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Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Just found this in a file..............A common sense philosophy of Education, 2012

JP 2012


It's 3 in the morning and my mind is buzzing.
So, knowing I won't fall asleep again, I'm going to get up, go to my study, open my laptop and type what's in my head.

OK, it's now 3.10 a.m. Here I am, in my pyjamas, at my laptop, with matilda, our darling pussy cat, on my knees........
So, what's in my head? Why is it full of buzzing bees?

Well, first, some context:

As a former teacher, teacher advisor, Principal of two schools, creator/director of two Alternative Teacher Education programs, I have visited and interacted with teachers and students in over fifty classrooms, in 20 or more schools, here in Colorado.

I see effective, successful teaching. I see teachers, some in their first/second year, some more experienced, enthused by their students, eager to take their kids on and on, igniting their curiosity levels each and every day. I see others battle with students who are appalingly disrepectful, metaphorically taking their teachers apart.

I continue to get emails from such teachers. Here's last night's from J.

'Hey, JP:) I'm doing better with a week off from school under my belt. I still feel, though, like I'm struggling and battling students more than helping them. So strange how hard it is to put into action all the theories and straegies I can talk about, but struggle actually doing. Anyhow, I keep showing up, and reflecting, and trying, so I figure I'm learning and may find my stride some year soon. On the job hunt to return to Colorado.........expanding my search to consider non-classroom positions/non-traditional educational/art positions. Who knows :)'

IT was THIS, last night's reading of this particular email that set my mind on fire.

So, this is what's in my mind NOW!

I started teaching in the 1960s at a school that became one of the places to visit if you wanted to see OPEN EDUCATION as it was then called in play.  My Headmaster, Ted Ward, encouraged me and my colleagues to set up abd resource activities that motivated and engaged our pupils, and thus give them the focus and the drive to read and write and measure and draw - and think. 

Academics linked our teaching to the philosophies of Jean Piaget and John Dewey.

Much later, this teaching style has been given the name of CONSTRUCTIVISM.

Today, wanting and trying to teach like a constructivist hasn't, it appears, helped those in my program who have gone into city public schools, where, by and large, they battle against large classes, an imposed curriculum, imposed testing, poverty, lack of parental guidance and support, being told what and how to teach, being evaluated by someone watching from the back, clipboard in hand, and, finally, being judged by polticians as failures!

So, let me be blunt! It's time to cut out the crap in education!

It's time for a COMMON SENSE approach to teaching. (OK, Matilda, move over a bit, please.)

It's time to honor teachers, repect their commitment, and trust them to teach their kids they way they feel is best - best for them, and therefore the best for their students.

It's time to put in pace everything that each teacher needs to create classrooms where one feels community, respect, and where one sees and obvious passion for teaching and for learning.

It's time to cut out inappropriate, expensive professional programs where those not in classrooms tell those who are what and how to teach.

It's time to shift those $ into classroom resources.'s MY COMMON SENSE approach to creating optimum teaching conditions:

First, recognize that teachers are overworked and underpaid. Let's give them a salary that's commensurate with their education, dedication, and experience.


Let each teacher OWN his/her classroom, its resources, and what goes on inside the four classroom walls.

Let them be responsible for identifying and meeting the needs/learning goals for each and every student.

Create easily accessible funds for minor purchases (including snacks) that support individual and group learning needs.

Consider altering class sizes  (I think that an elementary class, for example, should have no more than 20 students, mixed gender/ability).

Bring in more qualified professionals who are adept and helping those students with significant social/learning issues.

Provide appropriate furniture for student seating, storage, display, etc.

Create a deep well filled with accessible, proven ideas that enrich all subjects - including technology for students and teachers, videos that bring science, mathematics, social studies, art and literacy alive.

Create a free food program yhat is accessible to students throughout each and every day.

Create a time table that gives teachers appropriate breaks at regular intervals.

Create weekly one-on-one opportunities for the teacher to interact with a trusted colleague/mentor to share ideas and expereinces.

Involve parents more and more in classroom life.

