The power of water and wasted opportunities
The first took place around the quayside in Hobart where a girl of about five years old was clearly fascinated by the reflections on the water being cast by a sunny morning. She was walking along the boardwalk beside the quay some way in front of her parents occasionally stopping and fixing a stare on a particularly interesting thing out in the waters but always set back from the actual edge.
During one of these pauses she suddenly took a few cautious paces forward to peer directly over the edge of the quayside … and immediately took a double take. She looked around seemingly desperate to tell someone something before looking back into the water. She almost didn’t notice her parents catching up with her as they strolled along chatting away but once she noticed she immediately turned to them, pointed into the water and exclaimed, “Starfish!” before looking back to the water again.
It was only afterwards when I reached this spot myself that I could see what she was talking about: the water was quite shallow and clear at this point and you could indeed see dozens of starfish – some big ones clambering over each other and others, much smaller, dotted around the seabed. She was right to be fascinated.
The last I saw of this family was a sight of four bemused boys and two irate parents packing their stuff away to head off home because the boys “Could not be trusted” (that was just one of the muttered comments made as they stormed off). I had moved away from the decking before it got to this point because I realised how tempted I was to point out to these two adults why their boys could not contain themselves and note that they themselves were creating an impossible situation for themselves and their sons … but it would have been ugly. So I didn’t.
I’m not having a go at these parents, really I’m not (who in their right mind would not agree that four young sons is a bit of a challenge) but what these adults failed to acknowledge was just how powerful the attraction of this mysterious substance called water is for the inquisitive mind and body.
Starfish Girl didn’t come off much better either. After exclaiming and pointing at the starfish her father, walking behind her without missing a beat, took hold of her hand and gently pulled her away from the edge of the quay and continued walking and chatting, towing a silently reluctant five year old with him. He didn’t even notice what it was she had discovered.
In both of these cases water held a powerful fascination for these children and it lead to discoveries. And no small wonder because water is a unique material: nothing looks like it, feels like it, creates the colours, patterns and reflections that it does. Unfortunately, both these pairs of parents had an alternative agenda that day which overrode that of their offspring and without thinking they both wasted a fantastic opportunity to share in a little bit of wonder.
5th September 2012
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Marc is an independent consultant, researcher and writer in playworking and the wider social world of children and young people.
He is a regular speaker at conferences and seminars around the European Union and beyond engaging with practitioners, educators and policy makers.
This website is a collection of writings and news, published pieces, conference papers, discussions, thoughts, ideas, Blog pieces .. and general ramblings.
Not all of it is totally 100% serious ... what would the point be in a playworker who doesn't play a little, hmmm?
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