I moved to Blaby Stokes Junior School in January 1965.
After a rocky start, and remembering my experience with Tiger at trinity Fields, things began to feel good in my classroom, filled with 40 fifth graders.
One Monday morning, the classroom atmosphere was highly charged with expectancy as the children sat in their seats.
“Well,” I asked my class, “anyone got anything to share from the weekend?” “Did you fill your tins?”
David put up his hand. “Brought in a bag of bird food.” “In a dead big tin. That ok, Mr. Paull?”
John had brought in a biscuit tin filled with seashells. “Found these when I was on ‘oliday,” he said.
Janice had a dead moth wrapped up in her hanky.
Angela had a collection of pressed elm leaves that she’d glued on a sheet of paper.
Brian showed everyone a large plastic marble run he’d been given for his birthday.
Tonia had a beautiful amethyst geode that drew loud “Oooohs” and “Aaaahs” from the class.
Michael shared his small collection of fossils, glued to the bottom of his tin.
Bill had the most beautiful large mammal skull.
When it was my turn, I said. “Hey, look at this,”
I showed them an old wooden jewelry box, an ideal treasure chest shape for storing some of the children’s treasures.
“When you bring you stuff in each morning, why don’t you put it in here?”
“Then, we can start each day seeing what’s on our treasure chest”
“After we’ve shared, you can then put your treasure in our Mr. Jones’s cupboard.” “It’s up to you. Your choice.” “What do you think?”
Everyone agreed that that was a good idea. “Can we put anyfing in the treasure chest, Mr. Paull?”
“Anyfing we want?”
“Well,” I said, “anything we want to keep safe, yes, of course.”
Michael was the first to put his tin of fossils in the treasure chest.
“David, “ I said, wanting to point out about my expectations for the morning, “you are going to be in charge of the bird watching area. OK?”
“Yes, Mr. Paull. Yes, yes, yes, Mr. Paull.” “ I love bods, you know.” “Can I draw ‘em, too?”
“Of course, I know you love them, David.”
“And, hey, why don’t you weigh the food before you put it out?”
“We can weigh what’s left when they’ve gone and see how much food they eat.”
“What do you think?” “ You know where the scales are, don’t you?” “Oh, don’t forget to put out a bowl of water.” “ Birds drink, too, you know.”
“Brian, why don’t you try making your own marble run? Anyone want to help him?”
Three boys put up their hands.
“Good. Make the best marble run of all time,” I said.
I showed the class my library book about garden creatures and told them what I’d learned about pill-bugs. They giggled when I read out the pill-bug names. They were impressed when I showed them a pencil drawing of a pill-bug.
“Cor, you’re a good drawer, Mr. Paull.”
“Thank you, David.” “That’s a kind thing to say.” “ Now, everyone, why don’t you write some information about what you’ve brought in – and where you found it?”
Michael told me that he’d showed his dad his tin of treasure. “Dad said it was my pocket museum.”
“What a great description!” I said. “Perfect.” “What do you think, everybody?”
“ Like it?”
The class agreed that Pocket Museum was a much better name than tins of treasure. David especially liked it:
“Sounds clever, Mr. Paull, don’t it?” “Hey, everybody, I gotta museum in my pocket.”
“A pocket museum.” “Dead good.” “See?” “Look. Got a pocket museum right ‘ere, wiv a fever inside.”
He proudly showed everyone his pocket museum holding a crow’s feather.
I was quickly reminded of what I had experienced first-hand at Trinity Fields, about the power and product of young children’s enthusiasm, when the class talked about their treasures so confidently, so expertly and so enthusiastically to the whole class. Everyone was transfixed, as was I.
I wasn’t the only teacher in the classroom. It was incredible finding out what the children knew.
Not everyone wanted to talk, and that was ok with me. Passing around their collections was enough and appropriate, especially for the two very shy children who brought in some small mammal bones they’d found near the canal.
I cleared some space and set up a table and a small door-less cupboard in the science area so that the children’s pocket museums and the treasure chest could be displayed so that everyone could see them.
Our room was now being filled with boxes and tins of all sizes, containing fossils, wishing rocks, bones, dead insects, and bits of wood, fossils, and small crystals. There were tins – and small living creatures – everywhere. It became the base for a young scientists’ conference.
Phew! I rediscovered for myself what Tiger showed me and what my teacher long ago, Mr. Jones, knew: if you work for a while with young children, you soon find out they thrill to the discovery of simple things when they are given the opportunity to investigate and discover for themselves.
Mentally, I reminded myself, “Trust the class, John Paull, trust the kids, um, children.”
And, “Keep bringing dead good stuff in.” “They like it when I did.” “Keep the nature table filled with good stuff.”