And, finally, ensure that each principal ( a former teacher, of course) will introduce all of the above, and who will cover classroom teaching when the teacher needs a break!'s nearly 5...............time for a cuppa.

Just checked my email and read this from J:

Happy New Year, JP!!
So far the New Year's energy has carried me through a pleasant morning of teaching.....just relaxing and being myself a little. Who would have thought that's al it takes? :)

The proof of the pie lies in the eating///

Monday, November 20, 2017

OK, time to start blogging again.......

I've been so preoccupied with just about everything in and around Eldorado at Santa Fe, my new home. Each morning begins with an incredible sunrise, each day is filled with the brightest sunshine, and each evening begins with a mind boggling sunset - all I do is stare and think what a lucky fella I am. Oh, the birds LOVE our new back garden ('new' in the sense that it has been landscaped and looks dead good!) and I can't get over the variety. My favorites are the 11 quail who strut around looking as if they own the place....:)

Well, I have started journaling again (the day we decided to move to Santa Fe) and fill in at least a page each day with whatever is going on in my head - but an email from Barrie, a former colleague and dear friend, reminds me that I should start blogging again.

So, come on, JP, get started.

An update from the last post:

Feeling a little intellectually bored, I put my name forward as a science volunteer for the school district, and will soon begin being a science fair judge at several Santa Fe schools. I'm also going to run after-school science workshops in January at my local school, and I have made enquiries about part-time vacancies at Santa Fe Community College and received an encouraging, warm response.  I hope that works out - it would be fun to teach/work with adults agin who are involed in the teaching/learning processes.

Oh, I told the story of Penelope the Tarantula at a recent group meeting at the Senior Center........

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Background reading for a talk I gave this week.......

On Tuesday I was invited to give a talk to the new teacher interns in my Teacher Ed program.........the new director had emailed this story from GREENTEACHER to the interns before my talk........

Spiders – and their impact on education!!

Thank you, Tiger

I started teaching way back in the early 1960s. Well, teaching is perhaps too grand a word. It would be more honest to say that I began to be paid for standing daily in front of loads of bored adolescents, opening a well-thumbed science text book, and reading aloud. Then, scribbling science words on the blackboard to be copied into science notebooks.

   13-year-old Tiger always sat alone at the back of my science lab. 

   He did not sit politely through each lesson. Tiger was always looking for trouble. Sometimes he smiled benignly at the thirty-two other boys and girls, six of whom had recently emigrated from India and could speak but two words of English (‘lav, sir?’). Sometimes Tiger shouted, “S’boring, boring…….science is pissin’ scabby.” 

   Sometimes, to prevent himself from falling asleep, I suppose, he’d run his fingers through his greasy hair, scratch his head, and interfere with anyone sitting close to him working diligently and quietly through the science textbook.

   My science lessons on Mosquitos and other insects certainly didn’t interest Tiger. School didn’t interest him and science didn’t engage him. Nothing I did in my science lessons made any connection to Tiger’s life experience or appealed to his sense of curiosity. 
   The science I read from the textbook was irrelevant to his world – especially the way I presented it. His Dad told him that he’d have a job with him as a bricklayer on the building sites when he was fifteen, so why should he ‘do his best’ in school? What was the point of it all?

   In the first week of October, the miracle of miracles happened - a big change for the better came over my teaching. Tiger, of all people, and a small garden spider, were my divine inspirations.

   Walking back from shopping at the Coop for the weekend food, I spotted the most beautiful spider sitting in her intricate silky web in the black currant bush outside the steps leading up to my flat. Surprised to see one so late in the year, I took my groceries upstairs, fetched a jar, popped the spider inside, and took her back inside my flat.

   I took the spider to school the following Monday, put her in a large bell jar with a little soil, some greenery and a forked tree branch, and placed her on a small table, away from direct light, at the back of my science lab.

   The following day, I noticed a silk egg sac dangling from near the center of the spider’s orb web. Sensing the spider was hungry, I caught a small silverfish darting around the base of my desk, unscrewed the top of the spider home, and dropped the small creature on the web. 

