In a recent kindergarten storytelling, one child called my china teacup “a pinky cup.” Another called my metal ladle “a soup slurper.” And when I named the ladle a “dipper,” kids in each class shouted out: “The BIG Dipper!” Well, it was. Big.
I also showed and told some string stories. Parents and grandparents were also in the room. After several pulls with the prattling of the story going on, I showed them a completed broom. On the lovely little faces in front of me, the kids wore blank looks. When I then asked the kids if any of them had ever seen a broom before, the adults snickered but the kids kept up with their stoic blank looks. Although no one replied, I could see their answer in unison: “I donno.”
On the way home, I evaluated my school visit. I realized that even though I talked about things 400 years old, I honestly thought (oh-ha-ha) that six-year-olds would have a knowledge of certain, what I thought were, basic things. What it ended up being was like telling a very funny joke, but having to explain the buildup for them to understand the punch-line, by which time no joke is really quite funny any more.
I had fun. The kids seemed to, too — by eye contact and responses to my comments or questions.
Among a ton of other things, they learned that a dipper is more than a constellation and that brooms make a sound that go “swish-swish-swish.” Although I’m not sure they know what they swished, nor where the batteries went.
From the four pictures that one of the teachers took with my iPhone, my coif (cap) had fallen downward over my forehead, over my eyebrows. Hmmm. I was so into the exciting stories that I didn’t even notice.
400 years ago, or even 150, kids would have had the same basic knowledge about dippers and brooms and teacups. Today, I wonder what basic knowledge is. It makes me wonder what they think of Sleeping Beauty, when Beauty pricks her finger on a wooden-machine-with-a-wheel-you-push-to-go-around-that-makes-yarn-and-cloth-for-later-weaving-or-sewing-clothes-because-they-didn’t-have-stores. There. Put that in your story. Or just call it a spinning wheel and hope for the relevant best.