Written by Katie Moore


Laura always was connected with nature and felt connected to her tribe through her Grandma teaching her a new word, puhpowee. As her friends discouraged her for wanting to learn a new language from her tribe, she loses her excitement. She attends a tribal gathering, she learns about a new language that connects her to her tribe and dedicates itself to nature.

Keywords: Dedication (to nature); Puhpowee: the force which causes mushrooms to push up from the earth overnight; life cycle; Tribal; phenomenon

Laura was a young girl who loved exploring. Her family lived on 40 acres of land, where she could adventure through the trees and forest, along with the open fields. When she wanted time to herself after a long day, she sat out in the trees. To listen.

Laura loved nature, and loved learning about it. Science was always her favorite subject because she felt as though she could learn about the land that she loved being on.

She would sit and listen to the leaves blowing, the shhh of the wind, the water trickling down the river, and the bugs buzzing in her ear. These sounds made her happiest. They almost sounded like a new language. A language she loved to listen to. She would spend days and nights out in the trees. It was her happy place.

Laura used to spend lots of time in the forest when she was younger with her Grandma. Grandma would teach her words of a language she did not know that explained the wild and ever-changing nature of that spot. This language came from her tribe. It was something Laura believed to be as beautiful to her ear as the language of the trees.

Her favorite word she learned was Puhpowee. It sounds crazy, but to Laura, it was the most beautiful word she has ever heard. Puhpowee was three syllables and meant the force which causes mushrooms to push up from the earth overnight. As she would explore the same forest she saw from the day before, she would find new mushrooms and know what this phenomenon was called.

Laura loved hearing from her Grandma about these new words and the culture of her tribe. She found out that she would be able to attend the yearly tribal gathering this year and learn more from fluent speakers. She was extremely excited to learn more words to describe the nature and life cycle of plants that she had never heard before.

The next day, Laura went to her school and told all of her friends about her tribal gathering and how she would learn a new language. Much to Laura’s surprise, her friends all thought it was weird.

“Why would you want to learn a new language? That is so weird,” said one of her friends. The others chimed in saying, “Yeah Laura that sounds so boring.” Laura, saddened by the response of her friends, tried to make it sound fun by explaining more. “No, it is actually cool. It is a language dedicated to nature and to the land of my tribe.”

“Nature? That sounds like school. That is so boring,” said her friends again.

Laura left school that day feeling more upset than ever. Going to the tribe gathering was something she was looking forward to, but now she felt embarrassed about it.

When Grandma came to pick her up, Laura did not want to go. Grandma assured her that this was something that she would enjoy, and reminded her of all of her time in the forest. Slowly, she started to feel better and was ready to learn more. She was excited to finally connect more words with her tribe and her favorite subject, science.

At the gathering, Laura was amazed by all of the fluent speakers. It was amazing that she could learn from so many different people and they were the only ones who knew the language in the whole world. She was inspired by the stories and tales each speaker told. One thing that stuck with her most was one of the speakers saying, “The language is the heart of our culture. It’s too beautiful for English to explain. Nature is a wonderful phenomenon that we must preserve and highlight its beauty.” Right then and there, she thought of the first word she learned in the language, puhpowee. To someone average, they would not think of the mushroom growing as something wonderful, but to her, it was special and had great meaning.

As the gathering continued, she was able to learn more about the language of her culture and see how it explained different nature phenomena she wondered about all of her life. The words spoke to her in a way that made her happy because it represented a culture that she adored so much.

The next week, Laura’s science class was given the assignment to give a presentation on something they were passionate about that had to do with a science topic. Immediately, she knew that she wanted to prove her friends wrong and show them and the rest of her classmates how wonderful this language truly was and how it highlighted her favorite thing.

She brought all of her school supplies out to the forest with her and worked on her project as she listened to the language of the trees. She worked for hours and hours until she had the perfect presentation.

As she went to school the next day, she volunteered to present first, something she never did.

Feeling the most confident she has felt in a while, she gave her presentation to her classmates. She talked about her tribe, the gathering, the dedication to nature, the connection to the life cycles and science topics, and even taught them a new word to explain a life cycle phenomenon. Puhpowee.

After class, everyone came up to her to ask her questions, even her friends. “We are so sorry we told you that was boring. It actually sounds really cool. Would you teach us more words? We want to learn more. Do you know other ones that mean growing flowers?” her friends exclaimed. Laura was so excited they wanted to learn and were so curious.

After an almost perfect day, Laura knew what she needed to do to make it perfect. After school, she went back home and sat in the forest. She listened to the leaves blowing, the shhh of the wind, the water trickling down the river, and the bugs buzzing in her ear. The language of the trees was something that truly made her happy. Almost as happy as her newly learned language of her tribe.


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Humanizing Science through STEAM Challenges Copyright © 2021 by E.J. Bahng and John M. Hauptman is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.