   Immediately, the spider came running towards her prey. I sat and watched, fascinated by the spider’s eating habit, until Tiger’s class came through the door, breaking the atmosphere by noisily throwing their satchels under their stools. They were ready for yet another particularly dull science lesson (all chalk and talk, then reading and writing, and no ‘hands-on’ science investigation). Before I even started, the kids looked bored. I got up quickly, pushing the spider home to one side.

   As I walked towards the blackboard, Tiger came through the door. He looked upset. He stared at the floor, mumbling he’d been sent to Mr. Thomas’ office because, he said, “I was caught looking through a dirty book, sir. ‘Fore school startedT’ain’t fair.”
   Who caught you?’ I asked. I wanted to know more about what had happened. Tiger’s tone changed, and he glared across the room at me, and shouted belligerently:

   “Mr. Jelbert, you know, Mr. Paull, he looks at us lads through his telescope from the class upstairs. He saw me. Looking at pictures. You know. Dirty pictures. Naked girls and stuff. Weren’t my book, though, Mr. Paull. It’s Fatty’s, Fatty White’s. Now Mr. Thomas has it. Fatty’ll murder me. I’ve got to go back to the boss’s office after school. And I’ll get caned. I’ll get six, I know I will.”

I calmed him down as best I could. Tiger turned and went to his usual spot at the back of the lab. He looked sulky and angry.

   I read a few lines about gases from the science book, closed it, and picked up the chalk. As I was writing on the blackboard, asking the kids to open up their journals and copy my notes, there was a loud shout of “CHRIST!” from the back of the room. Startled, every head turned to see what was going on. Tiger was standing up and pointing his index finger and thumb at the bell jar. His eyes now were wide open. ‘F*#     ‘ell! Look!’ “Mr. Paull, Mr.Paull, there’s a spider ‘ere! It’s killing a creepy-crawly! It’s f*^** killing it! 

   I raised my hand. ”Tiger, watch your language!”
   ” Mr. Paull, Mr. Paull, Can’t ‘elp it. I can’t f*ing believe it. 
    Look at THAT! The spider, f*+** great!! F+** GREAT!!

I told him to sit down, leave the spider alone, and get out his science journal. I turned to the class, some standing near their seats, wanting to know what was going on. “Wassup wiv Tiger, Mr.Paull?” asked Michael. “’e sick or summat?” “’E swore. Used the F word, sir. Wot you goin’ to do?”
   I tried to settle everyone down. “C’mon. Everybody. Thank you, Michael.  Never mind Tiger. He’s just having a moment.” “Get on with your writing.” “C’mon everybody, no big deal.”

   The spider eating her lunch, of course, was, for Tiger, far more interesting than my science-reading lesson. Tiger swearing loudly was much more captivating than my science-reading lesson for the class. “Let’s see. I wanna see,” shouted David.

    I gave in. “Go on, then, everyone, take a look.” “Go and see what’s in the jar – then get back to your seats.”
   The class didn’t need telling twice. Everyone rushed to join Tiger at the back of the room. He pointed at the spider in the jar. “Look at that,” he shouted. “Bloody great!” The kids stared at the jar and started chattering excitedly about the spider – excited chatter was something I had never heard in one of my science lessons.

   “Ain’t never seen a spider like that! What is it? Wos it doin’?” someone asked. One of the girls, Diane, said the spider was so beautiful. “Can I look at it, sir? PleaseCan I get a maggy glass from the drawer?” she asked.
   I thought for a moment. Why not? “‘Course. Go on. Get the tray of maggies.” Diane fetched the tray and chose a magnifying glass and held it close to the jar, peering at the spider. “It’s great, Can I draw it, sir? Please? Can I?” she asked.

    Of course.” I answered,  “Use your pencil, not your pen. Oh, don’t, though, draw it in your science book. That’s for science. Here, there’s a piece of scrap-paper on my desk you can use.”
   Dianne looked at me, and asked, drily, “Aren’t spiders science, Mr. Paull?”

   “’Course, Dianne. Sorry.” I replied, kicking myself.  “Do it, drawing, oh, go on, put it in your science journal.”

