Transformation of a Tree Steward

Of course, you would ask, “What is a tree steward?” During the day and on occasional weekends he is a local, long-time pediatrician. In the evenings and on other weekends, he is a mentor, husband, friend, father, Care Team member, bike rider, faithful Habitat for Humanity volunteer and much more! By now, you probably have an idea I’m referring to Randy Stoesz. And, you would be right!

Randy, graciously and humbly, allowed me to converse with him for an hour and a half recently so I could learn from him how and why he became interested in helping FMC take better care of our trees (a.k.a. transform our trees).

Randy has done woodworking projects for many years and, as noted above, has helped on many Habitat builds. Of course, these use wood from trees. But his interest in trees, per se, began when he and his family lived on a property in NW Marion County which had a lot of trees. In a way, this property was similar to FMC’s grounds—some areas were fields with a few trees, some areas had buildings with adjacent trees, and some areas were densely forested. Many of these trees had problems. If the trees were going to do well, their caretaker, or their “steward,” needed to learn more about them.

Thus, Randy took the Indiana Community Tree Steward course offered thru the Indiana Department of Natural Resources. This program emphasizes urban forestry topics, with a subset listed here.

  • Benefits of the Urban Forest
  • Identifying Tree Defects and Risk Awareness
  • Pruning Do’s and Don’ts
  • Diagnosing Tree Problems

After the curriculum is completed, a written exam is taken (and passed) and community volunteer work hours must be completed.

All of this training, mentoring and practice has allowed Randy to gain experiences which, in turn, he has been using to benefit First Mennonite, the FMC neighborhood, his home neighborhood and other areas in town. 

Trees provide a lot of benefits to us and to those around us:

  • provide shade
  • absorb CO2
  • provide shelter for birds and other animals
  • keep temperatures at more modest levels
  • provide superb scenic views
  • lessen costs, time and impact of mowing

Trees also need attention and care, including:

  • which varieties are planted
  • how and where they are planted
  • how much and how often they are watered
  • regular inspections
  • how and when they are pruned and trimmed
  • how they are mulched

There are many practices that harm a tree, including surrounding it with pavers or bricks and the famous “volcano” method of mulching, as you can see from this photo.

For more information, click on this link

After reading this article, perhaps, take a 5 minute stroll around 46th Street and Knollton Road and make some observations. Which trees appear healthy? What species of trees appear healthy? Where are these healthy trees located? Which trees look like they are struggling? Why do they seem to be struggling? Do you see trees which have been pruned or trimmed?

Randy has been invested in lessening the negative impact of humans on this one and only Earth by riding his bike to work often, driving an electric car, and being a part of the recent solar energy project at FMC. Rounding this off by becoming trained as a Tree Steward and putting that training to work seems like a natural fit. We are all the beneficiaries of these efforts. Thank you, Randy, for continuing to be transformed, while also learning how to transform trees!


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FMC Reopening & In-Person Worship Service Status

In consultation with FMC healthcare professionals and commission leadership, Trustees and Pastors have developed the FMC Reopening Plan. This document describes the minimum requirements for resuming various levels of in-person, indoor gatherings at FMC. Decision guidelines therein are anchored on a specific leading indicator metric published by the Indiana State Department of Health (ISDH). An up-to-date summary of tracking information may be found in this post. As a transition between levels approaches, further communications will be provided.

FMC is currently at Level 2, meaning that indoor gatherings of over 10, with physical distancing and masks, are permitted. Individuals or groups wishing to make use of indoor facilities must have a representative receive approval from Trustees and clearance from the church office prior to meeting at FMC. The process is initiated by submitting this form. Additionally, in-person, indoor worship services have resumed. To reduce risk as much as possible, the FMC Covid-19 Readiness Guidelines have been jointly developed by the Pastors and Trustees, FMC medical professionals, the Worship Commission, the Faith Formation Commission, and the Facilities committee. Please familiarize yourself with this document and be prepared to follow practices described therein, which include, but are not limited to: wearing a mask at all times, maintaining a distance of 6 feet (between parties), and adhering to instructions posted in the building and communicated by organizers.

Contact email hidden; JavaScript is required if you would like a link to join our Sunday morning service virtually and/or to receive our weekly newsletter. The office can also put you in touch with FMC leadership if you’d like to raise questions or concerns about the Reopening Plan.

