X Marks the Spot
“Who likes to look for treasures?” I ask a room full of three to five-year-old children in a preschool classroom. Not surprisingly, each little arm shoots up. I explain to the children that treasures can be every day objects with unusual traits: a stick with a hole in the middle, a rock with a ring, a piece of sea glass in a rare color. I’ve been invited to this Montessori classroom by a friend whose son has recently become an avid treasure-hunter, and school visits are such a wonderful extension of my books. To start, the children are interrupted from their “work” when one of the students rings a bell. They all gather around the “ellipse” (the woven rug in the center of the classroom), where I introduce myself and read a few passages from my book: Treasure Hunter’s Handbook. We talk about other every day treasures: pottery, volcanic rock, a rusty nail. “Look closely at the world,” I tell the children. “Pay attention.”
After sharing stories and real-life treasure hunting experiences with the children (many of them very eager to share; a five-year-old girl has already been panning for gold in Colorado with her family!), we break them into two groups. I take one group into the school’s kitchen for some tourmaline screening. Using a colander, we rinse off some mine tailings to get the dust off, then search for rocks and minerals with a tiny magnifying glasses. The children are each given a small plastic bag to collect their treasures and a small rock-identifying key. In the classroom, we talked about how to identify rocks by their colors. Tourmaline can be pink, green, or black. Garnet is red. Mica is shiny and clear. I remind them to look very carefully to be patient; treasure hunting takes time.
Along with the book as your guide, I also have Treasure Hunter’s Kits available on my site. Kits include most of the materials I use in school visits, including: treasure maps, magnifying glass, tourmaline-filled min tailings, treasure hunter’s notebook and twig pencil, to name a few. But I’ve given you enough to work off here. Get outside with your students or children and start exploring! Let them show you the wonder of every day things. Let them collect and display their findings proudly in their rooms. Remember, you’ll be fostering both patience and curiosity with these activities, so don’t worry if things get a little messy or cluttered at times. It’s the time you spend together exploring that they’ll remember most.