Of Mountains and Mole Hills
Early in our first week back from winter break, a Kindergartner came to me with wide eyed excitement. "Lindie, come and see." At the time I was in the middle of unsticking and helping to zip a zipper. "Can you tell me?" I asked. "You have to see!" came the reply. "Is it alive?" I queried, as I finished the task at hand, and we headed toward the entrance to the tunnel that runs through our playground hill. "It's not now," the Kindergarten stated gravely. Two friends were waiting at the end of the tunnel, carefully examining something on the ground. As I came closer, I could see it was furry and immobile. It was a gray mole, now frozen on the mulch. "It's a mouse," one Kindergartner announced. "Let's look at it closely," I suggested. One child went to get some sand scoops to aid in handling the creature. When we turned it over onto its back, there were its two large front paws, much like the sand scoops and many times bigger than its tiny back feet. Its nose was pointed. I showed the children how large a mouse would be compared to this creature, and we talked about why its front feet were so large. Having had it identified as a mole, the children spent some time guessing why it had died. Many children thought it had frozen to death, and it was frozen. I shared that moles don't naturally spend time above ground. Some children supposed a predator had gotten the mole, but then been frightened away. One Kindergartner wanted the mole to have a proper burial, but with the ground frozen, we gave it a forest burial instead. The children decided to put the mole at the woods at the edge of the YG and OG outdoor classroom. The child who felt most strongly about burying the mole, carefully piled leaves over its body. "An animal might eat it," one child suggested. Yes, we all agreed that might happen. It's part of a forest burial. A few minutes later, the children announced they had found the mole's hole on top of tunnel hill. As we looked at the hole, which was not very large or deep and had none of the tell tale dirt a mole hole would have piled around it, I spotted the beginning of a mole highway of tunnels, starting just beyond the tunnel. I showed the children, and a few of them followed the tunnels to the edge of the boundaries of the playground. It was a brief interlude in our day, but one that really drew in this group, and showed me once again how being outdoors in nature is the best way for young scientists to learn.
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