Tuesday, 1 May 2012

one potato, two potatoes, three potatoes, four...

I love digging in the soil with children, they find such treasures and the earth absorbs their energy and gives them back delights as they discover things hidden inside.  Soil has rich textures, smells, colours and so many unexpected wonders.

When working in the Dunkirk Community Garden recently with the year two class, the children were incredibly excited at discovering potatoes buried inside the mud.  They were digging a space to prepare the soil for the vegetable seedlings they have grown.   As they dug and dug they uncovered more and more potatoes - of all shapes and sizes.  They were filled with purpose, enthusiasm and commitment as they set themselves the task of seeing how many potatoes they could find. 

It was a gift from last year, when this particular set of potatoes must have got missed when the crop was dug up last summer (and I have lovely memories of cooking the potatoes on the fire with the reception children last year).

The year two children began to tell stories with the potatoes, to use lots of gorgeous descriptive language and they were absorbed in exploring measurement and counting as they found more potatoes.  They were digging with a mix of forks and spades, so some potatoes got cut in half as they were dug - and the children were fascinated by that.  They were really interested in the roots coming from the potatoes and the textures and patterns in the skins.

They wanted to take the potatoes back to school and cook them - and then as we discussed where the potatoes had come from, what they were doing in the soil and what they might want to do. They decided to plant the potatoes again on their compost heap, to see what would happen.

We read the wonderful book THE POTATO PEOPLE by Pamella Allen (it couldn't have been a more perfect story for the situation). In the story, which has beautiful drawings showing how potatoes grow, the grandma and grandson end up with hundreds and hundreds of potatoes from the two potatoes they have planted.  The class had really inspiring conversations about what they would do if they ended up with "thousands of potatoes" - which might include opening a potato restaurant serving lots of dishes made from potatoes, potato drinks AND you would be able to get seed potatoes to take home to grow more of your own.

So, yesterday, we decided to make our own potato people and to create an animation with them.  The children were really absorbed in decorating potatoes and making them into different characters, they gave them names and characteristics.   They made potato prints too and more potato things will follow.  We've got potatoes chitting in class so they can watch them change - and more potatoes planted in the garden so we can dig up and cook a crop later in the summer.


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