FMC Reopening & In-Person Worship Service Status

In consultation with FMC healthcare professionals and commission leadership, Trustees and Pastors have developed the FMC Reopening Plan. This document describes the minimum requirements for resuming various levels of in-person, indoor gatherings at FMC. Decision guidelines therein are anchored on a specific leading indicator metric published by the Indiana State Department of Health (ISDH). An up-to-date summary of tracking information may be found in this post. As a transition between levels approaches, further communications will be provided.

FMC is currently at Level 1, meaning that indoor gatherings of up to ~10, with physical distancing and masks, are permitted. Individuals or groups wishing to make use of indoor facilities must have a representative receive approval from Trustees and clearance from the church office prior to meeting at FMC. The process is initiated by submitting this form.

Virtual-only worship services are once again in place while discussions surrounding future in-person gatherings occur. Contact email hidden; JavaScript is required if you would like a link to join our Sunday morning service virtually and/or to receive our weekly newsletter. The office can also put you in touch with FMC leadership if you’d like to raise questions or concerns about the Reopening Plan.

FMC Reopening Status and the Return of In-Person Worship Services

In consultation with FMC healthcare professionals and commission leadership, Trustees and Pastors have developed the FMC Reopening Plan. This document describes the minimum requirements for resuming various levels of in-person, indoor gatherings at FMC. Decision guidelines therein are anchored on a specific leading indicator metric published by the Indiana State Department of Health (ISDH). An up-to-date summary of tracking information may be found in this post. As a transition between levels approaches, further communications will be provided.

FMC is currently at Level 2, meaning that indoor gatherings of up to 50, with physical distancing and masks, are permitted. Individuals or groups wishing to make use of indoor facilities must have a representative receive approval from Trustees and clearance from the church office prior to meeting at FMC. The process is initiated by submitting this form. Additionally, in-person, indoor worship services have resumed. To reduce risk as much as possible, the FMC Covid-19 Readiness Guidelines have been jointly developed by the Pastors and Trustees, FMC medical professionals, the Worship Commission, the Faith Formation Commission, and the Facilities committee. Please familiarize yourself with this document and be prepared to follow practices described therein, which include, but are not limited to: wearing a mask at all times, maintaining a distance of 6 feet (between parties), and adhering to instructions posted in the building and communicated by organizers.

Contact email hidden; JavaScript is required if you would like a link to join our Sunday morning service virtually and/or to receive our weekly newsletter. The office can also put you in touch with FMC leadership if you’d like to raise questions or concerns about the Reopening Plan.

FMC 2021 College Graduates

Congratulations to the following FMC young adults who will be graduating from college this spring or summer.


Bethany Habegger will be graduating from IU Bloomington with a B.F.A., Bachelor’s degree in Fine Art.


Jakob Amstutz will be graduating from IU with a degree in Informatics. 


Kyra Krall will be graduating from Goshen College with a Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing (BSN).  After graduation, she is moving to Pittsburgh and will be working at UPMC Mercy as a nurse in their Trauma and Burn track graduate nurse program. She will be working on 4 separate floors (Emergency Department, Spinal Rehab, Ortho Trauma, and Burn Unit) for 3 months each.


Emily Fontaine is graduating from IUPUI with a BS degree in Tourism, Conventions and Event Management.


Kealy Ester-Bode will be graduating from IUPUI in May with a major in psychology and minors in nutrition and wellness coaching.


Drew Ester-Bode will be completing a Doctor of Occupational Therapy degree in August.


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Adventures in E-Learning: A Conversation with the Schmuckers

The Schmucker family has spent the entire past school year experiencing e-learning from home. Caitlin (3rd grade) and Nora (Kindergarten) attend an IPS district school that has swung between virtual and in-person options.The girls will remain virtual for the remainder of the school year. As with so many families, virtual learning has had many ups and downs, but the Schmucker family has also been able to find the silver linings.

Do you like e-learning/learning at home? If so, what do you like about it?

Caitlin I do like learning at home because on my breaks I can do whatever I want. And I like it because we have another good teacher (Mom).
Nora I like it because I can play with my toys on my breaks.
Mel We love being able to go on walks or play outside whenever we have some time between meetings.
Jason I’ve been working from home for a year now and it’s been nice to see Caitlin and Nora more often during the day.

