Tree school of taller education
Archived Articles 03 Apr 2008  EWR
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I’ve always found the term puukool (“tree school”) amusing. I imagine eager trees sitting in neat rows, awaiting instruction. The spring semester is particularly full of nervous anticipation for the young istikud (seedlings and saplings) as they anticipate graduation – into someone’s yard.

Suddenly the obvious realisation hit, that the horticultural term nursery is also used in the development of humans, in our case meaning a (pre)school. The root word nursery derives from the Latin norture, nutrire – to nourish, suckle. The meaning “a place or room for infants and young children and their nurse” (to nurse?) dates from 1499. The horticultural sense has been in use since 1565.

The Estonian word for a children’s nursery lastesõim can be slightly misleading. Some younger Estonians from abroad seem to associate the word sõim first and foremost with its other meaning from the verb sõimama – to to yell at, often using profane language. Older Estonians born abroad know that the first definition of sõim (as found in the dictionary) is the word for manger, as in where the baby Jesus was found sleeping. Invective comes second – as it should.

Lastepäevakodu, children’s “day home” is another name for daycare. The German to English word kindergarten carries on the idea of nurturing and nourishing tiny seedlings. In Estonian lasteaed is children’s garden and lasteaednik the “children’s gardener” or teacher, if you will. Children who have attended a certain school, camp or group activity are said to be its kasvandikud, from the verb kasvama – to grow.

Estonians use the figurative terms kasvulava (“growth bed” / seedbed) and taimelava (plant bed) to describe a situation encouraging growth and development. A hotbed in English is a bed of earth covered with glass and heated by fermenting manure to promote the growth of plants. It is also used to describe a situation ideal for rapid development, but usually of something disliked or unwanted (a hotbed of disease). The concept of movements begun at a local or grassroots level rohujuure tasandil is also gaining ground (on maad võtmas!) in Estonia.

Most tree and plant nurseries (taimekoolid) in Estonia have a popular and hearty Canadian contingent, represented by Picea glauca or White spruce, know locally simply as kanada kuusk (Canadian spruce). “Conica”, a dwarf cultivar of the Alberta white spruce is a particularly popular garden variety.

Õpi, õpi hoolega, siis saad kohvi koorega! “Keep on studying hard, then you’ll get coffee with cream!” is an expression seemingly intended for the more mature student, certainly not wee saplings and sprouts. Kasemahl (birch sap) should be their current beverage of choice.
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