reFLeCtion, interPretation, and aPPLiCation standard 145
The miniATUre world that Terrel found on the cedar log is ephemeral.
Like many natural phenomena, it may change or disappear quickly. Was it
there yesterday? Will it still be there tomorrow? This is the kind of mystery
that captures children’s imagination and prompts questions, dialogue, predic-
tions, and investigations.
The props and prompts of the natural world are always evolving, shift-
ing, and changing. This means that the outdoors is particularly expansive in
the scope of opportunities it provides children for reflection, interpretation,
and application. Teachers need to make sure that children have unscheduled
time and space to wander about and stumble on such interesting and beautiful
events as Terrel did.
These events are something you cannot manufacture and preplan for chil-
dren as a lesson for the day. Rather, they appear as teachable moments that fuel
children’s desire to understand what is going on. Children’s interests provide
entry points for deeper conversations. Your role in these conversations is to
help children articulate their questions, refine their observations, and relate
their current activity to their prior experience and learning.
Exploring and talking with children in this way is particularly rich. It con-
centrates on the process the children are engaged in rather than on a perceived
need to provide information or supply the answers to their questions. This
kind of conversation is possible only when teachers ensure that the outdoor
environment includes unscripted events that can unfold on their own.
Terrel and the other children had been working in the garden for a couple
of weeks—yet it is only on this particular day that the miniature world that
has been growing on the cedar log catches his eye. The flowers had reached a
certain vivid red that pulled him in. Terrel doesn’t know what they are, where
they came from, or what they are doing. Will they still be as red tomorrow or
will they open, fade, and then the show will be over? His need to explore and
answer this question will motivate him to check back to see what happens. He
will want to follow the story that the fungus presents. His teacher cultivated
his interest by listening to his questions and ideas, reflecting with him on
what he sees, and letting him continue to wonder and gather information to
answer his own questions in his own time. In this way she encouraged him to
look more closely, apply his experience to make predictions about what may
happen next, and follow up with more observation to check his predictions
against what he can see firsthand. She was not worried about whether he was
right or wrong in his answers. She was much more concerned with his think-
ing process and his ability to generate ideas.
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