The weather has changed, and with it, new explorations have been occurring in our outdoor environments: Bob has emerged from his hibernation, the snap peas have grown big enough to be eaten off the stalk, the violas and pansies have turned to seed.
With this change, both old and new spaces begin to be used in different ways. The opening of the small sand play area in the back of the ELC leads to new surprises and discoveries.
“Shall we open up the sand area in the back?”
“I want to go there!”
“Let’s bring some shovels and buckets!”
A small group of children choose to play in the back sand area, ready with shovels and buckets, yet a surprise waits for everyone.
The large white tarps are lifted and secured and below the tarp the teacher immediately notices the large plastic basket that already contains shovels and buckets.
The children, on the other hand, immediately notice something completely different: Rolly Pollies!
The conversations and careful play that ensue do not require buckets or spades: the small little woodlice, the rolly pollies, take center stage.
“Look! Look! Rolly pollies!”
“I see a baby one!” “It’s so cute!”
“I see a daddy one!”
“I like it!” (as the child lets the woodlouse crawl on her hand) “It is a little bit ouchy!”
“Ouchy? Can I try?” (the teacher follows the lead of the child to see if the woodlouse’s trek on skin might be ouchy.) “Oh, I see, a little ouchy to you, a little ticklish to me!”
“It’s dead, look look!” ( A dead woodlouse is found)
“Maybe somebody have a knife!” “Somebody go like this! (child indicates the chop of a knife)
“There are so many! Look look!”
“Do you want to try? I’ll help you.” (child encourages another child to try holding the rolly polly)
The tentative child briefly allows the woodlouse to crawl on his hand and says, “It’s ouchy.” “I scary.” The child who originally said “It’s ouchy,” now changes her position and description, “It’s not ouchy!”
The joyous conversation continues as different permutations of rolly polly locations and sizes change, and as more insects are discovered. The care with which the children cradle the rolly pollies or show them to each other is transferred to others as new children enter the space or as new insects are discovered.
“Don’t kill it”
The original intention of the uncovering of the sand box, which was playing in the sand, receives some attention, but it is the connection to the natural world and the creatures within it, that captures the attention of all and allows the natural flow of discovery and inquiry to flow, with children sharing their knowledge about the world as well as expanding their knowledge through their conversations and interactions. Encounters such as these allow for development in so many areas: inquiry, knowledge building, respect, caring, risk taking, collaboration, communication, empathy, and tolerance, and the drive behind all of this is the enthusiasm brought on by the children, the focus brought on by surprise, and the unexplainable connections we make to the natural world and to each other.