I'm not a grumpy mom, honest. I tend to think of myself as a fun mom, who likes to try and catch bugs, who spends time outdoors, who takes her kids for "hikes". I just wanted to say that, so the following post doesn't...Well...Seem like it is all about me. 'Cause it really is not.
Harry's first grade class had it's field trip to the Ogden nature center. Do you know this place? Probably not if you aren't from around here. I visited this place when I was in elementary school, and it was really cool. They showed us animals, they had us do fun craft like things, and they took us out and around the grounds to see what we could see. Granted, that was something like 20 years ago, but still, I have fond memories of the place.
I didn't think I'd be able to volunteer. I mean, Chilly isn't allowed (no preschoolers should have been the first sign), so I'd have to find a babysitter for who-knows-how-long during a school day. So I put down that I WOULDN'T"T be able to attend, and sent back Harry's signed permission slip. This was about 2 weeks ago.
Fast forward to yesterday. I picked up Harry from school, and he asked me if I was going on the trip. I told him "no, I have to stay home with Chilly", he asked "well then daddy will be there!" I told him that daddy has to work, like most people, on Thursday, and that he wouldn't be able to go. And then Harry burst into tears. He mumbled something about having to stay home then. What?
So the first item on my list is...
1. Don't tell 1st graders that they have to stay with their parents during the field trip. This can easily be construed as "if you parent comes, then you can too", thus upsetting the child who's parents are not actually going.
So after trying to calm down Harry, I made a call. To my mom. She stays home, usually, and maybe she could watch the three year old, while I went to the nature center. Called, done, cool!
So off we go, the next day to school. I've got a lunch packed for both of us, seeing that I wasn't going to pay for a field trip school lunch. I remember them. I still have nightmares. Anyway, back to the story. We are at Harry's classroom, when I realize that for 25 kids, there are about 7 or 8 mom volunteers. I thought that was pretty good odds. Only one had tried to buck the system and had brought her 18 month old terror...er, I mean kid. And then I notice that I am the only parent with 5 kids to my name (that I am responsible for) while the other parents have like 2-3. What?
2. Don't let the pregnant, hormonal woman, be in charge of more than 2 kids unless they are angels.
These kids were not. I could tell. They were the kind of boys that I don't let my boy play with. Not because they teach him bad words, but because they know how to build dynamite. You know this kid. You might have one. If you do, I'm sorry. But I suck it up. I'll be okay.
So off we head to the bus. Man, it has been a long time I have ridden a school bus. I figured about the time I want to go into actual labor, I find a class going on a field trip and bounce along with. Seriously. I don't get car sick, but for some reason, I got bus sick.
3. Don't heat the bus to 110 degrees when you have 75 first graders aboard. They don't' like it, and neither do the moms.
We arrive to the nature center about the time my bladder, and the rest of my organs had finally settled somewhere in my furthest of nethers. And then we walked. It was a cool little path with interesting bird houses. Fun, some were really cool. And we arrive at a really neat building where the kids were ushered onto a rug and told to sit still while they talked to them for about 45 minutes.
4. When you have 75-80 first graders crammed into a classroom with interesting things, don't talk to them about seeds. They don't care. They want to see animals, they want to walk around and look at the snake and the tarantula. They will not sit still for your entire presentation, especially when you toss around words like "field ecology" explaining the specific definition of the words, broken into Latin.
After that we learn about prey and predators, and although my Harry (yes, I am bragging here) knows these terms well having independently studied dinosaurs for years now, understood the terminology, and the skull specifics for each. Most of the kids couldn't hear, didn't care.
5. Bones are cool and all, but let the kids touch them. Or find ones that they can. And when explaining something way over their head, like ocular chambers, don't stay silent until and answer comes up, otherwise we will be there all day, listening to really odd responses.
And then it was off to the wide open field, where they played predator and prey by camouflaging themselves and hiding. Which takes me right into..
6. Letting first graders run and hide could prove disasterous. You know, they might not want to be found later.
And then we go to a kid size mouse hole. Or a tunnel that someone dug. And the kids got to crawl through. Did I mention it was dug in loose dirt? Did I mention it was kid size? Most of the kids came out looking like they had belly slid down a hill of dusty dirt. The kids loved it, basically because they got dirtier than most mothers would allow.
And then off to the classroom where they got 4 minutes to see the snake, and the turtle, and the tarantula. And then off to catch bugs.
Another open field. A bunch of nets. hmmm
7. When working with children and nets, just think of anything else they can use them for, and they will., especially if it involves something like building dynamite. Okay not really. Most of the kids just got a good bonk on the head.
So the catch of the day, a squished grasshopper. Wow. And off trudging back to get our backpacks and off to lunch.
Remember the frustration of the morning trying to make sure that everyone got a lunch. Well apparently we missed one, and one little girl didn't have a lunch. At all. I saw that she wasn't eating, and I caught the teachers eye. We sort of made a lunch for this little girl out of my meager pb&j, and the diabetic teachers lunchable.
8. Don't take the child's word when they tell you they each have a lunch, check each backpack for proof that they have something to eat while away from a food source during a meal time.
After our lunch, the teachers had plenty of time. I guess. The kids were running wild, and the teachers were looking back and forth at each other, wondering what was next. How about a walk? So the kids line up, and off we go. We trudge through brush and weeds, they almost got knocked over by a rabid deer. We hiked through thistles and briars, over gigantic grasshoppers, and rickety bridges. It was about a mile. Honest. And at the end of our one way trip was...ta da...A tower of stairs so they could look over the field. The kids loved it. The teacher were a little concerned about liability of someone being pushed off. Oh and then...
9. When with children, prudence tells us to have restrooms accessible at least ever hour or so.
Just imagine about 75 1st graders all holding themselves walking the mile back over rickety bridges and grasshoppers the size of my neighbors dog. A few of the boys excused themselves while they disappeared into the brushes. But I was concerned, having seen the rabid deer out for blood. So the mile hike back to the place that had a bathroom, and bathroom breaks for all 75 kids, took about 10.5 hours. Well, it honestly felt that way. Especially since...
10. Make sure the field trip location doesn't plan on watering the weeds during a time that you will be needing the area as a rest stop.
Now I do want you to remember that the distance these kids had all walked from destination to destination was easily 3 miles! They were tired. As we finally said goodbye and trudged past the bird houses, back to the bus, the kids were exhausted. And we all know how happy exhausted kids are. Back on the bus, and back with our internal organs bruising themselves on our pubic and rib bones. Back to school we go. We made it back, only to find the classroom locked, and the teacher tardy.
So see, I have a reason to be tired. A reason to be grumpy. It isn't that I am not a fun mom, but C'mon, a field trip like this could easily wear out the toughest of moms.
Of course the best part of the day was when Harry, getting ready for bed, told his daddy about all the cool stuff he had learned that day, and about how much fun he had. And he gave me an extra big hug telling me thanks for coming with him.
11. Children might get board, tired, and sick of the field trip, but ultimately, they really do learn. And it really is worth it.