Amanda Edmiston Botanica Fabula: Posted on Sunday, April 01, 2012 7:03 PM
We caught them closing the other evening….this pair of Days eyes looking up from the gravel edging alongside the patch of grass outside our house. ‘Mummy the daisies have died back and its only just Spring …is Spring over already’, we took the name to bits….(sometimes phonics is a gift in unimagined ways!), she got to Days eye and the answer to what was going on long before I needed to explain.
I’m reading Stephen Harrod Buhner’s ‘Secret Teachings of Plants’ again, and whilst phonically dissecting a name may seem antagonistic and reductionist in the first instance, the fact is it was playing to the strengths of a child just exploring the wonders of language and reading, and then expanding from a point they find easy and obvious and using that small miniature key to open a vast door.
A door which allows them in a more natural way that they can engage with in an instinctive way to explore the plant in itself and how it responds to its environment.
An idea had begun to grow….we got up this morning and found a hidden pathway after a bit of an online chat with a fantastic herbalist friend of mine Claire MacKay http://www.herbalheritage.co.uk she was playing an old ‘Presidents of the United States’ track…and the pathway I found led to this http://babypantsmusic.com/fr_home.cfm (bear with me here people….surreal I know….but its a thought process ! ), excellent, the child and I both really liked ‘Got a little ghost’ (we share a rather silly sense of humour….), but it was ‘Googly eyes’ that added the final seasoning to the idea:
We got some old blank office stickers we’d been gifted when someone had cleared out a cupboard at some point, I didn’t let on what we were up to…I just said I had an idea for a new game….
“What are the rules?”
“This is one of my games….there are no rules….we decide as we go along”.
We drew all sorts of eyes on the stickers, cut round them and popped them like a somewhat sinister optician into an old pickle jar and made our way down the stairs…..the intrigue was building, guesses as to the game were bouncing out …..” we can’t stick them on the daisies mum they’ve got eyes…and a tongue….” we got down stairs and out the door……”mum, mum, look, they’ve got a tongue”.
The game had started, the daisies indeed had a tongue….when they talked what would they tell us?
What adults take 5 minutes to diagnose, react to, and often meet with a head on refusal to play, is often met with enthusiasm for a more fluid way of thinking by young children.
The game was obvious, we took it in turns, the act of peeling the backing off the eyes made that a natural form, we found stuff that didn’t have eyes, and found out what it had to tell us!
I posed the question ‘what would it tell us’:
The lidless grit bin it turns out is a helpful plastic bear, that likes to ask loudly if anyones got any snow they would like melting.
The fence it turned out revealed that it wasn’t painted wire as the child had supposed, the eyes got us engaging with the ordinary in a new way and thinking about it, and how it related to its environment. Plastic coated wire, it turns out, is a monster that can grow or shrink, it wants to help but sometimes does it in a scary or boring way as it keeps things in and out….good stuff this, we were enjoying ourselves!
Disappointment loomed as I explained that concrete wasn’t really a natural object as had been previously thought, the poor concrete stairs it transpired were friendly and helpful but felt a bit downtrodden and wished they were a beach…they were bored and resigned to their fate….
The sterile shrubbery became a wild wood, filled with creatures: insects on the rampage, on the defensive due to having their cover pruned…
The gratings on the pathway became forest creatures…..
Two hours transformed our dusty area to a wild world teaming with amazing materials, with different roles, it was obvious to a five year old how the natural things had a whole existence, many roles and places, uses and looks depending on their environment and how they responded to it.
The man made things had a much more linear nature, yes we could expand that in our own heads and for our eyes, but they had been reduced in many ways by their construction.
This sort of learning really brings children to life, they really remember everything, they’re excited by it, it makes them aware and appreciative of their surroundings, they engage with things and through that they understand how to learn , how to retain their naturally elastic brains, they also learn to respect their surroundings and find ways of playing that doesn’t require any gizmos, gadgets or new stuff. That and we laughed together…a lot…..
As we looked at everything, paid attention, got involved in the stuff, it all had something to tell us, something for us to learn from, nothing was analysed purely at the level of its constituent partsand not a shred of that learning could be devalued as reductionist…of that I’m certain!