Tag Archives: wonder

Of puddles and rainbows


In her beautiful picture book Once Upon a Picture Sally Swain asks readers to wonder about famous artworks by Renoir, Klee, Van Gogh, and Rousseau.


I am very much in favour of wonder, and have written about it before in

Is it any wonder? about reclaiming your right to wonder;

Breathe – a sense of wonder! about watching nature close-up with live butterfly kits in the classroom;

Wondering in the everyday reminds us to pause and observe our surroundings; and

Noticing and Wondering: Kicking off and supporting enquiry shares a post in which Aaron Eden on Edunautics, Exploring a World of Learning questions whether there could be any skills more important than noticing and wondering.


This week Charli Mills at the Carrot Ranch got me wondering about rainbow puddles with her flash fiction prompt to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about a rainbow in a puddle. Is it a silver lining of sorts or a false reflection? Think about what it might mean or convey. Simple science? Hope? Or the doom of humankind? Create action or character reflection.

I wasn’t sure if rainbows would be seen in puddles that weren’t coated with oil, but it did make me wonder.

Pierre-Auguste Renoir The Umbrellas ca. 1881-86

Pierre-Auguste Renoir The Umbrellas ca. 1881-86

Sally Swain invites readers to wonder about the girl with the hoop in Renoir’s painting “The Umbrellas”. Swain asks, “What does she want to do? Play?” and illustrates her thoughts with pictures of the girl playing in the muddy puddles that are inevitable on a rainy day. There is not a hint of rainbow though.

Rainbows are common in works for children.


There is the beautiful series of Rainbow Fish books by Marcus Pfister with a simple message about the joy of sharing, of making oneself happy by making others happy too.

There are songs such as Somewhere Over the Rainbow” sung by Judy Garland in her role as Dorothy in the movie version of The Wizard of Oz, and Sing a Rainbow.

Rainbows are also popular for helping children learn maths facts and colours.

Of course, there is the science of rainbows too; but before the science comes the wonder: looking at rainbows in the sky, and wondering.


When I was a kid we loved playing with the hose or in the sprinkler. Depending on the angle of the water and the sun, we could make our own rainbows, we didn’t need to wait for rain.


This got me thinking of children who might go for years without seeing rain, or therefore a rainbow, and how exciting their first sighting might be. I have combined a few of these ideas in my flash. I hope you enjoy it.

Of puddles and rainbows

For children of the drought who had never seen rain, the gush when the pipe from the bore burst a seam was a rare opportunity for water play and unexpected learning. While Dad and his Station Hand worked to repair the hole, the children danced in puddles under the cooling spray.

“Look at the colours,” a child exclaimed, trying to capture each one. The men paused to smile at the children’s delight, remembering their own childhood glee. Mum watched from the verandah – without their precious resource, there’d be no washing off mud or cooking the dinner that night.

Thank you

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Bug me, please!

Monarch butterfly

That I have an appreciation of and fascination with insects is no secret as I have written about it many times previously.

The Very Hungry Caterpillar

Some of my earliest posts formed a series in which I suggested using Eric Carle‘s Very Hungry Caterpillar story for developing critical literary, encouraging children to question the authenticity of what they read and the qualifications and intentions of the author.

Carle’s purpose with the story was to entertain, not to teach, and he was therefore unconcerned about inaccuracies in the butterfly life cycle.

The book, popular for its bright colourful illustrations and inspiring story of an ordinary caterpillar who becomes a beautiful butterfly achieves the author’s goal to entertain.

In a more recent post Revisiting The Very Hungry Caterpillar I provided a summary of, and links to, each of the four original posts which explained my recommendation that this very popular book was more relevant to teaching critical literacy than science.

© Bec Colvin

© Bec Colvin

Acknowledging the importance of maintaining Wondering in the everyday and an attachment with nature in wild spaces, I described my excitement at being able to observe every stage of the ladybird’s life cycle up close in my own backyard; an excitement that had perhaps exceeded observing the butterfly life cycle in the classroom with our live butterfly kits which had allowed us to Breathe – a sense of wonder!  I even shared a section of a television interview in this post about Talking Interviews.

I talked about some insect themed classroom and teaching resources in The comfort zone. Others are listed on my page Early Childhood Teaching Resources and are available in my Teachers Pay Teachers and Teach in a Box stores. These, and many more, will be available on my readilearn website when it launches later in the year. Here is a sneak peek at some that will be included:

9 square insect puzzle Busy Bees 100 chart Busy Bees and Insects subitising Busy Bees birthday chart Busy Bees Celebrate 100 days of school One Lonely Ladybird

But the truth is I don’t really love all insects. I’m not too keen on cockroaches, though the native Australian giant burrowing cockroaches are pretty cool. And although I am aware of vital roles of insects in the environment

  • as a food source for many animals
  • as pollinators for flowering plants
  • as decomposers

and I know that without them we’d basically not have an environment, in fact, we wouldn’t be; I often wonder whether we would be all that worse off without disease-spreading mosquitoes and flies. However, it seems that they too are vital to the health of our planet, whether we like them or not. It’s a bit of a “can’t live with them and can’t live without them” situation.

