Kindergarten by Judy Otto


Have you ever watched a group of kindergarteners during group play?  It’s hard to resist their enthusiasm as they are introduced to toys and games intended to increase their knowledge of the world around them. At the same time they are unpredictable. They flit from one thing to another trying to experience everything possible. They follow the pack,each wanting to play with the same toy at the same time. This is a learning process. They discover how things work,sharing,cooperation,and skills they will need to exist in their world. They are also hard to keep up with.

I think of these kindergartners as I watch a school of minnows scooting around in the shallow water of Paradise Cove in labadee, Haiti.  There must be thirty or more,each an inch or less long. Their bodies are translucent in the sun drenched water,a  beady black eye on each side of their head.

They zip around in a loose V formation,their swishing tails propel them along. Without warning they change directions and are gone before you can focus your eyes to follow  them. It’s impossible to tell why they do this. It’s as if an unheard signal instructed them to take a different course. In a short time they are back then…poof,are gone again. Perhaps it’s their  . way of learning the skills they need to survive,to escape from larger predators or avoid a dangling hook.  Or,maybe they are learning to make fast turns to catch water bugs or mosquito larvae.

At times the reason for the abrupt escape is obvious. Norma and I stand silently watching the frenzied activity.  A short distance away,a father with his two sons,ages about three and four, frolic in the water, Norma calls out to them,”come see the minnows.” The three of them splash toward us and the minnows disappear.

“Over here,” Dad yells out to them,but before the boys get close enough the fish are gone again. This scene repeats itself severaltimes before we convince them to stand still and let the fish come to them.  Norma and I circle around to try to herd the minnows toward the boys. As soon as they are within sight four little arms plunge into the water.

We left them to their fun chasing the school of minnows around the shoreline- unknowingly learning a lesson in nature.

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