We have a boat at school. It is a sail boat. Andrea found it on the side of the road and we brought it back to school in the back of my truck. It is not large. It has a bench seat. The sail and mast are long gone. Its profile is low and easy to scramble in and out of or to prop up a gang plank against as needed. It can be moved, by dog leash tied to the front ring, by 8 bigs or 10 or so littles, pushed and pulled, its foam and fiberglass hull squeaking against the mulch.
It holds children. One or two, when there is a quiet journey. More, when a danger must be avoided and the destination is some safe haven. Sometimes, it is a home and regular deliveries are made of boat juice (boat juice is fuel of rain water or sand, depending on available resources) and food by other children as they run past or drift past the more populated areas in the vast sea of their imagination.
It holds things. Mostly water, but also, depending on the season, it holds hickory nuts, sand, mulch, sticks, bark, and leaves. These things collect or are brought and deposited by running and plotting children. The collections, just like the boat juice, reflect the available resources found and uncovered on the playground. These included buckets, shovels, turkey basters, spoons, cake pans, and bottle babies. You just never know what you will need once you set sail.
It holds seasons. The water, sand, and other collections change over the seasons. We have mostly mild Winters and ice is considered a rare treasure beyond compare. That thin surface of slick, precious and transparent glass-like crust that forms on colder days is held, protected in the boat. Waiting for children to tap, crack it and then carry its shards around to trade and share. On colder days, the boat holds the water longer as it turns into that cloudy, white solid block of ice. No amount of hammering will loosen it from the base of the boat. Hickory nuts and sticks captured in its frozen depths, the children slip and slide on it, a miniature frozen landscape.
Children, during the years at our school, are developing their sense of where they begin and end, how their bodies move through space and how they fit into the world. They gain this information through senses and through motion and interaction with each other and with materials. The boat holds this, from the silt and mud, yellowed from Spring pollen to the frozen, crackling ice.