This brings me to the flash fiction prompt set by Charli Mills of The Carrot Ranch this week. She has challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less) include insects in a story. How could I resist? In fact, the real challenge was choosing what to put in and what to leave out of the post, and how to not be predictable in my response.


It took just one, then the word was out. The streets were abuzz with the news – a triumph of social media.

“Kyle’s having a barbecue. Tell everyone. Don’t bring anything. There’s always plenty.”

The excitement was palpable as guests swarmed towards Kyle’s. Some, initially unsure, flapped about nervously. Others, more experienced, felt they were dancing on the ceiling. Eventually all were on their way.  The waft of seared flesh left no doubt about the location.

Kyle was ready when they arrived. “Who invited you?” he grinned and waved, as he knocked them out with the can of spray.

Well, what would you do?

#9 on this list of Ten thing about flies you may not know says,

“The use of pesticides on crops to try to kill flies and insects is actually causing more damage to the ecosystem than the flies themselves.”

It’s something to think about next time you reach for that fly swat or can of insect spray.

I’ll leave you with a bit of nostalgia with a television advertisement, starring Louie,  from my childhood days.

Thank you

Thank you for reading. I appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts.

Noticing and Wondering: Kicking off and supporting enquiry

I have written previous posts about the importance of nurturing the ability to wonder in young children and in ourselves, for example here, here and here. It is always a delight, then, to come across a post that expresses ideas similar to, but extending, my own.
This post by Aaron Eden on Edunautics, Exploring a World of Learning questions whether there could be any skills more important than noticing and wondering. He says that in school students are generally told to think and wonder about what someone else (the teacher, the curriculum writer, the policy maker) thinks is important.
Eden argues for the importance of learning to learn; of learning to identify what is important and of understanding how to learn it. He promotes developing an environment of questioning and suggests ways of extending students’ learning through participation in genuine inquiry based upon their own wondering and questioning. His suggestions help make the process more explicit, and therefore possible, for teachers to implement.

Thank you
Thank you for reading. I appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts.

Wondering in the everyday

Over at the Carrot Ranch this week Charli Mills is talking about onions; onions and gophers, and how she planted onions to keep the gophers out of her veggie patch, only to find that gophers love onions! Who would have thought?

Just as children’s experiences differ, Charli’s experience with onions is very different from mine. Other than a few old onions sprouting in my veggie basket, I’d never grown onions until my lovely daughter Bec and son-outlaw Glenn planted some shallots in a pot for me. While the shallots have done well I rarely think to include them in my cooking as I am not used to having anything edible in my garden.

My dad was a one-time small crop farmer and, even after that, grew veggies for our home (and neighbourhood) use throughout most of my childhood. Bec loves to garden and harvests bountiful produce from her garden. Somehow the green thumb skipped me. Or maybe it didn’t, Maybe I just haven’t given it a chance to thrive.

From the garden © Bec Colvin

From the garden © Bec Colvin

While I have some knowledge about the source of my fruit and vegetables and how they grow, I had never given much consideration to the humble onion. I knew they grew as bulbs in the ground, with roots to hold them into the soil. I also knew they sprouted green bits at the top if left too long in the cupboard. But I had never thought about onion flowers.

Last week I discovered a flower in my patch of shallots. I was intrigued. I suppose if I had thought about it I would have realised that onions grow from seeds. Don’t most plants grow from seeds? But I hadn’t thought about it. I just bought them in the supermarket or from the greengrocer as I needed them. I definitely hadn’t thought about onion, or shallot, flowers. But this flower is beautiful.

© Norah Colvin

© Norah Colvin

The discovery was a timely reminder that it is all too easy to take too much for granted, to cease to wonder about the amazing things occurring close by every day; to forget to notice and appreciate. Keeping a sense of curiosity alive, in ourselves as well as in children, is a very important thing. So how do we do that?

First of all we need to stop, notice and wonder. Would Newton have noticed the apple fall if he hadn’t stopped to notice and wonder? Would George de Mestral have invented Velcro if he hadn’t given more thought to the burrs stuck to his trousers? Our thoughts do not have to make such an impact on a global scale. They just need to keep the wonderment alive in our own lives. I have talked about the importance of a sense of wonder before here and here.

