Tuesday, March 5, 2013

SOLSC #5 The death of a fish

Two Writing TeachersSlice of Life Story Challenge (SOLSC)

When we arrived at school yesterday morning, we found the beta fish, Sharkey, had died over the weekend. Oh my.  

We had a whole new topic to grapple with at the beginning of the day.  Time to be honest, forthright,  succinct, and calm.  Let's learn about death together.  Laura (Resident Teacher) was running the morning meeting.  As I told her, channeling Bev Bos' advice on this subject, "We just want them to know that Sharkey has died and to seek their ideas about what we should do.  Let's suggest that we bury the fish together. The children will lead the discussion where it needs to go, by their comments and questions.  There is no wrong thing to say, except, I think, to say nothing."  

And so, Laura waded into the topic.  We had a good discussion about the death of the fish, with many children expressing surprise and sadness, and still others seemingly oblivious to the occurrence.  As with all lessons - a broad range of understanding! Laura explained that we would bury Sharkey in front of the school, by our front door.  

Bella reacted in horror at the suggestion of putting the fish in a hole in the ground - "Don't put him in the ground! He needs water.  It'll make it worser!"

That got Jack thinking, "Maybe we forgot to change the water?"

"I think it is sad that Sharkey died.  I think we should get a bigger fish," said Sophie.
"Maybe we can get a new fish!" suggested Zoe.

Anya was wearing a necklace with a glass dolphin bead.  She suggested to her classmates, "If you are sad Sharkey died, you can see my necklace and you can touch it too.  See, it is made out of glass."

Lukas, Reia, Anya, and Sayid  went over to investigate the fish bowl.  Lukas cried out, "Ms. Ingram, Sharkey's not dead - he's right here!"  
I went right over and investigated with them.  "Yes, that is his body.  You are right.  Is he moving? Is he breathing?"

"No," he said, shaking his head.  Then, thinking about burying the fish, Lukas suggested, "I think we should put those in, too," pointing to some decorative marbles that were in the bowl, "He wants them."

Anya studied Sharkey - "His head looks like a board."
"Yes," said Reia, "Like wood."
"He's not swimming anymore," noted Sayid.
"First he got too tiny and then he died. His body is stuck." [Anya]
"He's still smiling." [Reia]
"We won't be able to see him anymore." [Lukas]

A little while later, we put Sharkey and two marbles into a small paper cup.  The children took turns digging a hole in the front bed.  Laura placed the fish in the hole and we filled in the dirt.

"Goodbye, Sharkey!," they called out.
Charlie added, "I'll see you - uh - no way!"


  1. Maureen, how wonderful for your students to have this experience. One of my primary classes had to postpone a lesson I had for them recently because one of their lizards died. It was a long and according to their teacher, a satisfying conversation and they too buried him. We have gardens in the front of our school and they are good resting places for the little animals who pass away in classrooms. Thanks for sharing the talk. I'm not surprised at any of it!

  2. My sweet girl brought this topic up on our ride home. She talked about burying Sharkie, and that she was sad he had died. Then she brightened up and said, "When I go back to school, maybe he'll be not died anymore!" We talked about how when something dies, that doesn't change, and but our love for them and memories of them stay with us, and in New Orleans we have a big party to celebrate their life. Then we drove by the park we usually play, so E decided we should stop and play to celebrate Sharkie :).