This past summer when we installed our new climbing structure, a mountain of sand was displaced by wood chips that would become the material for the fall zone. It was 20 inches of sand that had to be moved to a new location. Some of it went to the other side of the building, and other wheelbarrows full of sand landed in our main sand circle. The rest remained where it was originally moved by the swings and became known as the digging mountain.
For five months the digging mountain has been a hub of sand flurries, tunnels, and full-body relaxation in the sun. Last week, after recent rain, the digging mountain was especially popular, and I decided to dig a little deeper myself, to see what was actually going on. I overheard one student explain, “We don’t have enough vegetables! We don’t have enough vegetables!” Then her friend replied, “It’s okay, we can distribute. It’s a family tradition.” As they kept filling up trucks with sand and moving them around, I saw another group of children individually digging tunnels that converged into one center point. There was constant communication between participants as they strategized their tunnel project. At one point a different group approached one of the tunnel diggers and asked him to leave the digging to be their robot. He did go with them for a short while, then was drawn back to the tunnel group. It was certainly an engaging project.
A smaller group was making a really large hole. Others were talking about grabbing vegetables for a festival, and working together to make garden soil from the sand and mud. One child asked for help with carrying a large bowl of water to the digging mountain. Her plan was to place it in a sandy hole to be a pool.
One of the most entertaining diggers was the child who announced, “I’m digging for exercise! I looked down and my tummy was low!” This activity continued into the next day when I noticed yet another crew intensely negotiating their digging project. When I asked what they were doing, the apparent “supervisor” explained, “We’re trying to find the sewer where Ninja Turtles live!”
Although it was our original plan to relocate this sand pile elsewhere, I’m glad we didn’t. In a short time it’s turned into a wonderful source of imaginative play and creative collaboration. We let the kids determine how it would be used, and they’ve already shown us its value as part of our playground.