Exploring Down Under(ground)

This week, the Beavers’ focus went underground.  With their affection and interest in all types of “creatures,” it was no surprise that the discovery of a baby slug and two dead Carpenter bees set the Beavers on an exciting adventure to unearth as many critters as possible.  

To frame their research we posed the question, “Why underground?  What lives down there and why?”

  • Tea – I think we’ll maybe find treasure. I think there might be treasure hidden somewhere in the Garden somewhere, in the Imagination Station because one day i found a plastic ring in Imagination Station on the slide.  There might be a treasure for kids
  • Emerson: If we keep digging in the same exact spot we might get to gems or the underworld or one goddess that lives underworld so we maybe get to that if we keep digging!
  • Arjun: I found treasure this morning, a painted rock.  I think it came from the underworld.
  • Ezra: I think I’ll find more treasure.  I think treasure is leaves.
  • Milo: We keep digging really deep, you know what we might find? Another land, you know the earth is a circle so there is lands under us, there’s not heaven under us, under the south pole there’s actually, there is where people are dead, because that’s the deepest island ever it’s all under everywhere under Earth.
  • Elfie: Maybe we could dig in the same spot and find maybe the Earth.
  • Ruby: We might find a treasure chest with golden necklaces  and a golden arrow.
  • Vivian: We might find a treasure chest with gold coins in them.
  • Jake: So everybody knows under the ground is the bottom of the earth and if we dig that far then we might get to outer space.
  • Harry: Maybe if u dig so deep you can find a brown circle.  Underground is real brown circles you know.
  • Tea: Someone told me one day that there is a world under, some people believe this it might not actually be real, but under the ground there is an underworld that has lots of fire and if you do really mean things you go down, that’s what people believe and if you are up, that’s where the angels live in the clouds.  I think only the angels are true I don’t think that the mean stuff are true.  If we dig and dig and dig i think we might it might actually be real.
  • Alex:  Maybe if the whole people in Packer maybe they will say they’ll help us dig in the same spot so we can dig all the way underground.
  • Jalen: I think we will dig underground because I think we’ll find some treasure.
  • Lucia: We might find a train station.
  • Harry: Another train station!
  • Lucia: Because trains are underground.
  • Charlotte; I’m adding on to Lucia’s idea, i don’t think that’s going to happen because if u dig and dig in the sidewalk that would happen, but since we aren’t digging the sidewalk and were digging in random dirt i don’t think we will find a train station. I think if we keep digging in the random dirt we will find a worm party.

At their core, children are natural researchers.  They wonder about the world around them and construct knowledge as they explore.  As we know, getting your hands dirty (both figuratively and literally) is vital to learning.  Not only is mud play joyful and loved by ALL children, digging in the dirt has many positive effects on the immune system, mood and health.  In an urban environment, we have to work all the harder to find outlets for children to relish in nature.  Countless studies have been conducted to prove just how vital “getting dirty” is for children, including this study conducted by the National Wildlife Federation.  When your children expressed an interest in digging down deep, needless to say, we took the plunge right alongside them.   

A core component of the Reggio Emilia approach is building connections between the natural world and the classroom. With the provocation of a few shovels, (Ezra’s “digging light” as they called it!) a tank and some magnifying glasses, the Beavers set to work.   Over the course of the year the Beavers have constructed lots of prior knowledge about “creatures.”  Beginning first with their interest in imaginary creatures and then transitioning into an interest in “living creatures,” we observed your children’s prior knowledge motivate their interests to a new context.  As we observed, the process of digging and the act of “unearthing” proved to be both about discovery and theories. The following pictures show some of the fervor with which they worked.  


As the Beavers explored, many inquisitions emerged.  Children are natural scientists, classifying, sorting and experimenting as they work.  When Emerson suggested that we bring the “creatures” upstairs for further exploration, agreements were made about how best to situate these critters in our classroom.  When Milo asserted, “We can’t put the worms from the Garden into our compost bin because they’ll fight with the other worms,” the Beavers agreed and a decision was made to keep them in their own separate bin.  With materials at the ready, the children set to work to sketching, observing and classifying the creatures they had found.   Theories about what creatures wanted, which creatures were poisonous (don’t worry none of them are!), and how the creatures might interact with one another were abundant.