In addition to the shallot flower, I made another recent and amazing discovery in my own back yard. Over the past six weeks or so a wattle tree, planted just over a year ago, has been in bloom. We spotted the buds and eagerly awaited the sweet-smelling blossoms, making frequent inspections and eagerly predicting how long we would have to wait.

© Norah Colvin

© Norah Colvin

During one of these inspections I noticed a ladybird on a leaf. Soon Bec noticed a larva. Then we spotted more, many more, both ladybirds and larvae on the tree. Suddenly it occurred to us that, if there were adults and larvae, there would probably be pupae too. We looked closely and with intent and soon discovered every life stage on the tree, including pupae, eggs and mating pairs of adults.  We watched larvae pupate and ladybirds emerge.

I had always enjoyed watching the butterfly’s life stages in the classroom, but to watch the ladybird’s life cycle right in my own back yard is very special. Opportunities such as this are there waiting for us to take notice, waiting for us to share it with others, to inspire curiosity and wonder.

© Bec Colvin

© Bec Colvin

Then there is the wonder inside our plants, such as a star inside each apple, the segments of an orange, and the concentric circles in an onion.

© Norah Colvin

© Norah Colvin

Which brings me back again to onions and the flash fiction challenge set by Charli Mills to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that includes onions. I thought she had me stumped this time. Until I thought about the wonder and beauty of the onion flower; the way that delving into the complexity of a character is often referred to as peeling back the onion layers, and the shared ability of both onions and characters, including Marnie, to grow.

As Marnie reaches a sense of closure to and release from the torment of her childhood, she discovers that she no longer needs an onion to hide the real reason for her tears, and can accept that beauty, including her own inner beauty, can spring from desolation and neglect.


Before she left she was drawn back for one last look at her hiding place. There, between the garden and the wall, her tears would fall as she dreamt of better things and planned her escape.

The veggie garden was hardly recognisable, camouflaged with weeds. But wait! A flower? She stooped to look. An onion flower?

“Ha!” she thought, recalling the times she had pulled up and bitten into an onion to explain her tears should anybody ask, though they never did. Even untended a flower could bloom, as she too had blossomed despite the harshness of those days.

Thank you

Thank you for reading. I appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts about any aspect of this post and flash fiction.

Breathe – a sense of wonder!

Life is short – enjoy every moment!

I have been privileged to spend time with young children throughout my adult life: my own, children I have taught, and now my grandchildren. Spending time with young children is one of the best ways of maintaining a sense of wonder and awe in the everyday. Opportunities abound, if one is willing to see the world afresh through their eyes,

to notice:

  • the softness of petals in a newly opened flower
  • the collection of pollen on a bee’s legs as it rests within the flower
  • the snail’s silver trail on the pavement

to question:

  • where the puddle goes after the rain
  • how the toothpaste gets into the tube
  • how aeroplanes stay in the air

 to wonder:

  • why the sky is blue
  • where clouds come from
  • why tigers have stripes and kangaroos hop
  • what came first: the chicken or the egg

One of my favourite ways of bringing the wonders of nature into the classroom is through observations of a live butterfly kit. We would watch the tiny caterpillars hatch, eat voraciously as they grew larger and larger, and then pupate before emerging triumphantly as beautiful butterflies.

© Norah Colvin

© Norah Colvin

There are many opportunities to notice, to question and to wonder:

  • What will happen if the caterpillars eat all the leaves?
  • How big will the caterpillars grow?
  • How long will it take for the caterpillar to change into a butterfly?
  • How does the caterpillar breathe?
  • Does the caterpillar know it is going to be a butterfly?
  • Does the butterfly remember being a caterpillar?
  • What happens to the caterpillar in the chrysalis?
  • Why do they poo so much?

We got to know that when a caterpillar was ready to pupate, it made a ‘j’ shape, hanging from under a leaf or branch, or from the top of the butterfly house. It would stay that way for a number of hours. Children (and teacher) would sneak over from time to time to see if anything was happening.

As soon as the caterpillar started wriggling, we would quietly rush over to watch as it shed its last skin to become a pupa. It is an amazing spectacle, one that is not often seen “in the wild”. In fact it is a very quick process, and unless someone just happened to be watching at the time, we would miss it. Although we didn’t see every caterpillar pupate, we saw enough to appreciate and wonder.

Equally as exciting was watching a butterfly emerge from the chrysalis. As the time was approaching the chrysalis would become transparent and we could see the shape and colour of the butterfly’s wings through the chrysalis. Watching the butterfly push open the chrysalis and emerge with crumpled wings was amazing. Oftentimes the butterflies would emerge in the mornings before the children arrived. But sometimes they waited, and we all watched as the butterflies pumped up their wings and spread them to dry in readiness for flying.