   The idea caught on and a few more girls also wanted to draw the spider, sitting in her web, clasping the poor silverfish. Tiger did not draw the spider in his journal. He sat very still, ignoring me and everyone else, watching the jar, mesmerized.

   Tiger stayed behind after class, and, with a warm grin and an impish twinkle in his eye, said,  The spider’s great, sir, ain’t it great? You like ‘em? Spiders? They’re brill!” 

He looked up at me. “Sorry I swore, sir, sorry. Won’t do it again. ‘Onest!! Don wanna draw, Mr. Paull. Can’t draw, you know. Scabby drawer.”
   “Well,” I said, “I think you can draw, but your pictures are a bit rude, you know. Really rude.”
   Tiger smiled and then said he was going to get some spiders of his own as soon as he got home.
   “Good, but now get off to your next class. Don’t be late,” I said. “Oh, and don’t forget to see Mr. Thomas………….and be sure to give the book back to your friend.”

   The next day, surprise, surprise, there was Tiger waiting for me, before school started, with that impish smile on his face. “Found ‘em, Mr. Paull, found ‘em.” Tiger had a jar in his satchel. “There were stacks of ‘em. Tiny ‘uns. Babs, I think, ain’t they? I got free or four. Can I keep them in the lab, Mr. Paull? Go on! Can I? Next to yours?” Then, he added: “Found out about ‘em, too, Mr. Paull. My dad knows what they are – they’re Garden Spiders, and they eat flies and stuff. You know what? You’re ok, Mr. Paull. Sorry, sorry, I swore.”

  “Thank you, Tiger, thank you. I appreciate that.” I said. “I’m sorry you swore, too.”

   I gave him four jars, telling him that spiders can’t live together without paralyzing and eating each other. “Make a home for each one, ok? Quick, school’s starting soon. OH, and you can tell your class what you know about spiders, ok?”

   When his class came for science, Tiger stood by the blackboard,  looking sheepishly at the front of the room, and told a very respectful, quiet, surprised, and very attentive audience what he had learned about spiders. I was fascinated to see how Tiger caught everyone’s attention with his excited, twitchy, body movements. Tiger had at last discovered something in my science period that made him feel that wonderful, inside –your-head glow when the brain is alive and alert. His classmates felt it, too.

   “Spiders, “ he said, “ are dead good.” “Look at this one. It’s a beaut.”   He held up one of the jars.
    “Guess what I found out………….spiders suck their food after they’ve crushed and made it watery…….ain’t only the gals that make silk……..the fella spiders make silk, too, but only when they’re young………..then they stop and go looking for a spider girl-friend. They mate on the web………….sometimes the gals kill and eat the fellas.” “Some spiders chase after stuff they want to eat.”

    He’d really done his homework. I was taken aback by how much Tiger knew, thinking: “Where did he learn that from, then? All from his dad?” “Well, I know for sure it weren’t from me in science lessons.” 

   Tiger told his audience that, if anyone wanted to watch, he was going to release the spiders and their eggs in the school garden at lunchtime. “They’re goin’ to die soon, y’know, and the eggs will ‘atch, next year, spring, right, Mr. Paull?”

   When he’d finished, everyone clapped. This was Tiger’s finest hour. “Any questions for Tiger?” I asked. The hands went up, and Tiger was asked a million questions, some of which he could answer. What a wonderful lesson about teaching and learning, I thought.

    That night I checked my spider’s identity in a spider book, learning that it was Meta segmentata, a common garden species related to the garden spider. Its courtship routine was different, though. The male, I read, drives off other male suitors, but doesn’t advance towards the female until an insect is caught on the female’s web. Both spiders then move towards the struggling insect. The male’s front legs are larger than the female and he uses them to push the female away from the insect.
    He then gift-wraps the prey. As the female tucks into her dinner, the male wraps silk around her legs and then mates with her.

   The following day, I went to school early in the morning, an hour or so before the official start of the day, and went to the science storeroom. I gathered a box full of microscopes, racks of test tubes, flasks, and other scientific equipment.  I set them out in the science lab. I made the room look like, well, a science lab. Oh, and rearranged the stools so that the kids could sit in groups.

