Saturday, February 05, 2011

That Window Sill Laboratory


In one of our books the Chinese New Year is described as the time for planting, so we've been getting some seeds going for the past couple weeks, which, since it's too cold outdoors, we've been leaving in a sunny window sill with a pair of squirt bottles so the kids can water them at will. (We hope to soon move them into the new garden tent.)


The sill is just about right for the older, taller kids: low enough so that they can reach the seedlings, but high enough that they aren't forever knocking into them on accident. The younger, shorter children need a bit of a boost, so there are a couple of step-stools handy.


Naturally, even the kids who don't need the stools, find it infinitely more interesting to water plants while 2-feet taller. This is a fairly complex thing these guys are doing, balancing like that on a single step, sharing a very small space, while also managing squirt bottles, which are just barely within the capabilities of their hand strength, aim the stream of water from those bottles, and carry on a conversation all without either of them toppling off.


While the older kids are up there by choice, our 2-year-olds need the boost, but again, one has to be impressed with their ability to manage that complex collection of large motor, fine motor, and social skills required to take in this simple science lesson about lentils, radishes, beets, lettuce and runner beans on a window sill.


This is how the real world is after all, not a place where our various capabilities get divided up into compartments, but rather one in which they all merge together into a single integrated skill that the Tao Te Ching calls our "life of doing."


And that life of doing involves experimenting beyond the obvious task of moistening those little peat pots or the tender leaves of seedlings. If you look at the window in these photos, you'll see that there is a water and glass experiment going on there as well. Or how about the experiment of squirting a friend?


When the boy in the green shirt took that first face full of water mist, I thought I'd need to move in and re-direct, but he responded with a belly laugh so full of the joy of life that I stood back, but not too far back because I'm an adult and know where this is ultimately going.


There is nothing more life affirming that 2-year-olds really discovering the other people beyond their own parents, and as both boys laughed directly into one another's faces, roaring with each squirt of water, discovering a button to push that released those delightful feelings of connection, I waited, watching their faces, until I saw what I knew was coming . . .


A face that said, Hmm, I'm not so sure about this. That's when I said, "I can tell by (your friend's) face that he doesn't like getting squirted anymore." 


The boy in the yellow shirt looked at me, then at his friend's face. He raised his bottle for one more squirt, wanting as any good scientist would, to test-push the button one more time to see if, indeed, it was over. I put my hand in front of the nozzle and he didn't pull the trigger. He returned to squirting the plants and the window. A few seconds later he pointed the bottle at his friend once more. My hand went up again. So, that's the result of that experiment. A parent-teacher came over with a towel to dry first one, then the other boy.

And this all happened on a tiny platform, two-feet up in the air. 

Then they moved on, making room for the next scientist to take his place up there in that window sill laboratory.


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2 comments:

Sherry and Donna said...

Here's hoping those poor little seedling don't drown from all that lovely attention they're receiving from the top of those step stools Tom ;)
DOnna :) :)

Marla McLean, Atelierista said...

I love the fact that you made space for the initial laughter. That is so often hard to do, when you know in your bones that dissatisfaction is soon to follow. What a wonderful example of teacher observation AND care.

PS I think the capes are helping with the balance and dexterity. They are magical, you know.

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