Would you Adam and Eve it

A new term, a new class of eight-year-olds. I wish Gillian Shephard could be a fly on my classroom wall. If she and the chief inspector of schools, Chris Woodhead, are concerned about falling standards in primary schools and that reading skills are not what they used to be, they should come and hear my pupils' questions.

I started the term with the Creation. We moved to the sixth day and to the creation of Adam and Eve. I told the children that not everyone believed the story in Genesis to be true, but some Creationists believe the account wholeheartedly.

I opened the floodgates of "awe". I read the account from the Good News Bible and the Children's Bible. I have a good grasp (I thought) of the Bible, my father being a lay preacher, but no planning could have prepared me for what followed.

The questions started with Adam and Eve: "Were Adam and Eve ever children and why did God create them as adults?" "How could they know what children were when Eve had her own child?" Difficult ones these; I struggled with the old answer that no one could look after the first babies so they had to start off as adults. But they didn't seem satisfied with this.

The snake brought the next batch of enquiries: "How did the snake talk?" "How was it bad if everything in the Garden was good?" "Why did God choose the snake?" I realised that my acceptance of the Genesis story was too simplistic. I had never thought too much about these questions. It's even more amazing when you think you're talking to Nineties' video-watching, computer-punching eight-year-olds.

Next came the banishment from the Garden of Eden. This brought the most debate: "Would Adam and Eve be eaten by wild animals if they were sent out of the Garden?" "Where did they go and who looked after the Garden when they had gone?" "Is the Garden of Eden still wonderful today?" And so on.

Ploughing through my national curriculum document, I found an appropriate attainment target and level: English AT1, speaking and listening. I would put these children on level 4: "Their talk is adapted to the purpose, developing ideas thoughtfully, describing events and conveying their opinions clearly. In discussion, they listen carefully, making contributions and asking questions that are responsive to others' ideas and views." But you had to be there.

I can't measure the questions in a standardised test. Pupils with the most interesting questions cannot express themselves well in the written form. But this is real education, not a table of numbers on a statistic.

This week we went on to Noah's Ark. You can imagine. I'll leave you with this thought from one bright-eyed eight-year-old: "How could there have been a Bengal tiger and a polar bear, both in the Ark? Wouldn't they have needed different temperatures?" Well, what do you think?

Jacqueline Wilkinson teaches at Niton County Primary School on the Isle of Wight

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