   When Tiger’s class came through the door, the boys and girls looked at my displays of science equipment.
   “Hey,” said one, “look….look at all this science stuff……..and hey, look, we ain’t sitting alone. He’s put us in groups.
    Mornin’, sir, this stuff looks great. Can we touch it?”

   Tiger showed me a picture he’d drawn at home of the beautiful orb-web spider. “Look, sir, Mr. Paull, see what I did. Can I glue it on the cover of my science journal, Mr. Paull?”

  “Hey, Tiger, Tiger,” I said,  you did it. You drew your spider. You can draw, seeAnd you can draw pretty good.”

   Seeing Tiger operating like a young scientist, was a first-time experience in my classroom.
   I had learned, by sheer luck, what motivated and engaged my most challenging pupil: observing and studying a small spider.

   It was, in fact, an incredible teachable moment.

   It was THE first ‘Come on, John Paull, be a REAL teacher. Be professional. Earn your pension.’ wake-up call.

   Thank you, Tiger. Thank you, Spider.

    You helped shape my teaching.

    From that day on, I thought as much, if not more, about how to bring my pupils into my lessons, how to capture their curiosity, how to engage and motivate them.

   Sometimes it worked and sometimes it didn’t. 

   But it certainly made me more interested in my teaching.

      Here's an interesting, fun 2011 spider story.

As I was watching a teacher with her children in a school library, I noticed a black widow in the corner of the room, dangling from a strand of silk.
       I quickly gathered the creature, and its egg sac, and placed her in a small plastic container.  Later, when I returned to my car, I put the container on the back seat, and promptly forgot about it.

A couple of weeks later, when teaching at UCD, I offered a student a lift when his car had broken down. As he sat down on the passenger seat, he let out a shriek: "Wassat? There! Look!"

The black widow had escaped from my container and made her home in the dashboard of my car..... 

The black widow that made its web in my car.........

Isn't she beautiful?

Sunday, July 23, 2017

My black beetle...................

I've moved house and now live in beautiful, peaceful, atmospheric Eldorado, a community of Pueblo styled homes about 7 miles from Santa Fe.

Every evening a big black beetle joins us for dinner in our walled front walks up to us, raises a leg, and races back from whence it came.

When I was at the Eldorado swimming pool, I saved a black beetle that was floating in the deep end, and discovered a small spider sitting on his back!

I brought both of them back home..........and put them under one of out beautiful bushes....and I so hope the beetle was accepted by my garden's inhabitants!

OK, I've decided.......

During a beautiful walk close to my home in Eldorado this morning, I decided that when my time as a human is up, I'm coming back as a hawk..................a herbivorous I can join those I saw blissfully floating high above me......................what a great way to spend each and every early morning!

And what views of the semi desert......................

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Some of my Ladybird books written in 1980 for sale!!

Signed spare copies Ladybird books for sale:

Anyone interested in buying some of my Ladybird books, written/printed in 1980, autographed?

  • Nature takes Shape
  • The Story of the Ant
  • The Story of the Spider
  • Simple Chemistry
  • Light
  • Simple Mechanics
  • Magnets and Electricity
  • Botany
  • Zoology

$10 each...............p and p free.

Just let me know.........

Friday, April 7, 2017

The FINAL version: When I became a scientist.

                          Monday, July 14, 1947
         The day I became a scientist!

John Paull




    OK, so…….what is a scientist?

Do you have to be old to be a scientist, Mr. Paull?”

I smiled as I looked at the 5-year-old who asked me that great question. After all, the popular view held by most children is that the world of science is owned by old, wide-eyed, white-coated ‘boffins’ who spend their time poking in test tubes and looking into microscopes, beautifully illustrated by 5th grader, Paige.

Later, I opened my dictionary, looked up the word scientist, and read the following:
A scientist: a person having expert knowledge of one or more sciences, especially a natural or physical science.”

Mmmmm………not terribly helpful, I thought. That’s not how I would describe what a scientist is to a young child.

