Saturday, April 21, 2012

What Did We Do Without It?

We finally got our cast-iron water pump up and running again a couple weeks ago. 

I don't think we knew how much we missed it.

We'd shut it down for the winter when the building turned off the outdoor water spigots against the possibility of pipes freezing.

We'd removed the pump altogether, along with the jerry-rigged Rubbermaid tub cistern, figuring that an inert object like that in the sand pit would likely just get filled up with sand, which would render it inoperable once spring rolled around, so it was all stashed down behind the workbench until I suddenly realized the water must be turned back on!

The first thing we had to do was dig a hole for the cistern. I'd brought out the adult shovel, figuring we might need more "fire power" than those little plastic ones the kids use.

But I was wrong. A team formed for the task, spurred on by their memories of outdoor water play that did not involve rain or puddles or drips from tree branches.

The way our little DIY pump system works is that we nestle the 10 gallon plastic tub into the ground. I've drilled two holes in the lid, one for the pump and one for the garden hose we use to fill it.

It's not a sand tight system, so we had to remind the kids to not shovel sand into or onto the pump itself. "Otherwise we'll have shut it down and clean it." No one wants to have to shut down the cast iron water pump.

It was only a matter of minutes before we'd built our first water raceway of the year, sending water from the upper level of the sand pit to the lower.

In the beginning there was a bit of "me first" when it came to taking turns pumping, but after a few minutes everyone settled into a rhythm and they didn't really need the grown-ups to help them manage their process.

Besides, there's always something to do down the line, like repairing the raceway. Several of the kids focused themselves on learning/remembering how to overlap the gutter ends so that the water keeps flowing.

Squatting there, child after child studied how the water coming from above would flow under the lower gutter if the end were placed atop the upper one. They each figured out how to slide the lower gutter under the upper one to keep the river going. The ones who spent time on this will now teach their friends who were too busy doing other things like figuring out how water proof their boots really are . . .

. . . or testing to see how their cars did in muddy water . . .

. . . or trying to dam the whole thing up, engaging in the impossible fight that humans are always fighting against gravity.

I've gotten in the habit of saving our "empty" tempera paint jugs. I had several set aside from those winter months.

The children have learned that the jugs really aren't empty at all.

If you fill them up with water, screw the lid back on, shake it, then pour it into the top of the pump, you get a colored river.

It works until the jug is really, really empty. It makes my heart sing to know we've not wasted a droplet of paint.

The cast iron water pump brings us together around one of the most common, fascinating, and plentiful  elements on earth.

It's a course of study, of direct learning, of play, that touches on everything in the world worth knowing.

It leads us to conversation and cooperation.

It guides us to careful observation . . .

. . . and even meditation.

We chant together, "More water! More water!" to let the grown-ups know the cistern is dry, because we're already experts on how this system works.

Oh, we've missed our cast iron water pump!

Already it's hard to remember what we did without it.

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Marla McLean, Atelierista said...

After taking some blog time off (reading and writing) I returned with a new freshness and eagerness.
I missed 30 Teacher Tom posts. Like Tarot cards I flipped through until one "felt right."
What do we do without it? was the pick. There are no coincidences.
Just today I actually whined about how I have been unable to generate teacher support to get a water pump for our children. With our relocation move happening this Spring, I have motivation and a more receptive groups of adults to win over. This post will be my ammunition. Whoo hoo, thanks Tom!!!!

water pumps said...

WOW! It's cute..children are helping for the benefits of everybody.
I super like this post.