Earthworms are Superheroes

earthworm

All too often children get mixed messages about nature.

On one hand adults romanticise nature to children and expound liberally about how important it is to ‘save’ mother earth and we wax lyrical about the beauty of nature. On the other hand we all too often prohibit them from playing in the rain and slush, use the word ‘dirt’ synonymously for ‘soil’ and cringe when we chance upon a ‘bug’ or worm or ‘creepy-crawly’. When a young child instinctively bends down to pick up a tiny creature she comes across we hasten to get it out of their hands!

The fact is children come unconditioned about the creatures they share this planet with and slowly take on the prevailing attitudes of those around them. This is an important evolutionary step. It is how we learn about our world from the experiences of others. We learn what to stay away from and what to seek. In times long past it was the line between life and death itself!

A parent who delights in the simplest things of nature usually has a child who delights in nature too. I have a young friend, just past 3 years who LOVES ‘bugs’. She enjoys looking at them, handling them and talking about them. They make her world interesting and magical. You don’t have to look far to find out where this fascination comes from. You just have to meet her mother!

Upon hearing the word, ‘worms’ most people cringe, right?

Walk into school and you will find an entirely different mind set when it comes to earthworms! They inspire awe and the children are truly fascinated by them. The child who has found an earthworm wriggling about on a cloudy, rainy day, feels s/he has chanced upon true treasure.

The internal anatomy of the earthworm has been sewn onto cloth and made into  soft toys with the shiniest beads used to denote their 5 hearts. Clay models have been fashioned, poems have been written and thick books completed, paying homage to the earthworm.

They are the ‘new’ super heroes at school.

Upon hearing about the great work that earthworms do one child pondered, “Just like earthworms don’t know the important work they do for earth, do we humans also not know some great work that we are doing?”

Earthworms

by Valerie Worth

Garden soil,

Spaded up,

Gleams with

Gravel-glints,

Mica-sparks,

and

Bright wet

Glimpses of

Earthworms

Stirring beneath:

Put on palm,

Still rough

with crumbs,

They roll and

Glisten in the sun

As fresh

As new rubies

Dug out of

Deepest earth.

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world poetry day

image found here

We read A LOT of poetry at school. Poems are special gifts we give each other. Lillian Moore, Valerie Worth, Shel Silverstein, Edward Lear, Basho are all familiar names – friends that delight and make us ponder.

The 21st of March was World Poetry Day and given our love of poetry, we celebrated it at school.

As any Montessori guide will tell you it’s all about the process and I am particularly glad at how the preparations for the day went.

It was so simple, child-led and has generated so much of enthusiasm.

A few days before the event, I spoke to the children about the World Poetry Day and asked each child to spend some time finding a poem they would like to share with the others.

The next morning and through the day, I saw children in 2’s and 3’s sitting in the library corner. I observed them refer to several books, read a few poems to their friends, ask their opinion and finally choose a poem for themselves.

Here are some of the poems the children chose:

Eagle a poem by the Papago Indians from Animals Animals by Eric Carle

Tiger by Valerie Worth from All The Small Poems And Fourteen More 

Red by Lillian Moore from I Feel The Same Way 

The Unicorn by Rainer Maria Rilke from Dragons Dragons and Other Creatures That Never Were by Eric Carle

The Nicest Pet by Charlotte Pomerantz from Halfway To Your House by Charlotte Pomerantz

Several children decided to copy write and illustrate the poems they had chosen and this spontaneously caught on with all the others. The children had added one more step to the process.

Then they committed the poem to memory. I modeled how to do it and they went to a quiet space, reading and re-reading the poem till they felt they had ‘got it’. This is when they called in a peer, who ‘took up’ the poem for them. It was interesting to hear the conversations at these times – “Oh! you forgot a line – come lets say the poem together and then you can try again” or “I do think you should say this s-l-o-w-l-y”

Once the child was sure of the poem, I invited her and a peer to the amphitheater and demonstrated how to ‘throw’ ones voice so that each person in the audience would be able to hear them. The peer sat at different points in the amphitheater and provided feedback on clarity.

After they were satisfied with the recitation, they returned to class to choose their next work.

Through this entire time, the children were independent, purposeful and enthusiastic. Not once did I have to intervene or re-direct. My only job was to provide  clear guidelines and  structure at each step. The 3 hour work cycle was not broken for practice sessions but rather the entire thing flowed into it like any other work chosen.

On the day, besides the children reciting their poems, some of the teachers joined in too. There was Kannada poetry as well.

While speaking with a parent shortly after World Poetry Day, I learnt that their daughter suggested that for weekend fun they memorize a poem together!

Now I’m sure some of you are asking the question “Why memorize poems at all? What is the point?”

Going by the experience that I have had with children, they delight in poetry.

I think this is step one – read a lot of good quality poetry and let a love of poetry pervade the environment.

After that memorizing a poem one loves, allows a child to experience the poem – the words enter her soul and she makes the poem, hers.

Here’s what Jim Holt wrote in The New York Times about reciting a poem from memory:

It’s a physical feeling, and it’s a deeply pleasurable one. You can get something like it by reading the poem out loud off the page, but the sensation is far more powerful when the words come from within. (The act of reading tends to spoil physical pleasure.) It’s the difference between sight-reading a Beethoven piano sonata and playing it from memory — doing the latter, you somehow feel you come closer to channeling the composer’s emotions. And with poetry you don’t need a piano.

That’s my case for learning poetry by heart. It’s all about pleasure. And it’s a cheap pleasure. Between the covers of any decent anthology you have an entire sea to swim in.

To end here’s an excerpt from ‘Eating Poetry‘ by Mark Strand :

EATING POETRY 

 Ink runs from the corners of my mouth.

There is no happiness like mine.

I have been eating poetry