So, let me make a stab at it. Well, I know, for a start that:

  • Scientists are very curious about what they see around them.
  • Scientists are collectors – they collect things and they collect ideas.
  • Scientists use computers and read books to find out more about what they see around them and what they collect.
  • Scientists write notes and draw pictures to explain what’s in their heads.
  • Scientists talk with other scientists and learn from each other.
  • Scientists carry out experiments.

I do ALL these things, don’t I? Don’t YOU?

SO, I’m a SCIENTIST! Hey, hey!

We’re ALL scientists……… aren’t we? Don’t we explore our environment in a scientific way, whether we are aware of it or not? Don’t we look, touch, hear, smell, taste and wonder why all the time? Isn’t that how we discover new things?  And, when we discover something new, don’t we often experience feelings of pleasure?

I remember how and when I officially became a scientist, being someone who throughout his life has enjoyed exploring, asking questions and finding answers to the endless mysteries of the world of nature. It was my parents and one special teacher who fanned my science fire and got me going.

And this is MY story, dedicated to my Grandma,
Mum and Dad, and to Miss Harvey, my first teacher.

  The day I became a scientist…

     The Paull family, Grandma, Arthur Charles and Hazel Monica, their three sons, Jimmie, John and Charles, and Joseph the black and white tabby cat, lived in the busy fishing village of Newlyn.
    Our small house in Gwavas Estate overlooked Newlyn harbour, Lariggan Beach, and the beautiful Mounts Bay.
    Grandpa passed away before I was born. His name was John Paul the Younger (the spelling of the family name changed from PAUL to PAULL due to a clerical error on my grandfather’s birth certificate), and he had two brothers named John, both who died in infancy. I was named after him.

    He was a soldier in World War I, fighting in France in 1917/18.             
     In the summer of 1918, when the war was finally over, Grandpa, and thousands of other soldiers, waited on a beach in France to be taken home.

Untitled2.jpg     Wishing the ship would soon come, he spotted and picked up a beautiful rock, stroked it and wished and wished and wished………….

    As if by magic, the ship appeared on the horizon, and Grandpa, thinking it would be a great keepsake, put the smooth rock in his backpack and brought it home to England, looking forward to going back to work at Botallack Tin Mine.

    When he married Grandma, the beautiful rock was placed in the middle of the kitchen table………….and my dad told me that every evening, especially after a family walk around Newlyn harbour, my grandfather picked it up, rubbed it gently, and sent a loving wish to Grandma and their children, Tom, Evelyn, Arthur (my dad), and Katie.

When my grandfather passed away, Grandma came to live with us. She brought Grandpa’s big rock and a heart-shaped one she’d found on Lariggan Beach, and placed them on our dinner table.
Every night we would touch them and send each other a loving wish.

Family walks, either to the country lanes or down the steep hill to the nearby harbour and beach, in the spring, summer, and autumn, were the highlight of my childhood.

My dad would tell us about the foxes, rabbits, badgers, the plants and the birds. He seemed to know everything that lived in the hedges and fields, especially the spiders and the creepy-crawlies. Dad especially liked the seagulls and the crabs we would see on the beach.

He learned everything about them, he said, from his dad.

Sometimes, after the Sunday meat and potato pasty dinner, washed down with a cup of hot, steaming tea, Mum would put a snack in her big bag and the family would put on its wellies and head for Lariggan Beach.

If the tide was out, we’d first look to see what had been washed up on the beach, then stare into the rock pools, hoping to see a bullcod or a tiny red and blue crab scuttling under the rocks.  Then we’d look for small wishing rocks and heart-shaped pebbles. We gave Mum the best ones we found, and she put them in a tin in her big bag.
Later, when we were home, Mum kept the best wishing rocks and heart-shaped pebbles in a old, cracked green glass jar. The others were taken back to the beach the next time we went  for a walk.
I so loved these walks.

And I remember one walk in particular. In fact, I can remember it as if it were yesterday. It was Monday, the 14th of July, my 5th birthday.

