At Sunflower we have an old metal groundwater pump. The pump is attached to a large bin which, when filled, can spout water when hand pumped. Unfortunately somehow over the summer our pump broke and has sat unused.

Luckily our Jack-of-all-Trades father, Haidor, recently fixed up the old pump.

Immediately there was a new interest in the pump. Seedlings were busy filling the bin with the hose and pumping the hand crank up and down, staring down the hole waiting for the water to come.

For some of our younger Seedlings this can be a futile and frustrating process. In order for the pump to work it must be primed. Water must be poured down the spout simultaneously to the crank being pumped. For a three year old who has never used a hand pump this is quite a challenge. First the child must understand that the pump needs priming, less the efforts will be in vain. No water will come up the pump and often they will give up. Every now and then a more persistent child will try other ways to get the water to come out. Usually this results in the pump needing to be cleaned out of wood-chips and sand later.

Sometimes an older and more experienced Seedling will see a younger one struggling to work the pump and go to help. Most times the effort to prime the pump is at least a two person effort. The amount of water needed is fairly substantial and therefore pretty heavy. The pumping needed to get the water flowing is also strenuous. The result of a combined effort is a stream of flowing water. Usually the role of pumper and pourer switches between multiple children, and the pump gets quite a bit of action.


While the children learn to prime the pump, we search for ways to prime the children. We see value in explorative, tenacious learners. The pump rewards cooperation and hard work with a flow of water. The pump also builds an experiential base for more advanced learning later in life. A child who played with pumps will have an easier time grasping the science that makes the pump work. Young children are unaware that the Bernoulli Equation, and Newton’s Second Law of Motion govern how the water moves from the bin to the pump and out the spout. But, before these children graduate high school they will be expected to understand these basic, scientific concepts.

We hope for our Seedlings to cross the bridge on their educational journey armed with a broad base of natural experiences. Young ones must learn to prime the pump before they can make it work. We want to prime their souls with the wonder and beauty of science, and help instill the tenacity of a life-long learner.

© Jonathan Iris-Wilbanks and Sunflower Creative Arts, 2012
Photo © Haidor Truu and Sunflower Creative Arts, 2012