At Abundant Life, we are close to a city walking path that is lined with thick foliage and bordered by a creek.  We make the trek to the path almost daily when the weather is nice.  The path is about a mile long with a city park at each end and our grocery store situated near the midpoint. Our program is between the grocery store and one of the parks, so when we set out, our destination is usually the closest park or the grocery store.  On Tuesday, we made an impromptu decision to walk to the farther park and meet up with another local preschool group for a picnic.  The day was lovely, and on our way home, Tekoa spotted a duck on a sandbar in the creek.  On closer inspection, we found the female nesting among some bushes, and on even closer inspection, we spotted some tiny ducklings peeking out from under her blue wing.  I had my camera, which made it easy to share her location and the location of the ducklings with the crew.  We were a distance away, and she was well hidden among the brush.  The ducklings were only visible because they were moving under her feathers.  (You’ll have to click on this picture to make it larger – the duckling is just in front of the duck’s blue wing — the duckling has a small white stripe along it’s body.)

I ended up with a couple of photos of the ducks, and we came home energized about our find.  Both Wednesday and Thursday, we returned hoping to spot the duckings out from beneath their mommy, but each time, the ducklings eluded us.  On Wednesday, when we were out, we heard the sound of quacking, and followed it to find the male duck swimming up and down the creek, but our persistent looking did not reveal the others.  Today, we didn’t find any of our web-footed friends.

In my days with young children, one of the things I have come to notice is that the journey is often more significant than the destination, and if I elevate the destination to the point where we must rush the journey in order to meet a deadline, then the experience is dampened.  It was on one such a walk that I (in a hurry) did not recognize Tekoa’s curiosity for the tar in the road, and ended up compromising my connection with her out of insistence that we keep moving.  As a parent, there are plenty of times that I am forced to hurry my children along – the needs of our family and an awareness of a larger schedule (betimes, mealtimes, etc) often dictate how much time we have to enjoy the journey.  But as an educator, my day is open in front of me, and I make decisions that result in rush or allow for ambling.  Sometimes, having 10 different sensory experiences + walking to the far park + building a tower that touches the ceiling really does result in meaningful learning, but often, our choices as educators to offer too much in the course of a day leads us to rush our children from experience to experience so they won’t miss anything, and so that we will end up with time to fit it all in.

Our last two duck watching outings were really destination-less: it was primarily the journey that carried us along.  And as I paused to reflect on all the rich conversations and experiences that unfolded, I was struck by the depth.  Sometimes, fewer goals paves the way for depth of discovery.  Time to linger can open new ways of being.  As educators and parents, it is up to us to gauge the temperament.  Is making it to the park so critical that rushing the observation of a spiderweb is necessary?  Or is the spiderweb losing its compelling nature, signaling that it might be time to move on?

Without further ado, here are my observations from our walk on Thursday, scratched hurriedly on the back of a receipt I found in my pocket so I wouldn’t miss a single gem.

Cadence found that if she stood next to the trunk of a big tree, that she could hide her shadow.

Tekoa worked intensely to try and catch a butterfly the entire time we were out.  She planned to hold it by the body, not by the wings, so as not to compromise its future flying ability. At one point, she called us all over.
Tekoa:  “Everyone? We need to have a conversation.”
Me: “Okay. What do you have in mind.”
Tekoa: “I’m trying to catch a butterfly, and when we move, the butterflies fly away.  When I say stop, I need you to stop right away so I can catch one.”
Me: “That sounds like a plan. Does everyone understand the plan?  We will listen for Tekoa to ask us to stop so she can catch her butterfly.”
Everyone else agreed.  Tekoa walked several feet ahead of us to minimize the amount of times we would all have to stop.

Cadence and Desmond had a “clapping conversation.”  Cadence would clap and sing to Desmond, and he would clap back.

Simone found a stick and discovered a “stick pony” without any prompting.

Christian found a giant stick and carried it like an umbrella.

Tekoa tied a dandelion stem around a stick and made it into a pet dog which she walked as she looked for butterflies.

Henry followed some of the impressions that were made in the concrete when it was wet long ago – bike tires, leaf prints, raccoon tracks, and even a shoe print!

We watched the curbside recycling truck stop and sort the recycling.  Then we watched it dump all of the contents into separate compartments in the back of the truck. We watched with great anticipation as the recycle truck operator worked with an enormous piece of cardboard — too large for the sorter — and after two unsuccessful attempts, got the giant piece into the truck. We cheered.  I don’t think he heard us, but the crew has plans to make cards for our trash collectors which we will tape to our trash can and recycling bin next week in time for trash day.  They were greatly impressed by the perseverance of the recycle truck operator, and felt moved to communicate their appreciation for all they do to take away our old trash.

We used our keen listening ears and our sharp eyes to try and spot the duck.  We did notice ripples on the water (which made us momentarily optimistic, until we saw the red-winged blackbird skimming the water), several cardinals, a bunny, a spiderweb holding dandelion seeds, many butterflies (even a yellow one!), and we felt the glorious breeze.

Addie and I held hands as we skipped together (me pushing Desmond in the stroller) along the path.

We said hello to our neighbor, Ed, who is working on a bed for some ornamental squash.

We checked on our radishes, and Simone and Henry noticed the red peeking out above the dirt.

Somehow, Desmond got a stick (I’m suspicious he had help) and used it to sooth his tender teething gums.

What did you see on your journey today?  Thanks for reading!