This idea that different species of worms may fight with one another, kept on emerging.  To test this theory we set up a little social experiment with our wormies. When we asked them how they came to the conclusion that the worms would fight, here is what they said:

  • Charlotte: milo told me they might fight
  • Milo: Well Cate or either Téa told me they fight.
  • Cate + Tea: I didn’t say that, I don’t know

Where did this information come from?

  • Harry : Maybe from the computer

How can we tell the worms are different?

  • Milo: Because one is long and one is short
  • What do you think will happen if we put them together?
  • Beavers: They’ll fight!
  • What about those mysterious creatures we’ve been finding what are those?
  • Arjun: Magnets, they are poisonous.
  • Why do we think they are poisonous?
  • Arjun: Because they play with worms.
  • Ruby: Because they bite, they might bight a worm.
  • Téa: They might be poisonous because they are white, and a lot of white stuff that I have are a little poisonous . Let’s say that one persons is a bug, who wants to be the bug? Arjun! Since he’s the teacher of the day, and let’s say I’m a worm and I’m squiggling through the dirt, and I see something coming up ahead, and whiting goes a little deeper and they might go up and bite the bottom.Vivian: Alex said if you step on it they’ll kill you.Alex: I actually learned that from Arjun.
  • Arjun: It got caught in my brain.

Does anyone think they aren’t poisonous?

  • Steelo: They aren’t poisonous because not all white stuff is poisonous.
  • Ezra : I think because some stuff are also white.
  • Steelo: Like a white cup!
  • Jake: I think they are not poisonous but everybody thinks they’re poisonous but if you touch them they do something. But I touched the magnet and Arjun touched the magnet and they don’t actually make you die.  They just make you a little dirty.
  • Emerson: when I picked one up it bit me on this hand but it wasn’t poisonous because i was holding it from Imagination Station to down the side. Because I was testing it and it didn’t poison me.
  • Elfie: I think when Emerson was holding the thing it bitted her so I think everything doesn’t have to be poisonous if it just bites you.
  • Ezra: Only a rattlesnake is poisonous.

Another context we provided the children to be able to continue their “digging,” was at the Sensory Table.  Filled with our vermicompost, sticks, stones, scoopers, shovels, and plastic insects, the Beavers enjoyed getting their hands dirty in the compost our worms had worked hard to produce.

In other activities from the week….

The Beavers found some dead carpenter bees near Imagination Station.  We set them up in some glass dishes with our light projector for some light provocations.  We provided different materials with which to sketch and sketch onto, such as pencils, chalk, sharpies, corrugated cardboard, and graphing paper.

We also started making terrariums using recycled seltzer bottles.  Layering stones, Spanish moss, charcoal, and our very own vermicompost, the Beavers created beautiful recycled planters.  As the plants grow, we will track the progress!

Some other photos from our work this week … playdough, intricate block structures, and more!

As requested, here is the recipe for “Dirt Playdough”:  Remember, there is no such thing as too much glitter!


Finally, we had some incredible new this week … just two days into her maternity leave, Denisse entered the hospital and had her beautiful baby boy!  Liam Christopher McDermott was born on April 28th, 2016: 7 lbs, 9 oz, 100% Beaver!  Below, watch the video that Denisse sent us to let us know she was in the hospital, as well as the Beavers’ reaction!

We taught your children, “The Green Grass Grows All Around,” which quickly became a class favorite this week. They choreographed some pretty adorable dance moves to this oldie, but goodie!   Here are the lyrics so you can sing along, as your Beaver performs their dance for you!  

The Green Grass Grows All Around

Téa’s family shared an exciting video with us!  Téa’s Uncle Tyler runs a farm in New York State that has a composting site used to keep the plants and animals on the farm healthy.  Here’s the video that he made especially for the Beavers (and that the Beavers watched this afternoon!)


We hope your weekend is filled with lots of time in the digging in the dirt! With a chance of rain on Sunday, don’t miss your chance to rescue some worms!  Happy digging!



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