When the butterflies’ wings were dry and they were almost ready to fly we would remove them from the house. If we timed it just right, we could hold them on our fingers, transferring carefully from fingertip to fingertip without touching the wings. When they were ready to fly, we would go outside and release them. The children loved to look for the butterflies at lunch time and learned that observation was the best way to appreciate them.

varied eggfly

Varied eggfly © NorahColvin

The children’s interest and excitement was shared with anyone who visited the classroom: administrators, other teachers and children, siblings and parents.  I tend to think that the children’s sense of wonder may have ignited a spark in others too.

This week at the Carrot Ranch Charli Mills challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about a breathless moment. Write about life.

Watching the short stages of a butterfly’s life is a good way to get children thinking about life, its beauty and its frailty, its dangers and its strength.  Watching the transformations that take place can certainly take one’s breath away. It is this that has inspired my response to Charli’s challenge.  I hope you enjoy it.

Breaths - life is not measured


I heard the scurry of footsteps. Then he was in the doorway; eyes ablaze, breathless.

“Come … quick … Miss,” he said, punctuating each word with puffs and pants.

Before I had moved, there were others behind him, imploring me to come.

With quickened pace I followed, hoping that I, that all, would be in time.

Others were there already, clustered around. I peered over their heads, expectantly, holding my breath in a vain attempt to make time stand still.

“Ahh!” we breathed in unison and awe as we watched the butterfly emerge from its now transparent shell.

Thank you

Thank you for reading. I appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts about any aspect of this post or flash fiction.


Is it any wonder?

©Glenn Althor www.http://obscurepieces.com/ Used with permission.

©Glenn Althor www.http://obscurepieces.com/ Used with permission.

One of the things I appreciate most about spending time with young children is learning to see the world again through their eyes, with the sense of wonder they shine on all they view.

“What’s this?”

“Did you see that?”

“Why is like that?”

“What would happen if …?”

For many adults, that sense of wonder has been buried deep inside, hidden by the worries and concerns in the hustle and bustle of modern life; the busyness with which we seem to cloak our daily activities.

©Glenn Althor www.http://obscurepieces.com/ Used with permission.

©Glenn Althor www.http://obscurepieces.com/ Used with permission.

But how joyous it can be to fling off that cloak of busyness and once more allow a childlike sense of wonder to emerge. The company of a young child is not essential for this to occur, although it may help to reawaken the sense initially.

Take a moment each day to step off the treadmill of relentless must dos and appreciate the wonder all around.

It can be easier than you think:

Smile at a fellow commuter or passer-by.

Appreciate the friendliness of a smile, a gesture, a kind word.

Look around for changes in the landscape, notice details you may have missed before – “How long has that been there?”

Cloud gaze.

©Glenn Althor www.http://obscurepieces.com/ Used with permission.

©Glenn Althor www.http://obscurepieces.com/ Used with permission.

Search through the daily cacophony to identify the song of each individual instrument: man, machine, nature.

Listen to music; old favourites or new tunes. Louis Armstrong’s “What a wonderful world”  and Van Morrison’s “A sense of wonder”  help to get me in the mood.

Pause to ponder the whys, the hows, the possibilities and the big questions, like “Who am I? Why am I here?” and “What is the meaning of life?”

Stop telling people how busy you are, instead think of something you are enjoying, have achieved or are working on right now. Share the joy of being alive and capable.

Breathe deeply; and as you focus on the breath as it moves in an out of your body, appreciate the life-giving air that surrounds you.

©Glenn Althor www.http://obscurepieces.com/ Used with permission.

©Glenn Althor www.http://obscurepieces.com/ Used with permission.

If a child should ask a question, avoid the impulse to rush in with a wonder-stop: “That’s the way it is. I don’t know. I haven’t got time. I’m not worried about that now. We have to go. Not now.”

I apologise that I am unable to attribute this cartoon correctly. I clipped it from a newspaper many years ago and no longer have the source. If you are able to help me with identifying the source so I can acknowledge it appropriately, I'd be very appreciative.

I apologise that I am unable to attribute this cartoon correctly. I clipped it from a newspaper many years ago and no longer have the source. If you are able to help me with identifying the source so I can acknowledge it appropriately, I’d be very appreciative.

Instead, pause for a moment and ask yourself the question as if you were the child, seeing and wondering for the first time, with a burning curiosity and longing to know. Look where the child is looking, see what the child is seeing. You’ll be amazed at what wonders will be revealed.

©Glenn Althor www.http://obscurepieces.com/ Used with permission.

©Glenn Althor www.http://obscurepieces.com/ Used with permission.

Reclaim your right to wonder. After all, “Wonder is the beginning of wisdom.” (Socrates) and “The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing.” (Einstein)

These ideas are but a few. I invite you to share your favourites.