You have been virtual learning for a long time now–has it gotten easier/more comfortable over time?

Caitlin It definitely has gotten easier. I know how to do things better and I know the routine.
Mel In some ways it has definitely gotten better as we’ve adjusted to the routines and expectations. There have also been challenges though when the school switched from virtual only to in-person learning – this has happened twice and each time it takes a couple weeks to adjust to the new schedules and routines (their teachers have to manage both the virtual and in-person students). The majority of the students did go back to in-person learning and it sometimes feels like the virtual learners are overlooked/pushed aside.

What has been hard about learning at home? What do you miss about in-person school?

Caitlin What’s been hard is that I can’t see my classmates in person. I miss my friends.
Mel It’s been hard for Nora (kindergartner) to make friends through the screen. It’s been challenging for me to be a surrogate teacher (teaching is so NOT my thing).

Have there been any funny/notable moments you’ve experienced while e-learning?

Caitlin One of my classmates always has the song Let it Go from Frozen playing in the background whenever we are meeting. It’s so funny!
Mel Nora’s teacher has three dogs and when everyone was virtual and she was teaching from home her dogs were constantly barking in the background.
Performing a lava lamp science experiment with colored water, oil, and antacid tablets.

Any other thoughts or memories you think you will remember from this experience?

Caitlin  I’ve had a lot of cool conversations with my teacher.
Jason I’ve enjoyed getting to observe more of their school days and get a feel for the ways they’re learning, much more than I can when they’re in person. I will always remember how much Mel stepped up to be the at-home teacher – she’s done so much good for our girls.

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Goering Wins Prestigious IU Teaching Award

Our own Beth Goering just won one of IU’s oldest and most prestigious teaching awards. Known as the Herman Fredric Lieber Memorial Award, it was established in 1960 to recognize faculty who are not just excellent teachers, but who also show evidence of having made a profound impact on learning and having had a life-changing influence on students over time.

Beth won the award for on-going engagement in curriculum and course development in Communication Studies, at the departmental, university, and national levels. She was part of a nationally chosen 30-mermber team to define learning outcomes in her discipline. Her abiding interest in sound pedagogy is coupled with her dedication to mentoring undergraduates as well as graduate students. In her long career (32 years at IUPUI!), Beth has also been able take her teaching across town, engaging her students in service-learning work with organizations such as the Peace Learning Center and Catholic Charities Refugee and Immigrant Services, as well as across the ocean, regularly working with students in Germany and Russia.

Beth’s department chair, Kristine Karnick, affirms: “Her successful implementation of policies based on her excellence in teaching extend well beyond her department, to the School of Liberal Arts, the IUPUI campus, as well as nationally and internationally.”

Our best congratulations to you!


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New Ways to Learn

Kids! Time to log on for Morning Meeting! Get to your stations!

Bare feet hit the floor running as breakfast is forgotten on the dining room table. The kids finger-comb their hair, still in their pajama bottoms. I hear the click-clack of frantically typed usernames and passwords. Lyra’s teacher begins roll call as Cody’s teacher blasts “Happy” and encourages the kids to dance. A couple of the 1st graders are asleep on their screens. One is hiding under her bed with stuffed animals–sneaking some Cheerios. I can hear Lyra’s teacher trying to remain patient as a student has internet problems, while yet another has to be reminded to “un-mute” for the hundredth time. I open my laptop and begin to answer work emails while the final, staticky chords of “Happy” are playing in the background. Cody’s teacher begins a lesson on the consonant blend “th”, and he is already trying to sneak a copy of Dogman under his Chromebook to read. So starts another day in virtual learning paradise…

When I look back on the almost seven months that our children participated in e-learning, it all feels like a bit of a blur. I would like to say that I was that Pinterest Mom who established a clear, calm routine to the days–with organic strawberries cutely arranged and fanned out after a leisurely morning walk/ “brain break.” But that would be a lie. I did take a stab at the scheduling thing and made a cute, colorful visual schedule that we sometimes used. I dug through closets and found some old sensory toys, and made the kids run up and down the hallway when they started to have what I refer to as “Zombie Eyes” from staring at their screens too long. On our better days, we took bike rides after lunch and enjoyed one another’s company between scheduled Zooms. On our worst days, we would all end up in tears and click our way to the “Stop Sign icons,” whether the work had been completed “correctly” or not.

