Saturday, April 10, 2010

The Great Flood

Up until we built our new playground, our "garden" was the only logical place for water play. It was a muddy place in the best of times, made even more so by regular child-made floods.

"Teacher Tom, we made a flood," meant that one of our beds was several inches underwater. When we reclaimed the garden a month ago, I began employing the mantra, "If you want to make a flood, you can do it in the sand pit. The garden is for growing things." This effort was aided recently by a mistake we made when transplanting a bamboo tree (I know bamboo is a grass, but it sure looks like a tree to us) into a large pot.

This stuff tends to grow like a weed around here -- a particularly hard to eradicate weed -- but we thought if we kept it confined to pots we could start growing our own crops of this very versatile building material. What we neglected to do was check to make sure that there were drainage holes in the bottom of this particular pot. When its leaves began to get brown, some of us thought it was dead, but others just ascribed it to the shock of being transplanted. When our recent series of rain storms accompanied by high winds hit, we learned the truth. I arrived one morning to find our bamboo tree sprawled across the playground and the dirt in the pot looking like someone had made a very muddy flood in it, providing a wonderful object lesson for us all about what happens when plants get too much water. (I've now drilled those drainage holes and we're hoping to bring it back to life.)

Still, even as late as Monday, I was having to remind a few kids, "If you want to make a flood, you can do it in the sandpit," but for the most part our garden flooding days are behind us. Unfortunately, there hadn't been a compensating uptick in flooding in the sand pit . . . until this week. 

On Monday, a cold, wet day already, a group of our younger boys lead by Charlie L., Max and Orlando discovered that if they kept the water pump going continuously for several minutes at a time they could produce a very satisfactory flood in the sand. As the week progressed, and the days became dryer, their efforts attracted a crowd.

Look how many kids can operate cooperatively, with tools,
 in a tiny space, without conflict when they share a goal.

As they took turns pumping, flowing the water along a length of gutter to the "top" (uphill) part of the sand pit the rest of them dug, dug, dug . . .

. . . until we had a river flowing through the sand. This was very hard and satisfying work. At one point they even used a couple planks of wood to build a bridge.

This was our 3-5 class. The rudiments of the channel they had dug were still evident yesterday when the Pre-3 class went out to play. I turned on the hose to refill our cistern, thinking that the younger children might be able to take advantage of the older kid's work, then fell into a conversation with our parent educator Dawn Carlson while we waited for them to finish up their snack and small group activities and join us outside. The cold rain had returned and as the kids trickled out of the classroom, most of them opted for mat play and tricycle riding in the gym. 

Once I got a couple of adults to supervise the indoor play, I stepped back outside. Oh man, I'd forgotten about that hose! There was a flood! The cistern had overflowed and several inches of water filled the entire corner of our courtyard, completely surrounding our "Mexican beach shack," turning it into a houseboat.  Sadly, this is the only picture I took . . .

. . . and this was after the waters had receded a bit. What an incredibly happy accident! The only way to get to the playhouse without getting wet feet was to traverse a series of 3 "bridges." Kids were sailing boats, they were using ropes for fishing, and, of course, many jumped in up to their ankles. And this was on a cold spring day. 

The mind reels with how much fun we'll have with the occasional flood during our summer camp

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Noah said...

oh happy accident!! the key to innovation and eurekas.

Unknown said...

I love the trails and errors of learning through discovery! Maybe you need Deborah's song "Bucket and a Shovel" to accompany you as you dig, dig, dig! :)

Diana (Diane) Maria said...

I'm new here but I just love this story and your blog.

I agree with you. When they are working together to achieve a goal, children are most cooperative.

One hot day I put a few paint brushes on the playground and sat on a bench and waited. In no time at all, the children had pails of water and were 'painting' the walls outside our school. They had lots of fun 'painting'. There was water everywhere but no one was worried. I knew the 'paint' would dry and disappear.

Water activities are the best - especially those conceived by the children.

I will be back.

Play for Life said...

As adults we can learn so much about team work and co-operation by simply watching our children can't we ... should invite big business heads to visit on days like this!
There's nothing as good as an accidental experiment!
Shez is an expert at placing the hose into the water tub and forgetting to turn it off ... Shhh ... don't tell her I told you that!
:) :)

SurprisedMom said...

I really like your kids! I love their cooperation and teamwork in an effort to get something done! How I wish this spilled over into adulthood!

I'm glad you had such a happy accident happen and the kids enjoyed it.

Now, did you get a boat and sail it, too?

Let the Children Play said...

I love it - a mexican beach shack with its own moat!

Unknown said...

What fun! : ) I love that flood. I imagine you will have a wonderful time in the summer with floods!

Scott said...

Happy accidents can lead to a lot of fun!

Christie - Childhood 101 said...

Love that you are playing outside with water when it is cool, how many parents have I come across who would gasp at the idea? What wonderful teamwork, I remember (and have posted about) a group of 4 year olds working together in much the same way to make a waterfall in the sandpit with a series of pipes, guttering and buckets. Priceless fun and learning!