Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Our First Picnic

My students and I hit a rough patch after Spring Break. They had decided that the year was over. Common knowledge and the ability to read a calendar states very clearly that it is not. So, we were at an impass. Yesterday, however, they managed to squirm their way back into my heart (ok, they never really left there) and my good graces and it was all due to the magic of the FIELD TRIP.

I've said it before and I'll say it again, I love pretty much any opportunity to get our students out of the classroom and into the real world to learn and experience things in context. I was, of course, nervous about this particular field trip because we were going to a place that I myself would not particularly classify as a good time. But I came armed with an engaging activity, a positive attitude, and the most amazing weather you could ask for. The scene was set for a good day.

During the trip, students were appropriately excited and enthralled by the artifacts they were exposed to and the freedom of simply walking around in the fresh air. As in so many of my experiences on field trips, my students seemed to delight in the most simple pleasures. I couldn't help but feel their carefree energy in my own heart. This was never more poignant for me than when we sat down to have lunch. The students had to eat outside and I worried that I would get an attitude from them about bugs and dirt. Instead, we sat down, started to unpack our lunches and one fifth grade boy plopped down, wiggled his feet back and forth a few time to test the freedom of it, and grinning through his sandwich, pronounced that it was the first time that he had ever had a picnic outside before.

Other students joined him with a chorus of "Yeah, this is nice." and "I like it out here!" The lunch continued with the passing and sharing of food (it's a cultural thing) and amicable conversation. I was accepted and joined in freely as they covered a number of topics candidly (my favorite of which may quit possibly be the serious debate about when both boys and girls would grow hair under their arms and if it would be socially acceptable for the boys to shave it should they find it unappealing.)

In short, my students maximized their experience in all of the little ways that, of course, I have often taken for granted. It changed my entire outlook as well. In fact, it wasn't until I got home many hours later that I realized I had a sunburn and the shoes that I wore rubbed a layer off the bottom of my feet. You tend not to notice things like that when you're in the moment and I love my students for reminding me of that and being the ones responsible for putting me in the moment. Some of the best lessons I've ever learned I learned from students.

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