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Finding mystery and surprise in familiar places

Finding mystery and surprise in familiar places
While exploring the art of letterboxing over the past couple of weeks, we began to think more deeply about riddles, clues and puzzles.  Earlier this week, we invited children to wonder what puzzles, clues and riddles might we find in the arboretum.  Would it be possible to find elements of mystery and surprise in such a familiar place?
A small group of children expressed interest in researching these questions.  Before heading out, they discussed the possibility of seeing these places they know so well from a new perspective.
BC:  I was just thinking about the house of summer in my mind and I walked closer to where T.P. got stung, I thought, what kind of mysteries might be there.  Even in the places we know really really well there might be places we don’t know. 
NT:  I remember last year that place where we saw the nest in the lower meadow.  There are probably more surprises we haven’t discovered.  Sometimes we aren’t paying attention, we aren’t taking the time to look at what’s around us.  Sometimes it’s just taking the time to notice. 

OD:  Usually we just run past and today we’re going to zoom in and find places we never knew were there. 

OD: Whoa… there's like a mini-forest.
MC: All the times I haven’t really looked at the trees and today I noticed mushrooms. When you tap on them, they wave back and forth.

The surprise of finding a grasshopper in the meadow on a November day.
TP and BC writing poetry together on the trail.  
Below are some of the ways children captured this experience in their writer's notebooks:
Grasshopper Jpeg

The Grasshopper
It jumps from grass to grass, from leaf to leaf.  It's long stretched out legs hop from one dew covered blade of grass to another, his long green body shines in the sun with dew holding tight to its stretched out legs.  –TP and BC

Marin if you pay attention cropped

If you pay attention!

Small fragile umbrella hooked inside a tree
Small enough for rosebud people.
Slender silk strung across the moss
A single flower holding on tight.
Lightly glossed rainbow wings dotted in black, grey and brown specks.
Dew strung on glossy leaves.

Nisa arboretum cropped

…On the way back to school when I was in the lower meadow I stopped and turned toward the big tree.  For some reason I felt like I hadn't been there before even though I had millions of times and I think I know why I felt like that.  Because I have never stopped in that very spot and looked at the lower meadow. -NT

After the first group of researchers returned from the field, sharing their discoveries of mystery and surprise, a second group of children expressed interest in pursuing these ideas.  This particular group of children began their work by thinking about puzzles in the natural world.
MGD:  Are there riddles and puzzles in the arboretum?  How would we know?  
VR: You could make it (the idea of a puzzle) your own self. 
MG: You could turn it, turn your perspective- be open to thinking about what could be a puzzle or a riddle in the arboretum.  
MM: Like when I said you could do it in your head.  
RD: You could put it in your riddle profile in your brain.  
MM: Nature could be writing riddles.  
MG: I don't think it's a riddle spelled out in pinecones but if you're walking around you can find riddles- feeling puzzled about something.  
MGD: How might we find the feeling of being puzzled in the arboretum?  
MG: We need to name these mushrooms.  Be careful!  There are all these different kinds of mushrooms hidden in the grass!

ohh the mushrooms

the windy mushrooms

they sway as I go

some are big

some are tall

I see them all 

which way I go

they live in tree tops

they live in holes

some in dirt

like them wherever they grow






Micah cropped

Puzzled in the forest

I'm puzzled why there's so many mushrooms this time of year or maybe I just haven't noticed all this stuff… 



















Helena cropped

Secret Mushroom Village

Everyone had gone down the trail and I was in the back.  I was looking at the side of the trail and I noticed about 5 gigantic mushrooms under some grass.  Why did not anybody see there I wondered.  They were like a secret place.  Though very small it was beautiful but I did not tell anybody.  Because if they had been slower they might have seen the brilliant mushroom village and even if things like mushrooms don't matter to you, just look around and you'll see that there's a lot more then that, that makes those mushrooms amazing.



Over the coming days we'll continue to "slow down" in this familiar place, opening our eyes, minds and hearts to the possibilities around us.  We'll capture moments of surprise and mystery and seek opportunities for feeling puzzled.  These experiences will not only help to deepen our relationship with this place but also will help to fuel us as writers as we move into our next genre study.