Mrs. Brenner when we moved.)

The pawpaw trees need at least two trees to pollinate. It will take around 8 years to bear pawpaw fruits. The fruit tastes like a combination of mango and bananas but is smooth and tropical. Learning the habitat of the pawpaw tree is also a process of scientific research and character building for kids. During these 13 years, Henry and our family have been growing together with the trees. 

In September 2018, we have finally harvested 6 pawpaw fruits. Henry picked the 2 biggest ones and asked me to drive him to Ms. Penta’s school and gave them to her. 

It was a very special moment. We were all in tears when we saw his preschool teacher 9 years later…In 2019 we sent the two biggest pawpaws fruits to Ms.Penta again. On the car ride back Henry said he felt Ms. Penta’s happiness in his heart. He repeated many times: ” Mom, she is so happy! So happy. We will keep coming back to see her!”

In 2020, during the pandemic year, bad weather killed all the pawpaw fruits. We got none! During the quarantine, Henry planted all the pawpaw seeds we have collected. The germination process is long, a bit complicated, and hard to be successful. We have been trying for several years but have failed. Guess what! amazingly we got 196 pawpaw seedlings alive this time! In October, we gave Ms. Penta 9 seedlings. She proudly told Henry that she displayed the seedlings in her office to show to her students.

In May 2021, we donated 10 pawpaw seedlings to Hartshorn Elementary School. The school principal Mr. Frattini held an event with school kids to plant the seedlings at the school’s Native Plants Only Habitat to inspire children to respect, love, and take care of nature. 

This year, our family would like to donate some pawpaw seedlings and seeds to Princeton Montessori School. We hope this contribution will create a cheerful bonding with the community, help to save the extinct native plant, help students learn basic science/environment, and build a persistent character by going through the pawpaw‘s special germination and growing habitat. 

Please let me know your thoughts…Henry and our family would love to help and share our experience.

Thank you very much. 

Best regards,

Mei Liu

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