Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Lunch Table Conversation

Many people forget that one of the things we do when we sit down to have a meal together is converse. Adults will sit at the table for hours sometimes, visiting over a meal.

We believe it is important for children to experience the social aspect of sharing a meal together, so we make a point of sitting down together, waiting for everyone at our table to arrive before we begin eating, and waiting until everyone at our table has finished before leaving. Preschool table conversation can be a lot of things, but boring is rarely one of them. Sometimes, it's ridiculous (such as the time some kids pretended every single edible item in their lunch boxes were telephones) or serious (like the conversations sparked by things kids have heard about on the news) and sometimes it is educational.

Today, the PA system interrupted our lunch conversation to inform us that "There will be a disruption of the fire alarm service in the West building. In case of fire, call 66#."

"That's not for us," stated J, authoratatively.
"What did it say?"
"What was that?" -- these are both frequently asked questions after an announcement. The children know that sometimes, the announcement tells us someone is sick or hurt and needs help from a doctor right away (code blue or nursing response) and that the person no longer needs help (code blue/nursing response is all clear). The important ones (and the reason the children loudly shush each other when the annoying dinging noise preceeds the announcement) are the "Code Red" announcements: Those ones might be "fire drills". We are really good at fire drills.

I explained that the announcement was so we know that if we see a fire, and we pull the fire alarm, it won't work, so we should just call the switchboard and tell them about it instead.
"Six-six-pound! That's what you call!" one child reminded me.
"Why is the fire alarm not working?"
"I'm not sure. Maybe they need to fix it or test it or do some work to it. Maybe it is just not working right now."
"Maybe it's not working because there's some wires, and the wires that go in it are rusty and they have to get it out," offered J.
"I think so maybe a ghost got in there and it putted its hand in and got rust in the wires and broke it," was A's thought.
"Ghost-iz are not real," Z objected, sparking a brief debate over whether ghosts are real or make-believe.
"HEY WAIT A MINUTE!" yelled J, "I know what happened to the fire alarm!"
"Oh? What do you think, J?" I asked.
"They have to take it down and take out the battery and put a new one and hang it back up."
"Oh, it needs a new battery? Could be."
"I think J was right all along!" exclaimed G, "It hadded to get a new battery and get the rusty wires out."

The conversation wandered away to something completely different, but I thought it was significant that one of the "medium" kids brought some of his prior knowledge (probably he is linking the fire alarm service with the smoke detector at his house) to share with his peers, who used it to construct new knowledge. Hours later, when the announcement came that the fire alarm "is back in service", someone who had not been sitting at our table (but had obviously been listening) piped up "I guess they finally changed the battery..."

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Someone needed it more than we did.

Tuesday, I took a small group of children over to our garden patch, intending to harvest George, Frank, and Harry, our trio of pumpkins. But when we arrived at the garden, we discovered Frank and Harry sitting, happy as can be, on either side of a blank space. George, the biggest pumpkin, had vanished!

 I suppose that in order to fully appreciate the significance of this tale, you need the whole story.  A long time ago, last spring, we started exploring seeds and reading about how they grow. 

We planted sprouts in the sand table.

 We transplanted a sprout into a pot.

We made an experimental window greenhouse display to see how different kinds of seeds would look when they sprouted.

We planted some seeds in egg carton cups, and grew them in the window.

We watered, and measured, and sang to our seeds to help them grow.
A family who lives nearby gave us some lumber to paint.
Then they used the lumber to create a raised garden bed for us. We transplanted our egg-cup pea plants into one corner.

We planted carrots, radishes, beans, lettuce, onions, cucumbers, watermelons, broccoli, marigolds, sunflowers, pumpkins, and chard. Some of those things we planted too late, and haven't been able to harvest. Maybe next year! But, many things, we did plant in time. The pumpkins were the seeds that excited us the most; we remember carving George the Jack-o-lantern and then turning him into delicious tarts last fall.
 We planted our pumpkin seeds in early June, at the same time as our sunflower seeds.

Soon, we had several healthy pumpkin plants sprouting in the back corner of the garden.

In early July, we thinned the pumpkins down to just one, the healthiest-looking plant.

 Soon, that plant was big enough to start training up the trellis, so it wouldn't overwhelm the entire garden.

 Here is the flower that appeared in mid-to-late July, and eventually grew to become George II.

Now, it is October.

Last week, on September 27th, George looked like this:

By October 2nd, he was gone, leaving only his two brothers flanking the empty space where he had been.
 The adults are far more upset over this development than the children. The ones who came to the garden with me to pick the pumpkins said "I think the wind blowed it away..." and when we told everyone about George's mysterious disappearance at meeting time, the theories were flying all over the place (from kids sitting on their bottoms, raising their hands, and listening to what one another had to say, no less!) about what had caused our biggest pumpkin to vanish:

"I think a bad guy stealed it," was the prevailing theme, with a few other ideas, such as "A purple polka-dot monster took it to feed its babies!" (we agreed that if the babies were hungry, it was okay for the moster to use our pumkpin) or "Maybe it got up on some legs and walked to its new home!"

Ultimately, the children decided that whoever took the pumpkin needed it more than we did. Maybe they didn't have a nice garden like ours to grow their own. And they left us two little ones, so it's okay. I promised to buy a big carving pumpkin closer to Halloween time for our jack-o-lantern, and we can use these little ones for tasty treats like roasted seeds... and George tarts.

The children are already making plans to grow next year's pumpkin:

"Hey, I know! We can put the pumpkin in the ground and grow more pumpkins!"
"No! You don't put the pumpkin! You get it open and then you put the seeds in the ground."
"Oh yeah, let's plant the seeds and grow more pumpkins!"
"Not now, it's going to be winter, guys."
"Winter pumkins!"
"If you grow pumpkins in the snow then they'll freeze and be dead."
"Oh. Maybe we should wait until it's not winter."