Tuesday, May 10, 2011

try saying terrarium three times fast

There is something truly fascinating about watching a tiny creature wiggle, burrow, and crawl. We have a small group of children fascinated by unearthing this buggy world each day. Yesterday, I overheard voices declaring "that's mine" and "I want to keep it." I stepped in to ask how this child thinks the worm feels when taken out of it's home and I was met with no response. If we are committed to letting children make sense of the world through their own choices and experiences then how far can you push? I chose to ask a few more questions but my friend remained unconvinced and so the worm stayed in their hand. It died. Ultimately the want to posses seems to outweigh thinking about the worm sometimes it seems.

So today I had a bit of an agenda. As I chimed in with the last few lines of the book Each Living Thing (which is a beautiful book), Be watchful and let them be I gave one of the most gentle children a bug jar for us to study a few of the worms and insects. I'm still hesitant about this choice as I don't want to encourage possessing another living thing but it seemed necessary to limit any more unnecessary worm deaths.

When we came back to the classroom we studied the small bug habitat and considered how long we should leave them in the classroom for observation. Soon the idea of building a large and comfortable garden for the bugs came up, so they could stay indoors longer. The idea of a garden made me think of a terrarium and as I explained the little I know about terrariums it was decided that we could do that.

Some children looked for terrarium pictures with me on the computer and were quite taken with the idea that some terrariums have fun sculptures in them. You can view a slide show of terrariums here,  http://www.nytimes.com/slideshow/2010/06/02/garden/20100603-terrarium-slideshow.htmlThis inspiration led to sketches of our own terrariums and it seems we have a plan.

There's a lot to think about as I read up on terrariums and adding insects into the mix. Has anyone out there in the blog world tried this with children? Any tips, ideas?

The building of a terrarium which will also house a few insects still does not sit completely well with me. The idea of taking an animal from its natural habitat and placing it in a man made one is something I would like the children to think about in terms of fairness. But a message I am trying to keep present in my thoughts is that I can not be the gatekeeper of knowledge or experiences. My repeating of "be watchful and let them be" is not resonating with everyone. The desire to bring insects back to the classroom for observation is strong. Spoken eloquently by one of the speakers this weekend...but I forget who "when you view children as protagonists, constructors of their own knowledge, then you don't think about telling them anything." So this experience is one that I will support and we'll fully engage in but I am curious to see if by the end the desire to let the insects go feels just as strong as the urge to keep them is now.

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