Who is on the plum tree?
A couple of weeks ago, I was reading one of my children’s stories at a school in Kingston to Reception and First Year Boys. I had conceived the stories a year earlier when observing my granddaughter’s natural curiosity in the garden. Such delight; such wonder; such magic in ordinary-taken-for-granted things must surely be captured in word photography.
The Pa Dug & Rosie series about how everything in the garden serves a purpose was born ~ including how, if you wear Wellingtons, you can have fun in the garden no matter what the weather does! A host of characters emerged (with more to come) : Wollee the Worm helped bring food to the table; Biddle the Bee collected the magic pollen to feed the bee babies; Bellamy the Butterfly was a magician, teaching change and transformation! The stories were in rhyme to bring poetry to science with the challenge of rhyming with new, supposedly un-poetic, scientific words little ones might not have heard. It always amazes me how much little ones love new words. New words instil surprise and challenge!
I did wonder whether writing such a series would, in fact, find a market. But then, if writers worried about such things in advance, they would never write anything. Why not bring poetry to science, I wondered? Science has marvellous stories to tell. There is poetry in it; in fact, there is poetry in everything. And children learn best through story, rhythm, rhyme and onomatopoeia. Teaching science through literacy is a wonderful way to cross curricula boundaries ~ which is something being encouraged in schools today.
Past experience taught me that if a child is naturally good at observation, fact-gathering, sifting and sorting information (math and science), s/he is usually not enamoured by the thought of writing, or arty forms of expression. The same is true the other way around: children who show natural aptitude for artistic pursuits are usually disinterested in fact-based subjects. I do not intend to go into why this is the case or suggest a right brain/left brain or top brain/bottom brain dichotomy. The fact remains, we all learn differently, and anything that helps us make learning a more holistic experience whilst keeping the magic of it alive is to be encouraged.
In those moments of exquisite inquisitiveness and innocent wonder expressed by my granddaughter at the natural magic of the garden, I remember my own stolen childhood moments ~ wonder-filled and powered by imagination and quest. Those moments literally saved me. Childhood imagination is the seedbed of brilliance, invention, discovery, creativity and problem-solving. So when I was reading my story to the little lads at the Kingston school and discussing how everything in the garden serves a purpose, and oneboy raised his hand and asked, “Dr. Nanny Plum, do you serve a purpose?” I had cause to pause.
I must admit, I hadn’t expected such a question. “What do you think?” I asked, as when in doubt, I use a trick taught me by my Irish background ~ I answer a question with another question.
The little lad thought for a while and answered, “You tell us stories.”
Now! What could be better than that?