As usual, Grandma Paull took me to school first thing that morning, and, as she handed me my lunchtime snack, told me she’d be there for me at the end of the day.
She wasn’t, though. I was really surprised when I saw my dad, not my grandma, standing by the iron fence.  Dad smiled when he saw some of the children rush out of the school yard, up to the street corner, and turn and slide down back towards school, skidding on the cobble road, sending up a stream of yellow sparks from their hob-nailed boots.

“Hey,” he said, “birthday walk for you, my son! C’mon - let’s go pebbling……….on the beach, ok?

“Yes, please, Dad, thank you.”  Well, what could be better? Pebbling on your birthday, with your dad? Without another word, he took my hand and we walked together in the afternoon sun towards the harbor.

We walked hand in hand on the cobbled street to The Fradgan, past Uncle Steve and Aunty Flo Green’s white cottage, past the tall icehouse towering over the small inner harbor, and crossed over to the open fish market. We reached the small stone bridge by the Fisherman’s Institute at the end of Newlyn Pier, where the Coombe River ran into the sea.

We leaned over and saw the swans and the seagulls dipping their heads into the refreshing, bubbling blend of fresh and saltwater.

Then we walked around the corner by the Austin and Morris Garage to the seafront, down the six smooth, worn granite steps, onto the beach.
The sky was bright blue, and the sun a shimmering yellow.
St. Michael’s Mount, way off in the distance, looked very majestic; its fairytale castle catching the late afternoon sun setting behind the Mousehole granite cliffs. The tide was out and the smooth, black and grey and white rocks were wet and shining in the late afternoon sun.

As the greeny-blue water lapped back and forth, herring gulls squawked and squabbled as they looked for food scraps.

We stepped over the pebbles, avoiding the slimy brown and yellow strips of seaweed, and found a nice dry spot.

“This’ll do,” said Dad. He reached in his pocket and brought out two of his OLD HOLBORN tobacco tins. “Here,” he said, giving me one, “take this treasure tin and fill it. Just wishing rocks, you know, like Grandpa’s; small ones, mind you.”
These pebbles were very, very special.   
With a broad smile and a knowing twinkle in his eye, he said,
“Bet I fill mine first.”

The competition was on. We walked along the seashore, stepping over the brown sticky seaweed, and we looked and we touched and we talked - and we collected.

The beach pebbles were so endearing, so collectable. There were thousands and thousands – all small, round, smooth, and all warmed by the late afternoon sun.

Soon my tin was full of wishing rocks (plus some heart-shaped pebbles that Mum really liked) that I wanted to take home to show Mum and Grandma. I so wanted to tell them I filled my tin before Dad filled his.

“Dad, Dad, my tin is full!” I shouted.

“OK,” said Dad, with the biggest smile, “you win. Keep the tin, you hear? Don’t lose it. Go and find one more real good wishing rock. C’mon, send your ma a wish ‘fore we go. ”

I looked around and soon spotted another small  beautiful black and white wishing rock.

I picked it up and rested it comfortably in the palm of my hand. I slowly wrapped my fingers around it and squeezed really tight.  When my fingers warmed the pebble, I closed my eyes and sent a really special loving wish to my mum and dad.

Hey,” said my dad, when I opened my eyes, “did you just send me a wish? Me as well as your Mum? I felt it, you know, a warm tickle right down my back.”

Wow! I thought. It really works! Wishing rocks are brill! And, knowing that, really lit a fire in my head.

Smiling, I put my wishing rock into what Mum called my treasure tin, a small red OXO tin that I always carried in my pocket.

Then, I spotted something different. There, lying with all the black, grey and white smooth pebbles, was a bright yellow object. It didn’t look like any of the other sea-worn rocks. It stared up at me, wanting badly, I felt, to be picked up, wanting to be touched and admired. I bent over, picked it up and held it in the palm of my hand. I ran over to Dad.

Even though I thought he knew everything about nature, I was really surprised that Dad didn’t know what I had found.

    “Take it home and show your mum. She’ll know what it is. She knows everything!”

