1.28.2009

Quite an Object Lesson

We've been using The Big Snow, a wonderful, Caldecott-winning picture book by Berta and Elmer Hader, as the basis for this week's unit study. Today's main topic was food chains so we supplemented the Hader book with a few others: Who Eats What? Food Chains and Food Webs, The Magic School Bus Gets Eaten...and then, just for fun, There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly. :^) Then we brainstormed various food chains – seeds to mouse to cat; apple to Rachel; tortilla chip (corn) to Abbie – and got on with our day.

Well, today's temperature was (finally!) not sub-zero so the girls asked if they could play outside after dance class - a request I had no intention of denying. And so, within minutes of returning from ballet, they donned all their winter gear and ran out the back door.

For the last few days, we'd noticed something laying in the middle of the yard. It looked like part of an evergreen branch sticking up out of the snow, which I thought odd since we'd cut down our sickly pine tree when the girls were toddlers. But I didn't give it much thought.

Of course, the girls went to investigate and, when they returned to the deck to report their findings, I was really thankful for all the times I've drilled into them the concept of "touch with your eyes." Because the "evergreen bough" was actually the tail of a dead squirrel!

And not any old dead squirrel, mind you. No, this one is special. In fact, the fur on its tail is apparently all the fur the poor thing has left, the rest of him having been skinned by some other backyard creature. What's more, he's been decapitated! (I considered running out to snap a photo of him for this post, but thought better of it - deciding my readers would much prefer an image of what "Squirrely" might once have looked like!)

As happy as I am that the girls didn't pick the thing up, I'm also thrilled that they didn't react to the other extreme. They reported being stunned at seeing the carcass and wrinkled up their noses as they told me about it. But there was no shrieking, nor any demands to come in immediately until Daddy disinfects the entire yard. Nope. They simply avoided the immediate area around the corpse while they enjoyed a great, 30-minute romp in the snow. After all, why let a poor dead rodent wreck a perfectly good 25-degree day! :^)

After they'd come in, it dawned on me that little Squirrely was a perfect object lesson about food chains. And so we spent a few minutes talking about what he'd eaten when he was alive (and that, perhaps, he'd met his demise while reaching for a nut that still clung to a weak branch of our big backyard tree), who might have made a meal of his head, etc. (!), and how God has so wonderfully arranged things that little decomposers will break down his body this spring, giving the soil extra "vitamins" to grow more grass.

The girls didn't need such a "living" example to grasp the concept of food chains. But I still think the "God-incidence" of the timing is neat.

And how much more does God put little object lessons in front of us for spiritual lessons we need to learn...which we'd see if we would but venture out to investigate?

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