Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Saying Goodbye to Our Fish

One of the reasons Montessori classrooms include the care pets is to provide children opportunities to tend to other, living beings.  Taking care of animals widens children's perspectives which highlight a greater, interconnected universe.  Montessori used the term Cosmic Education to bring to light the child's awareness of the interconnectedness of the world around him.  This idea manifested itself quite naturally in our classroom with the recent passing of our beloved Blue Fish, one of our classroom pets.

Blue Fish had been in declining health for quite some time and the children took notice of this early on. Each day we would check on our fish, determining if he needed anything, feeding him, etc.  On several occasions we thought he had already passed, only to be surprised when he started swimming again.  Needless to say, the topic of his death became a natural point of conversation among the children, guided by the teachers in a gentle way.  When the morning came and it was clear our Blue Fish had died, the children were well prepared and ready for the news.

I had been quietly ruminating about the situation as we'd never had this come up before (Blue Fish was older than most of the children in the classroom!).  I should have known that it would be the children who would lead the way and take care of things the way they were meant to be.

The early morning children were already in the classroom when we sadly discovered Blue Fish at the bottom of the bowl, having clearly passed on.  The children took in the situation and before I knew what they were doing, began bringing items from our Peace Table and placing them next to Blue Fish's bowl.  The peace rose, a beautiful feather, a collection of rocks with the words 'peace,' 'love,' and 'joy,' a small pinecone, a tiny teddy bear…  "These will help to make him feel peaceful," they said.  Then, without pause, another child said, "I will write a gratitude for the fish."  And with that, the children began planning a circle time to say good bye to our fish.  I quietly stepped to the side, and listened as the children decided we should bury him outside - there was a great concern that he would be stepped on if we buried him.  They discussed some more and concluded we should write his name on a rock and place it on the spot where he is  buried.

Throughout the morning, each child received the news with sincere sadness, yet proceed to show their love in their own ways.  We collected the gratitudes and thoughts about our fish in a basket and read them at circle time:

Dear Blue Fish,  I am thankful for you.  I hope you will be ok.  I will miss you.

Dear Blue Fish,  I will miss you.  Thank you for being a part of our classroom.

Dear Blue Fish,  I am sorry that you died.  Thanks for being our friend.

Dear Blue Fish,  I am thankful for you.  You are a best friend.  I hope you are peaceful.

Dear Fish, You lived a long life.  I am sad you died.  I will miss you.

I am thankful for the fish.  I love him.  

Dear Blue Fish,  I liked feeding you.  I liked your color.  I liked how you swam.

Dear Fish,  I will miss you.  You were a good fish. 

Dear Blue Fish,  Thank you for being a friend in our classroom for so long.  I will miss you when you go to Heaven.

Dear Fishy,  I love you.  Sorry that you were sick.  I will miss you.

I am sorry that you died.  I am thankful for your swimming.  I loved you.    

Dear Fish,  I will miss you and I love you.  All of us will miss you.  And I love you Blue Fish, forever. 

And with that, we took our beloved fish outside and found a spot under a tree to bury him.

So many lessons were learned from this experience - lessons that can't be described in an album or even  classified as 'presented,' 'working,' or 'mastered.'  These are the lessons of of a Cosmic Education, those in which we see the delicate balance of the universe.  Thank you, children for showing the way.


  1. How touching. I love how the children directed the sad farewell to their class pet. We had that happen a good few years ago, and planted a desert rose where our fish was laid to rest. It's still thriving. Sasha, it's evident you are guiding these children in the right direction. ~Mandy

    1. I love the idea of planting something. Thank you Mandy, for your kind words.

  2. This post gave me goosebumps. If this is not a perfect of example of a wonderful directress guiding and observing her students and of the students teaching the teacher, I do not know what is.

    RIP Blue Fish!

  3. Thank you, Heather. I am grateful for all that the children teach me! Thank you for your kindness and well wishes for our fish.

  4. Now, when several days have passed - do the children treat the place of burying the fish as a graveyard?

  5. When we are outside, some children will gather at the spot for a moment during their play and then continuing on. Once, I saw a child laying down at the stone, wiping off the snow that had fallen overnight...

    1. Thank You Sasha, for Your answer - it was always a "risky" thing for me to bury animals within the playground area... I was afraid of how the children might behave during the following days... It is good to know that it may not be that difficult for them. Children will always find their way to deal with this...