Remember those elementary school field trips you used to take? You probably either loved them or hated them, there really is no in between. Ah field trips — a chance to take a break from the usual school routine, see a piece of the world you might not otherwise get to see, and learn in a whole new way. I remember going to places like the aquarium, the Thomas Edison Museum and the Museum of Natural History. I’ve also accompanied my children on many MANY school field trips over the years and here are some reflections about those precious experiences.
I accompanied my daughter’s first grade class to a local museum to see an exhibit of original art by Marc Brown, the creator of the Arthur children’s book series. The young woman leading our group, Heather, began by announcing the rules: “Don’t touch the artwork, don’t touch the walls, and DON’T SIT DOWN.” For the next two hours, Heather lectured the bored squirmy first graders and became increasingly belligerent about her enforcement of the rules, finally shouting, “HEY, I DON’T GET TO SIT DOWN, SO NEITHER DO YOU!” The children undoubtedly learned that museums are boring inhospitable places. The lesson I took away is that Heather does not have a future in customer service.
Then there was a trip to a major port on the Mississippi River with a group of 3rd graders. The tour started outside with a view of huge barges loaded with cargo, traveling down the mighty Mississippi, then took us into a dimly lit warehouse of massive proportions. It was stacked 2-3 stories high with identical boxes. Our guide explained that this port was the main entry into the country for the vital contents of these boxes, used by every household in America. Yes, here before us was nothing less than the Mount Everest of toilet paper. Awe-inspiring. (Why, I wonder, did they not tap this precious resource to help clean up the BP oil spill last year?)
Also memorable was the trip to the global wildlife center with a kindergarten class. It’s one of those places where animals of all kinds roam free, with visitors riding through on open trams. The trip begins with each child getting a cup full of animal feed. The tram stops periodically to allow the kids to feed the giraffes, the cattle and all sorts of other animals. We were cautioned to be careful when feeding the zebras because they bite and to please not feed the geese, which used to migrate in and out of the center, but are now full-time residents because they had gotten so fat they could no longer fly. At the first stop, a mob of obese geese surrounded the tram, crowding larger animals out of the way, while the kindergarteners dumped the contents of their animal food cups on the heads of the geese. Lesson learned: fat geese can’t fly.