Saturday, June 6, 2009
On Thursday, I chaperoned my daughter's field trip to one of those colonial villages where people walk around dressed like colonists and we carry a list of 156 detailed questions (euphemistically termed "a scavenger hunt") to be answered in one hour and fifty three minutes. Aside from the fact that history always reminds me that I am glad I live in the present, here is what I learned:
1. We do not live in South Jersey like everyone says. If we live in South Jersey, we live in the northern regions of it because Cape May and its ferry are a long bus ride away. It is twice as long on the way home after the purchase of harmonicas, pop guns, and shrill trainstop whistles. I mean, really, did colonists have trains? Wasn't that more around Lincoln's time? I thought they were big on horses.
2.A bus load of ten year olds, a warmly humid day and the odor of warming milk create symptoms of panic in me.
3.Somebody will get freaked out by the muskets, graves, and villages of cobwebs spun in the rafters. Unfortunately, on this trip, it was me. I even started wondering if the people dressed up as printers and book binders weren't reincarnations of old souls. After that thought, I told the kids it was time to break for lunch.
4. Fifth graders function under watchful eyes in much the same manner as prisoners do. They have their own hierarchy of power, a complicated bartering system, and they communicate silently via their DS's.
5. My daughter has no respect for assumed authority. I was standing there in the drizzle, frantically trying to answer the questions on the scavenger hunt when she said to me,"Mom, just put it down. They never check that stuff. They just put it in the recycle bin."
6. There is always one "career" mother on the trip who spends the entire time texting or consulting her Blackberry while her group scatters into the roped off areas and goes to feed the ducks despite all the warning signs NOT to feed them. Their freedom causes mighty dissension in the more attended groups.
7. My daughter and I have totally different perspectives about field trips. On the way back, I kept asking her and her friends questions about what she had learned.
"Moooommmm," she groaned, "we like field trips because we don't have to do any work." Her fellow inmates cheered this statement.
I do wonder if kids learn anything during these pricey excursions. Maybe I just don't see what they are learning, but I do know the most excitement was conjured during our time in the gift shop. (My daughter spent her entire allotment on colonial candy)
I think history is hard to get across; I couldn't abide it in school. I learned history by reading novels set during certain time periods. I still can't think of the Civil War without thinking of Scarlett, Melanie and the red soil of Tara. So how do you teach kids history without force feeding them?