Mr. Ranny helped group of elementary school children hatch and raise a brood of rainbow trout in their classroom and the tiny fish had grown into fry. It was now time for them to grow in the wild, but the children who helped them hatch had to stay at school for testing, so Mr. Ranny was going to release the fish on his own, that's when he stumbled upon Wild Roots Forest School and offered us the honor of releasing the fry. We accepted graciously and down to the creek we went. Each child held a small cup of baby trout and bent down to allow the little fishies to swim out into the big wide world. "Good bye little fish!" we chanted as each one was released with such care.
One little fish was not alive anymore and it became the subject of a great discussion among the children about whether to put the dead fish back into the water to be food for the birds or in the earth to be food for the worms. One 5 year old girl reminded her friends that dead things make new life. Two of the boys agreed but they felt the worms were the best choice to feed the soil like a previous deceased fish, Steve the adult trout did. Three other girls started to lead the group in singing a song about death to honor the tiny fish in its life. While the other children watched and listened intently. This process took quite a while (30-40 min), the teachers were nearby, but without interference, we allowed the children to come to their own decision even though there were emotions and strong convictions.
In the end, the first two boys who wished to feed the worms, had made such a beautiful hole in the ground surrounded by greenery that the 5 year old girl, with the fish held in her hand, agreed to bury the fry. It was a joint effort to put the dirt back into the hole and it ended with a bucket of water poured over the top by a one girl, while the other two girls sang brightly. It was quite a beautiful ceremony, completely child led and created.
In witnessing this discussion among the children, we, as teachers, were once again reminded how deeply children will go in investigating life, death and the process that these elements go through in order to create renewal.
We reflected that as adults, we have such a great opportunity to slow down and listen to a child's thoughts and watch them work through problem solving and find their place in life, truly find their place in the process of this life. So often we rush to solve these situations for the wee ones, we truly believe it's our chance to guide them in the direction of reverence and respect, but today we were reminded once again to trust and to discover that children are innately in relationship with life and death. In their play, when left in the freedom of the moment, they will inevitably teach us a thing or two about life.
We are so thankful to the wee ones for their wisdom and to the baby fish who found the bigger world today.
~ Erin Boehme and CJ Cintas
Wild Roots Forest School Eastern Sierra