Saturday, October 5, 2013

A Time to Live and a Time to Say Good-Bye

The weekend after we received the gift of frogs in our classroom, we had difficult news to deliver to the class.   Sadly, on the very day we celebrated the addition of our new Assistant Teacher Stephanie Kuecken, we lost two of our new frog friends.  Somehow, some way, two of the frogs had gotten out and perished.  Stephanie found one under the table nearest their cage and another near the restroom in the basement of Founder’s Hall, farther away from our classroom. 

We thought about how best to address the situation.  We took N.B. aside to tell her about the situation before bringing it to the rest of the class.  She had the most investment in the frogs and was the primary reason why the frogs were introduced into our class in the first place.  After receiving the news, she did register her disappointment, but also showed maturity and composure.  We then relayed the story to the rest of the class.

While they, too, were sad and disappointed, the conversation began to revolve around the children’s theories about what possibly could have happened to the frogs. Their deductive reasoning follows:

How can we figure out what happened?  What evidence can we look to?
E.K:  Was he squished?
J:  Was he dried out?  Maybe it was the classroom air?
S.K.: They were not squished but they did look very dried out.

C.M.:   I wonder how he got all the way over to the bathroom?
C:  Maybe someone must have left the door open.
E.K.:  Last time I heard someone say, “Make sure no one opens the door.”  Maybe somebody like a robber came in from Founders Hall.
L:  It kinda' sounds like a math problem [we'd been doing math story problems during Math Workshop time]...
J:  Maybe yesterday when you were feeding them they snuck out.

P:  I think somebody came in….

J: Like Lewis? [our custodian]…no.
L:  I think the first thing a robber would take is something like the computer or the telephone.

J:  The robber didn’t have the key to the main building.
E.K.:  I think no robbers would steal anything cause the teachers were here and they could see.  I know that robbers could not come.
L:  I’ve got robbed before and they have tools and you would have seen footprints.

What evidence can tell us what really happened?
N.B:  They [the frogs] could have gone under the door to the hallway.
E.S.:  Frogs have sticky hands so they could go like this [walking hands up the wall].  When you clean a table you know it is wet because it is shiny.  They [the frogs] are wet so we could see the wet footprints. You would follow the footprints.  And then he probably called his other friends like “Ribbit!!” and then the other two [frogs] might have decided to stay [in the cage].
G:  Well, not all frogs have slippery hands.  I think they climbed up there [the side of the cage].
R:  I know they are super good jumpers.
N.B.:  Frogs don’t know what to do and why would they do that?  I don’t really want to talk about it because it’s making me sad.

E.K.:  To make N.B. happy we could make gravestones.
N.S.:  We can bury them.
P:  We could kind of do like a little funeral like we are going to do with my dog that passed away.
M:  Maybe we could do a giant funeral and get all the flowers from the neighborhood.
A.L.:  We could write their names on the gravestones.
M:  You have to put the year they died and maybe a note with what you loved about them.
E.S.:  A funeral is kind of like a nice thing actually.  And also we will see them in Heaven.
M:  And also we can write “R.I.P.” for rest in peace.

N.B. finds a resting place for the frogs
Laying the two frogs to rest in the ground, atop of seashells - roses adorn the graves

The children voted on names for the frogs and chose the names
"Dead Froggy R.I.P." and "Goo Goo Frog."
The children all offered up condolences and helped to support N.B. in her loss.  They thought about different strategies on how to handle this moment in time - a time of loss that should reflect respect, concern, and caring.  A number of the children had actually attended a funeral, and suggested that we not only bury the frogs together as a class, but offer up speeches - as they'd seen at real funerals.  "We need to stand behind something," T. suggested, and so we brought out a wooden stool to act as a podium for those who wanted to express their thoughts.  

Some were hopeful that the frogs would make it to heaven and some did not believe in heaven, but wished them well, while others hoped that the frogs wouldn't go back to tadpoles, "or they'd get eaten."  The children's insistence on trying on these last respects to express sympathy showed sensitivity to the passing of a life, however small, and to those individually and collectively who experience that loss.  Together the class stood together to support and care for each other and to make room in their day to take the necessary time to say good-bye. 


1 comment:

  1. Christine, this is such a powerful blog. Your words and documentation made the children's empathy, thinking and intentions visible to me. The video clips give us a glimpse into each child's perspective. It is always an inspiration to read your blogs.