by Amanda Janquart, Spring Room Teacher
All Seasons Preschoolers set off last fall exploring other floors of Inver Glen Senior Living, children seeking adventure and teachers hoping to bridge connections with the senior residents. Up on the second floor, a door labeled Family Room was dramatically unlocked… Behind it was a storage room bursting with props used by the Activities Department. And in the middle of it all was an actual chest, “A Treasure Chest!” The children were unanimous in concluding, “There must be pirates in the building!” Would the pirates be mad we saw it? Would they come after us?
The chest was empty but across the hall was a garbage chute. The class worried the pirates had hidden the treasure in the garbage bin. Oh no! Steve in maintenance needed to be warned. Children were quick to start planning. “We’ll make a trap to catch the pirates!”
The children were hungry for any information concerning pirates. They wanted to be prepared. How would they know if they met a pirate? What should they do? Through reading we all learned the real reason for eye patches, girl pirates were fierce, treasure was still out there, and pirates had great names. We were united in the excitement.
The drive to find answers led the class back to the seniors and staff at Inver Glen. The children eagerly asked, “Have you seen any signs of pirates?” “Have you heard strange noises?” “Is anything missing?” What a superb icebreaker, spoken in the language of play. After catching on, grownups excitedly joined in the game and replied. “Why yes! I caught a glimpse of a pirate last night.” “I’ll let you know if I find a sword or hear anything unusual.” Grandpa Al said he used his big muscles to scare a pirate away. Grandma Pat had heard strange singing. Evidence was everywhere; ship paintings on the walls of the resident’s hallway, empty wooden boxes in multiple locations, piratey-looking figurines outside Grandpa Sam’s room. And there were reports of creaky sounds.
Somewhere along the way, children became pirates. They could tell real mermaids from fake, after discerning Antoinette the nurse didn’t have the right hair even though she had a fin instead of legs on certain occasions. They took on pirate names like Dread Flint and Strong Sparkle. They donned eye patches from packs brought in from a family on board. They buried treasures, or at least marked good spots. They ate pirate booty and snacked on golden coins to celebrate a classmate’s birthday. They built ships with blocks and headed for sea. They even sang pirate songs with the seniors led by Sue, the Activities Director whose treasure chest started the whole shebang!
Then one morning on yet another pirate search, we found the source of the creaky sounds! Nancy in the salon had just heard the strange sound coming from the dining room. The preschoolers dashed off and there he was, pushing a squeaky walker. When kids asked if he’d seen any pirates he snarled, “Arrgh!” The children, and teachers, gasped. He said yes, he was a pirate, but in disguise. He knew how to sail too. “First, you need water…then you need a sail.” Children wanted more proof. Did he have a weapon? “I used to have a sword but now I’m too old. They took it away from me.” He was very believable. Grandpa Marty, soon renamed Captain Crook, became our treasure!
The course of our pirate play led to morning conversations with Captain Crook around the fireplace. He had begun to plant himself in our path! We joined him for hot cocoa while he ate breakfast and read the newspaper. He sent us to the swamp in search of sticks forming an “X,” marking the spot of his treasure – gold, jewels, and Snickers bars. Children couldn’t ever find treasure and his response was simply, “I moved it in the night, of course.” Eventually we did find the box he hid under a chair as he smiled, watching the search party. Marty had filled a box with treats and the children cheered, and then snuggled up next to him on the couch to say it was the best day ever. His heartfelt reply, “This was my best day ever.”
The goodness continued when the class wrote thank you notes and gathered a Snickers bar to hide in a treasure box for Marty to find. A child-made map left on his door led him to our classroom, and he was greeted with such love. Children held their hands over the mouths of classmates who kept calling out where he should look for the treasure first. After his still squeaky walker was filled up with goodies, the celebration continued with pirate music, pancakes, games and laughter. After all, pirates do know how to party!