It was so good to see everyone dressed just perfectly for the chilly, fall afternoon yesterday. Nevertheless, getting a boot full of swamp water on a 40 degree day is quite different from an 80 degree, June day. I notice the kids nearly always have a hard time with this the first time it happens but they tend to toughen up and take it well if it happens again. In fact, I heard one of the first grade boys echo my own words when he slipped and ended up with a wet foot, “Well… it happens.” Yes, it does. Very philosophical!
I was smiling because I had just had a short conversation with some girls as we were wondering if anyone had fallen in yet. G. had smiled and said, dryly, “Someone always falls in!” I pondered aloud what we would do if one of these days no one did. I jokingly concluded that we would simply have to push someone in! The girls laughed and we went on our way, balancing on mossy logs through the cold water.
C. was wondering what the tube under the path was for and I showed her how it allows water to flow under instead of over when the water rises. We found 3 places where the water had gone over and through, eroding the soil and collapsing the path. S. used a stick to pole vault herself over these narrow waterways. It was a perfect situation for observing the power of water and how it can affect soil where tree roots do not hold it in place.
As I reflect on our conversations and observations I am always pleased to notice ways that the kids just naturally engage in mathematical and scientific thinking. For another example, on our way to Grandfather Oak someone noticed a portion of a dead tree that was held up off the ground by another tree in which it was trapped toward the top. I encouraged everyone to stop and try to use clues nearby to piece together what might have happened to cause what they were seeing. I wish I could relay the entire complex of conversation that went on for the next 10 minutes or so. They grasped onto my question and I began hearing them take turns telling each other and me what they noticed such as, “Look! I think this chunk of tree trunk on the ground matches up right here with the part of the tree that’s still hanging up.” and, “This end of that chunk is smooth! Someone must have chopped it down somewhere!” and, “Here’s a stump. Maybe it came from this.” (Guiding question from me: “But is the size of that stump right? Is it the same size as the base of that tree?”) “No! It’s not. It’s too small… Here’s one! This one matches!” and, “I agree with C.” and, “I think that tree fell onto the other one first and then someone chopped it out of the way and then it fell apart over here…” etc. These are the kinds of conversations and investigations we have been trying to facilitate in our classrooms and here they are happening with almost no effort on my part after school in the woods. This one could have been extended in so many ways.
If kids conduct a scientific or mathematical inquiry about a tree that fell in the woods and no administrators are there to hear it and no tests are there to evaluate it, did it still, “make a sound??” Yes, and it was a beautiful sound. The valuable, memorable, happy sound of kids learning naturally.