When Polly Saatzer's kindergarten class planted tulips last fall, they didn't just plop bulbs in the ground.
They cut open a bulb to see what was inside. They planted some upside down as an experiment.
And since the first green spears poked up this spring, they've been measuring them and waiting for the flowers to bloom.
Now, Saatzer, a teacher with a talent for opening young minds to nature's wonders, has been honored with a prestigious national teaching award.
"She is just really a master at adjusting science and science concepts to a 5-year-old mind," said Saatzer's principal, Susan Powell of Garlough Environmental Magnet School in West St. Paul.
Saatzer, who has taught for 32 years, learned on Thursday that she will receive the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching. President Obama has given the award to 85 K-6 teachers this year. Saatzer is the only one from Minnesota.
The honor comes with $10,000 that Saatzer may spend as she chooses, as well as an expense-paid trip to an awards ceremony in Washington, D.C.
"What I'm most proud of is that they would choose a kindergarten teacher," Saatzer said. Young children need a strong foundation in science, she said, and kindergartners are primed to learn. "They're very curious about nature and how things work and being outside."