It was a beautiful Monday morning, and my class was outside on the playscape preparing to venture into the forest. As I went down the line, counting each of my students to make sure everyone was ready, I realized my line was one child short. I turned to see who was missing and saw one of my boys crouched down below the dining hall window. After calling his name, he turned to face me, carefully holding something up in both hands. As he walked closer to me, I realized that he had found a dead bird laying in the grass. After some hand scrubbing and an informative chat about how some animals carry diseases, the class decided to bring the bird with us to the forest.
When we got to the forest, we gathered around the bird and discussed what we thought might have happened to it.
“Maybe a cat got to it and scratched it.”
“Maybe it ran into a window.”
“Well the other bird crashed into the auditorium window.”
After exploring many other theories and asking more questions, a friend suggested that we bury the bird in the ground.
“When an animal dies, you bury it, and it fertilizes the ground so something new can come.”
We picked a spot behind a tree that we thought looked like a nice place to rest. Then we worked together to dig a hole and bury our bird friend.
When you spend hours at a time exploring the natural world, you are destined to come across things that have died or are at various stages of death. While your first instinct might be to hide this part of nature from children and protect them from the realities of death, it is important to create a space where conversations can be had about all aspects of life. Children are capable of having and understanding these types of discussions when we give them the chance to. Death is a part of life, and anything that is a part of life is worth talking about with children.