Detailing the experience of e-learning for almost a year could literally constitute an entire novel, but I’m not going to do that here. I would, however, like to share some of the big take-a-ways for our family. After having lived through this experience with my children, here’s what I know for sure:

  • Teachers had to completely reinvent their profession this year–whether they were internet savvy or not. It wasn’t always pretty, but they leaned into the discomfort because they love their students and failing them was not an option. 
  • Children are resilient. If they are fed, loved, have a safe place to call home, and a semi-stable internet connection–they are going to be okay. They are equipped to not only survive this pandemic, but come out of it stronger, more creative human beings. 
  • Surviving this pandemic and wading through the e-learning experience with my children has made us closer. I gained a front row seat to their classes, peers, and teachers in a way that I will probably never experience again.
  • I have emerged from this experience with an even deeper appreciation for our public schools. While so many federal and state officials were throwing their hands in the air, wailing about the circumstances, our schools got busy feeding and supporting families.
  • Screens are great, but nothing can replace a real hug or in-person conversation.

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From Standing in Line to Going Online

It is a bit after 7 am Monday and our granddaughter just arrived to “go to school”, from my home-office. She logs on; and there is the teacher. She thinks nothing of her phone, stylus pen, computer, or the technology needed for her to “go to school”– she is here to study.

Watching such huge transformation, my thoughts go back 20+ years when I was Indiana University’s guru for distance education charged to “develop pedagogical models and delivery methods for distance education.”

I traveled IU’s eight campuses presenting the advantages of technology-mediated education. Some faculty were willing; many had questions (read: objections). One faculty member (close to retirement) confessed, privately, he never learned to use overhead projectors, and didn’t want to learn this new stuff.

Their questions ranged from the extra work, no classroom, no eye contact, labs, glitches, etc.

A dedicated committee representing all eight campuses, co-chaired by two devoted deans, and IU President Myles Brand committing $1M toward distance education, launched the project. We issued a 36-page strategic plan, CHARTING A COURSE TOWARD AN INDIANA VIRTUAL UNIVERSITY.

Our main message: key ingredients of effective learning are a master, an engaged student, and time-on-task. Technology-mediated education provides both reach and richness.

So, what is different today compared to 20 years ago? A lot!

  • Today there is no need to convince anyone that teaching with technology is necessary – the global epidemic has done that for us.
  • The speed of technology adoption in teaching is unprecedented.
  • There is no distance education central office – everybody does it.
  • There is no strategic plan.
  • Teaching with technology is now in the mainstream of teaching and learning.
  • Faculty live with hybrid, synchronous, asynchronous, HyFlex, learning management systems, online discussions, online laboratory sessions, etc.
  • The reach is limitless.

I heard Greta playing her French horn. When asked, she says students play their instrument and no student hears the others unless we un-mute; the teacher is able to listen to all.  When asked about chemistry labs, she said the teacher tapes the experiments, we watch and write a report.

I asked Greta what she liked about on-line classes. “I like computers because I grew up with them.”

What did she not like? “No friends – but we get together on weekends”.

Distance education is in her DNA.

Technology-mediated education has transformed education forever. Students can balance duties with studies: family, work, pace of study, and relaxation. The reliability and ubiquitousness, the lower costs compared to brick-and-mortar learning, all have increased technology-mediated learning about five-fold since COVID-19 hit.

Students should keep these hints in mind:  

  • Connect with other students as much as possible either online or, if possible, face-to-face.
  • Take frequent breaks.
  • Start early, stay positive, ask for help, and don’t fall behind.
  • Stick to studies even if the doorbell rings; stay away from the refrigerator.
  • Observe online etiquette.
  • Remember, it is natural to feel anxious.

For faculty:

  • Interact with, and support students even more than in face-to-face settings.
  • When possible, keep sessions short and live.
  • Study current events such as coronavirus.
  • Without close and frequent supervision, students will fall behind.
  • Have tests monitored by a supervisor, parent, or make tests optional.   

We all live with transformations. Whether it is the change in seasons, the metamorphosis of a cocoon into a butterfly, or the transformation from in-person to on-line classes; all are transformations. In fact, life could not exist without transformations. Life is transformations, and transformations bring life. The opposite is a rock which does not change – and it does not live.

Acknowledgement: Written at the suggestion of E. Eric Boschmann, University of Denver.


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