It’s no secret that children love animals – any animals. At recess you can see many younger children carrying stuffed animals as they play. While stuffed animals are cherished, real animals are fascinating to children, though they’re usually in pretty short supply on school playgrounds.
One potential recess visitor, though, is the lowly worm. Worms often show up on the playground, uninvited but definitely welcome. This week at Spul’u’kwuks Elementary School, a group of children called me over with the irresistible invitation, “Come look!” Sure enough, they were watching a wayward worm that was inching its way across the asphalt playground.
Being children, they were doing more than looking. They were investigating, like the explorers they are. Many were extending leaves to the worm in the hopes that it would: a) eat the leaf; b) crawl onto the leaf; or c) do something unexpected with the leaf. The worm chose c and obliged by contracting dramatically whenever the edge of the leaf touched it. Fully extended it was about 20 cm long, yet it contracted to 8 cm in an eye blink whenever it ran into the leaf.
This was truly amazing to the children, who thought that such a talented worm should have a name. Suggestions included “Slimey”, “Wormy” “Richard” and “Tricky”. At this point they were so excited about naming the worm that I was getting worried that one of them might accidentally step on it. After playing out that grim scenario in my head, I suggested that maybe “Slimey” would like a little more room to expand and contract, and the group instantly moved back. One little boy thought this was a good idea as, “He needs more air.”
Next came the crucial question, “Is it a boy or a girl?”, since that seemed important to finding the right name. The answer, that a worm is both a boy and a girl, would do nothing but confuse everyone, so I let it go at, “It’s hard to tell.”
Luckily, the bell rang at that point, cutting this line of questioning short. Some of the children thought that Slimey might like a little protection in case it rained later, so they gently lay their leaves over him/her. Others thought that he/she might not be able to breathe in that situation, so they took the leaves off before they left.
Slimey, as you can see from this post-recess portrait, was happy to just lie there, resting and trying to look like a stick. It had been quite a performance, what with all that inching along, expanding, contracting and dealing with the audience participation. I think he earned her rest that day.