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I Wonder ...

“Why does that tree have poop growing on its branches?” - Grade 2 student, HLCS

During a recent walk with students, I was pleasantly surprised by what took place. For the first ten minutes of the lesson, I gave students free time. Some played tag or a game called Statue while others simply walked around and chatted with their friends. When I called students back to me, I asked them what they had noticed. Most hadn't noticed too much. Those that did answer quickly looked around and pointed out something obvious: a big tree, the hedge or a pinecone lying next to them. After this discussion, I told students that they would be going on a walk around the school and provided them with the following instructions: "Look for things that you find lovely or beautiful. I'd also like you to look for things that you find gross or un-lovely" (Judson, 2018, p. 21).

I then sent students out together in groups of two or three. It was really neat to see what students found when they were given time and parameters for what to look for. In regards to lovely, some students found very colourful leaves as well as branches on a nearby Douglas fir tree. Others found different coloured rocks and flowers just starting to poke out from the earth. In regards to un-lovely, students pointed out mud, a worm found in a puddle and a very strange substance that looked like dung in a tree.

I was quite interested in this substance that was on many of the branches in this particular tree. As a result, I took a picture of it (see Figure 1 below) and then continued looking for lovely/unlovely objects. When I got home later that day, I used the Google Lens feature on my phone to see if I could solve the mystery of what was growing in that particular tree. It turned out that the unknown substance was a fungus known as Black Knot. If untreated, this substance can kill the tree in which it's found. The next day I told my principal about the tree and he said he would find someone to take care of the problem.

Figure 1

As I reflected on the walk with my students, I was so thankful that a child noticed the fungus and pointed it out. The funny thing is, all of the students, parents and teachers who attend our school walk by that tree every day. Either no one noticed it or maybe they believed it wasn’t important enough to share with anyone else.

Wonder is a wonderful thing, however, I believe that we shouldn't stop with wonder. If that child had thought: "I wonder ... what is that growth on the tree?" and then walked away, it's quite possible that the tree would have died. I’m curious about the different components of wonder and its impact on learning. In upcoming blog posts, I will share findings I discovered while exploring this topic and connect these ideas to the Imaginative Education framework.

Judson, G. (2018). A Walking Curriculum: Evoking Wonder and Developing a Sense of Place (K-12). (KDP/Canadian ISBN Service: Vancouver).

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