     We left the beach, walked up Paul Hill, and when we reached #17, Trevarveneth Crescent, I skipped up the back garden path, pushed opened the glass door, and ran straight into the kitchen.

   Mum and Grandma were standing by the white enameled cooker, waiting for the kettle to boil.

    “Mum, Mum, Grandma, I beat Dad. Filled my dad’s tin first with wishing rocks, like Granddad’s. Look, see what I found. They’re brilliant. Look inside my OXO tin.”
    I took out my OXO treasure tin and showed them the small but beautiful wishing rock  I’d collected on the beach.

   “And, now, look at this,” I said, with a beaming smile. I knew then by the look on Mum’s and Grandma’s faces that the yellow rock I had found was special.

    Mum smiled at me. “You sent me a wish, didn’t you? I felt it run down my back!”

Wow! I thought. Those wishing rocks really do work!

I showed Mum the yellow rock. Again, I was so surprised when she didn’t know what it  was. I really thought my mum knew everything!

 Grandma didn’t know either. “Take it to school tomorrow and show your teacher,” said Mum. “Miss Harvey will know. She knows everything.”

“She sure does,” said my dad, “she’s a teacher!”

Not wanting to scratch it, I wrapped the yellow stone up in my white hanky and put it in my treasure tin.

At the end of my birthday tea, we stroked Grandpa’s rock and sent him a wish.
Then it was bedtime.

As I dressed for school the next morning, I put my treasure tin in my pocket to take to school to show my teacher, Miss Harvey.

Even before all the boys sat in their seats, I was standing by Miss Harvey’s tall wooden desk, the OXO treasure tin in my hand, spluttering,
Miss Harvey, Miss Harvey, see what I found. I found it on the beach, after school yesterday. Went there with my dad. You know, when the tide was out, when you can see what the waves brought in.”

As Miss Harvey looked inside my treasure tin, her eyes widened. It wasn’t, apparently, a rock at all. She said it was ancient fossilized tree resin, and said it was called amber. Miss Harvey knew amber was millions of years old and began its life inside a tree.

Resin? Fossilized? Amber? Ancient? What beautiful words, I thought. But…..whatever did they mean?

Miss Harvey held my golden amber in her hand, smiled, looked down at me through her wire glasses that balanced on the end of her sharp nose, and said loudly, so everyone in class could hear, “THIS is amber…’s fossil tree sap………it’s been washed ashore after a long, long trip in the sea. Johnny Paull found it.”

Miss Harvey handed the amber back to me and then wrote the word A M B E R on the board. She told us the meaning of the word fossil.

Show your amber to everyone, Johnny Paull, pass it around.” Miss Harvey said.
Share it – that’s what scientists do. And, Johnny Paull, you’re a real scientist!”
What’s a scientist? I wondered. Is that something dead good? It certainly sounded good. I turned a little red as I faced everyone in the room. As I held out my hand and showed the class, everyone stopped chattering. They were curious and wanted to see what I had found.

Miss Harvey came and stood next to me and, with a broad smile, said, very   emphatically so that everyone could hear,

 ”Keep it, Johnny Paull. The amber. Keep it safe. And that wishing rock. They’re  wonderful. You’re so lucky. Keep them. Keep them in your OXO tin - your treasure tin, sorry - and save them.  Save them forever.”

My head glowed. It was on fire. I was a scientistwhatever that meant!

At the end of the afternoon, I rushed out of the classroom. Grandma was waiting for me. “Well, did you have a good day, Johnny?” she asked. “Did Miss Harvey know what you found yesterday?”

“She did, she did, “ I replied, “It’s amber, a fossil, and, Grandma, Miss Harvey said I was  a scientist!”  
Then I added, “ What’s that, Grandma, a scientist?”

Grandma smiled.

“You are a scientist, my lad, ‘cos you’re always asking questions about what you see and find around you. That’s just what scientists do!”

That was it. I was hooked.  I WAS a scientist!

I’ve been a scientist - and a treasure tin collector - ever since, thanks to my Grandma, my Mum and Dad, and my teacher, Miss Harvey.

John Paull