You never know what will light a fire under a kid.
When they finally caught a crayfish in the Fox River last Friday morning, the boys in one of my rotations cheered.
“I’m pumped,” Brendan said, as they worked together to gently place the crayfish into their specimen tray. “I’m motivated. All right guys, let’s go,” he added, as they ventured back into the river to search for more crayfish and “BMI” (benthic microinvertebrates).
Brendan wasn’t the only seventh-grader from Rotolo Middle School in Batavia who was hooked. Will was, too.
“This is intense. Now I want to do this on my own time,” he volunteered, as the boys decided where the net should be positioned in order for more organisms to be collected and studied.
His own time! Did you hear that? Will said he wants to do this wade-into-the-river-and-see-what-you-can-see-and-feel and-find thing on his own time.
Wowee wow wow!
And Brendan said that he was “motivated” by this experience.
This field trip to Glenwood Park, where Rotolo students got to study the river and its inhabitants, really inspired these kids. Seeing and sensing this excitement is why I will never tire of chaperoning. And this particular trip, of all of the school field trips for which I’ve been fortunate enough to tag along, is easily the one that yields the most “aha!” moments, in my humble opinion. Besides wading into the river to find and identify various critters, the students participated in four other activities that morning, too, including a water chemistry lab, leaf identification, a team-building exercise and a “trust walk.” There’s just something magical about standing knee-deep in the river with a bunch of kids as the warm sun peeks through the trees and they make these discoveries, about the river and themselves. Makes me want to get back to the river on my own time, too.
I’m lucky I got to go on this trip at all.
You may recall that a few years ago, when it was Noah’s turn to go on this particular field trip with Ms. Buckley (one of my kids’ favorite, truly-stoked-about-science-and-kids teachers), that I was given strict instructions to stay home. Yes, Noah wanted to be a free agent that day. I totally get it. But this time was different.
“You can go if you want,” Holly casually volunteered a few weeks ago as she emptied the contents of her school backpack onto the kitchen island and came up with the green permission slip.
“I can?” I asked. I clapped my hands like a kid in a candy store.
And then I edited the permission slip.
“‘I’ have Holly’s permission to chaperone,” I wrote, after I crossed off a few words. Because, as you know if you’ve ever parented a middle-schooler, that’s how it is. And how it should be.
Then I borrowed a pair of rubber knee boots from my friend Lucy. She thought that perhaps the left one had a slight leak. She was right. But that didn’t dampen my enthusiasm.
“There’s nothing here,” one of the boys said, as he searched through a clump of river weeds that had drifted into our net.
“Nothing?” I replied, as I picked up a leech and then raked my hand through more river weeds. I couldn’t help but be reminded of that Dr. Seuss classic, the one about the young elephant with the huge heart with room for even the tiniest of creatures. I couldn’t remember the title, but Mikey came up with it.
“‘Horton Hears a Who!’” he said.
Yes, that’s it. What a beautiful story. One of the most beautiful ever told, I think.
Josh, a boy in one of my last groups, found a cool fossil on one of the rocks he found scattered along the shoreline. I’ve never seen such a big smile. I suspect this doesn’t apply to him, but some of these kids had never been encouraged to do such a thing. For many, it was their first time near, let alone in, a river. For some, it was a big step. I’ll never tire of watching a reluctant or anxious child’s face light up after being quietly encouraged to try something new.
As Dr. Seuss posited, in another one of his famous books of the same title, “Oh, the places you’ll go!” Who knows the places these kids will go, simply because they got a chance to get their feet wet? I get chills just thinking about it. The possibilities are endless.
• Jennifer DuBose lives in Batavia with her husband, Todd, and their two children, Noah and Holly. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.