The things that cause me the most stress in a week at school are oftentimes the things that I bring upon myself. Taking 54 students to the River Rouge requires extreme preparation and organization which happens before, during and after school. Physical testing bins have to be loaded with oranges, flags, tape measures, timers, thermometers, and meter sticks. Chemical testing bins have to be loaded with the correct testing tabs for phosphates, nitrates, pH, Dissolved Oxygen, Fecal Coliform, and B.O.D. Color charts, timers, thermometers, goggles, vials, foil, gloves, and distilled water are all required to conduct the tests. Benthic testing bins need trays, tweezers, magnifying glasses, identification charts, spoons, gloves, ice cubes trays and nets. On top of that add 12 tarps and 15 pairs of waders , it makes for quite a haul .Not to mention organizing the 54 kids into groups, training them to conduct the tests and complete the paperwork, transporting them there and back, all the time ensuring they are safe both in and out of the water. Why do I do it? These photographs answer that question.
Taking students outside of the classroom brings joy to both me and the kids. I’ve never seen them happier than when they catch a crayfish or spot a snapping turtle. Chemical testing in the classroom is nowhere as much fun as it is on a riverbank when testing water you have just scooped straight out of the river yourself. And measuring the speed of an orange as it bobbles in the current towards you as you’re standing in the middle of a river -well you just can’t recreate that in a classroom can you?
And two field trips on consecutive days what was I thinking? Friday was the culminating field trip for a unit about sustainability. Students have been studying how local businesses fulfill the needs and wants of the community and how they can be more sustainable. On Friday afternoon we dressed up as eco-clowns and descended upon downtown Birmingham armed with brochures, flyers, cameras, Flipcams, clipboards and Larry ( the Trash Free Friday mascot ) ready to educate and inform the local business community. As I walked into a local beauty salon cold, with five students with green hair and clown wigs I had a moment of complete confusion about what I was doing. As soon as my students began to speak it became clear. Despite their own nerves, they were so articulate about their learning and were true ambassadors for their school and class. When they were turned away they thanked people for their time, picked themselves up and headed into the next business with just as much enthusiasm as before. Fifty four students managed to hand out over one hundred brochures and post ninety flyers in windows about their project. By the time I got home I had already received an email from one of the businesses requesting a spot on our honor roll. Why do I do it? Because on Friday afternoon my kids made a real difference in their community and had a great time doing it.
At the beginning of this post I said I didn’t know how I do it. That’s not true. I manage to do these crazy wonderful things because I don’t do it alone. I am fortunate to be surrounded by people who are equally as passionate about kids having authentic learning experiences as I am. My amazing Skype partners in Vancouver, Monica Noakes and Natalia Russo, are patient and persistent as we struggle with technological issues. They are tolerant when I go missing in action for a few days and they understand that sometimes learning is messy. My science team mate , Tammy Brown, is an organizational whizz kid and is right there by my side before and after school loading bins, folding tarps, counting oranges and checking that I don’t forget anything , thereby ensuring the success of my Rouge trip. My partner in crime, Rick Joseph, is flexible and open to any outrageous suggestion I make. He is the yin to my yang and always has my back, covering my weaknesses and playing to my strengths. Most importantly I have a truly outstanding parent population. There is absolutely no way I could make these experiences happen for my kids without their support. They unfailingly volunteer to join us no matter what the request, taking time out of their busy schedules to support us, contributing immensely to their children’s education. Thank you all for not only helping me do my job, but for helping me love my job.