Thursday, 28 February 2013


I don't know how it happens. I don't know when it's going to happen. On my week-at-a-glance planner, there is a box for "sparks and provocations". There I record interesting ideas that come up over the previous week, or I plan experiments and invitations. I look over my anecdotal notes for great "I know!" or "I wonder" moments with my students. Still... I don't know how these magical days can be so different from other days.

Today was another day of ramps and marbles, water beads and colour tiles, cars from home and wooden train set, big blocks and play food. A day like many others in class, these days: too wet to spend long outside, library in the middle breaking up our long "activity" exploration time. My morning friends and I had a great time outside: shoveling new paths, making mountains, sliding down mini hills on the yellow sleds. We read a great book in the library:
"Rain Brings Frogs" about looking at life with a positive outlook, followed by a discussion of ways in which we are lucky. We chased runaway marbles and water beads as they rolled under every piece of furniture. I joined some friends at the snack table with my thermos of tea. We listened to two friends as they read aloud from a letter to mom and dad, and a short story about a favourite doll brought to school. I was pleased to see more phonetic spelling and reading aloud. But, all in all, this morning was a day like any other: we said goodbye to February, and off everyone went.

After lunch I was somewhat dismayed to see the state of the yard. The lovely snow was compacted, dark, and surrounded by enormous puddles. Indeed, like yesterday, the "big kids" had less options for recess because the hardtop yard was flooded and the grounds were turning to mud. So, I pulled off the picture for "outdoor play" from my visual schedule, and added "movie" at the end, thinking another dance party was in order. We went off to library as in the morning, where I expected to read "Rain Brings Frogs" again. Then, half-way up the stairs, I had to stop. The lake that had taken over the "smiley face" side of the school was gone. In its place, we saw a surprising sight.

We stopped on the landing while students stood on tiptoes and peered out at the wonderous scene below. A pumper truck was sucking up the enormous puddle and spraying the water out the back of the truck towards the open grate. So many observations and questions arose, and I knew this was no longer going to be a day like any other. I quickly snapped several photos and a short video clip. We finally left the men to their work (with a cheery wave from them and a big whoop from my class) and headed to the library. There was just too much to talk about, so we left the story aside and instead talked about how we might go about testing out ideas and gathering materials for our new inquiry. We came up with elephants (who spray water with their trunks), beavers (who build dams), ponds, sponges, and trucks, for starters. Our wonderful library teacher quickly gathered some books to add to our interest table. After choosing books, we headed back downstairs where we saw that the workers were still hard at work. 

Ideas were flowing as fast as melt-water back in the class. We needed a water table (now in another class while we have the light table). We needed large blocks. We needed sponges. We needed plans. Plans! Off they went, those whose minds were lit up with the spark of ideas. Other students happily resumed other inquiries or headed to eat snack with friends, knowing they would hear all about it at sharing time later. I tried to take as many notes as I could while the "I wonder" group were abuzz. I looked up a pertinent episode of "Peep and the Big, Wide World" with the beaver friend making dams, while helping two boys write out their ideas for how we could clean up the puddle blocking the gate to our yard. Here are a few of their ideas that made it to paper today:

And then, seemingly only minutes after we started to play, it was time to wrap up our snacks, tidy the room, and gather for our share time and goodbye circle. Many were still buzzing as they left, excited to share their story with someone at home. I went back inside, sat at my computer, and wondered why the room felt so different, even though no new toys or materials had been introduced. I marveled at how my plans to build a snow fort had been waylaid by something spontaneous, and what a gift it is to be able to follow those spontaneous leads with eager learners. I thought of how excited the morning friends might be to hear of the afternoon's events. I thought of materials needed to support the new learning directions. And I thought, again, how grateful I am to be teaching Kindergarten in Ontario where emergent curriculum is becoming standard practice.

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