Thursday, February 24, 2011

What If Whales Could Fly?

I've written a lot about water play here, including yesterday. When children are playing with water, indoors or out, in the cold of winter or the heat of summer, I always remind them, "If you play with water, you might get wet." When a child subsequently comes to me complaining about getting wet, I ask, "Were you playing with water?" And when they answer in the affirmative, I reply with a knowing nod or a comment like, "That's probably why you're wet," then help them figure out if they want to change clothes or not.

Most of the younger kids, the ones who are still learning the connection between playing with water and getting wet (i.e., the natural consequence), have spare clothing in their cubbies, but even the one's who haven't brought extras from home have access to Woodland Park's ample supply of spare shirts, pants, underpants and socks. Sadly, we can do nothing about shoes, but after all, we live in Seattle where wet toes are the norm for 10 of our 12 months, where both children and their mothers (but, oddly, not their fathers) wear rubber boots as day-to-day footwear. Getting wet is part of our lifestyle.

That said, some children absolutely detest getting wet. They steer clear of the sand pit when the pump is running. They avoid watering plants in the garden. They go no where near the sensory table if there is anything at all moist in it. I long ago stopped trying to lead these "horses" to water, let alone make them drink it. It's a temperament thing, I guess, part of their make-up by the time they arrive in my classroom, and while they may eventually outgrow it, my job in the present is to accept it, and where possible give them non-dampening ways to experience the properties of fluid.

One of the ways to do this is flax seed in the sensory table. As I wrote the last time I was lauding flax seed:

Flax seed is the king of sensory materials. The tiny, smooth oily seeds glide and slide over your skin, leaving them soft and good-smelling . . . There is something almost liquid about the way they move, flow and ripple together. Several years ago 2-year-old Aiden made this connection and tried drinking a cup of flax seed, which turned out to be a bad idea.

In fact, Aiden vomited on the spot and still holds the record for the longest sustained crying jag in my tenure at Woodland Park. That said, it was an impressive observational connection, one that I'd not made before then, and one we took advantage of last week on behalf of those who aren't wild about getting wet. We added our collection of whales (Orca, Sperm, Right, Humpback, Blue, and Dolphins) and "whale food" (smaller sea creatures and other whales). We had a couple whale books out as well to answer questions should any whale-related questions arise. (Sylvia suggested we could "just get a computer" for that purpose as well.)

The whales swam and fed just fine in their alternative milieu, and as always happens when we play with whales, many of them could "fly." Those pectoral flippers do have a lot in common with wings. What If whales could fly?

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Amy A @ Child Central Station said...

Who says that they can't fly? Just because no one has seen it doesn't mean it hasn't happened :). Another great post Tom.

Greg Sullivan said...

So long, and thanks for all the fish!