“Better Than Wonderland?!”

On Thursday, I was setting up for the final day of the Epic Kindergarten Outdoor Play experience. I realized that I haven’t seen the worms again that a Grade 1 teacher and her daughter collected on Monday. It turns out that I needed to go and get some more worms. πŸ™‚ I was planning to head outside on my prep to dig alone, but the Grade 1/2 teacher offered up some help from a couple of children. It was the conversation that they had with me that inspired this post.

I started to wonder, what makes digging for worms so wonderful? What might this teach us as we plan future learning experiences for kids?

  • Maybe this speaks to the importance of connections. Maybe it’s less about “digging for worms,” and more about having a special opportunity to go outside and help out. The two student helpers knew that I needed these worms for a Kindergarten class, and they love to help out the kindergarteners. Could this desire to help have fuelled these positive feelings?
  • Maybe it was about doing something special. While I only took the students for five minutes — worms are easy to find in the courtyard — they saw this as an opportunity to leave the classroom and go out on an adventure with me. The adventure might have only been to a space across the hall, but it was still exciting. They could have also felt special for being the two that were chosen to help out.
  • Maybe it was about the sensory experience. I brought six Kindergarten classes out into this courtyard space over a 1 1/2 week period. While I set up many different provocations outside, the students in all of the classes were most drawn to the sensory play. This huge sandbox was often filled with all, or almost all, of the kids for the vast majority of our time outside (over an hour). While my two helpers were older than these Kindergarten students, they are still young enough to enjoy mud … and the giggles and conversations as they dug with me, show just how much they like the mud.

Just a couple of examples to show the popularity of the mud kitchen!

I keep thinking that as devoted as we are as educators or as parents to planning exciting, and at times, expensive, opportunities for kids, could something simple be just as valuable? Going to Wonderland is expensive. Digging for worms is not. According to these two kids, digging for worms is even better than Wonderland. I wonder what other simple experiences bring just as much joy. As my tweets this year show, I’m definitely focused on joy for this school year, and when kids are happy, the feeling is contagious. We’re at the point in the year when many educators are planning year-end trips or fun activities for June. What might be your “digging for worms” equivalent? Is it worth considering something simple, but wonderful? As my hands were also covered in dirt and picking up worms, I couldn’t help but feel this same joy that the kids felt. Maybe they’re onto something here.


2 thoughts on ““Better Than Wonderland?!”

  1. I love the process of your thinking here and all the valuable insights and ideas.
    I think that all your points are right on!

    I had one more thought to add… grounding/connection to the land.
    I have found that connection to the land is invaluable for kids. It connects them on a deep core level where the impact is 100% positive. Whether it’s hands in the mud looking for worms, planting seeds, watching outside as new animal families form each spring etc. etc.

    I have an 8 year old student, who will do anything for the opportunity to take off their socks/shoes and walk outside barefoot. There is a sensory component here, but also something deeper…a grounding and connection with the earth. This particular child is also one of the most strong advocates for animals, plants and care of the world at large within the group.

    Maybe there is even access to literacy activities/opportunities as the connection to the earth is facilitated, explored and experienced?

    Winning all round.

    • Thanks for your comment! I love your thinking around this “connection to the earth,” and I can definitely see that. When I taught Kindergarten at my last school, we spent a lot of time discussing the environment and different ways that we care for the earth, the animals, and the people who inhabit it. Sensory play for these students was about more than just sensory experiences, and from their conversations, you could hear that it was also about connecting with the earth and sharing their knowledge about the environment through their play. The care that they gave to everything from snails to worms showed just how much every living thing mattered. I think you might be onto something here. What a wonderful connection as well to the land acknowledgment: an opportunity for students to really think about what these words each day mean to them and the choices that they make!


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