Life and Death at summer Camp

Eloise brought it to me, saying "Anna, we found a lizard. Maybe some of the children would like to draw it. I think it's asleep"
(I love the culture of drawing at our school -that this would be one of the first things a child thinks of.) 
The children were all talking at once, compiling information on this lizard. "It might be dead." "It is a salamander. " "It's a blue tailed skink." "It is asleep."  "It is not moving." "I think it is the one we caught yesterday." "It is alive."  "There are a lot of them in this garden."
We set the skink in a box, and Eloise, Afton, Henry and Jaya began drawing it. The little lizard stayed in the box for a long time, under the tent where we make things. Eventually the children decided to help it. They got a bug box and went looking for things for it to eat. They caught a big grasshopper but thought it might be too much, so they found a smaller grasshopper. Emma held the bug box while they tried to feed the lizard. They gave it some water. Someone thought they saw the lizard move his head. They set him on a tree stump, and in a little while, he was gone. Now they knew he was definitely alive!
The children found and continued to take care of the lizard for the rest of the day, but by the end of camp I think they all agreed that he was dead. Jaya made a coffin for him, but no one wanted to bury him in the ground. All of the adults at camp watched and listened as the children worked out the story of the blue tailed skink, but no one intervened much. It seemed that the children were working out their own definition of 'alive' and 'dead', and tried to care for the lizard in either case. They were as tender with each other as they were with the little lizard.

Children are Aware; Long before we realize it, children become aware of death. They see dead birds, insects, and animals lying by the road. They may see death at least once a day on television. They hear about it in fairy tales and act it out in their play. Death is a part of life, and children, at some level, are aware of it...Many of us hesitate to talk about death, particularly with youngsters. But death is an inescapable fact of life. We must deal with it and so must our children; if we are to help them, we must let them know it’s okay to talk about it.


  1. We were doing a worm experiment over the weekend a couple weeks back, trying to get them to dig tunnels that we could see through the sides of an aquarium. It poured rain unexpectedly and we returned to find them all drowned. The conversation we had was so similar it's eerie.

    We did bury them, but of course, worms dead or alive, belong under the ground.

    (I'm trying to post this comment from the past!)


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