Friday, March 23, 2012


Yesterday, as the culminating activity for a unit on ecosystems,  the entire fourth grade went to the Museum of Nature and Science. I teach in an urban area and many of my kids had never been to the museum before. We had an absolutely wonderful day exploring ecosystems, experimenting with the hands-on activities in the Solar System exhibit, picnicking in the park, and riding escalators. 

As a teacher in an urban setting, these trips are always kind of bittersweet. I love, love, love taking them places and exposing them to experiences they have never had. At the same time, I'm always sad that the experiences so many kids take for granted are such a treat for my babies… Here are a series of vignettes from our day…

"At the museum"

As the docent manipulates
the model of the solar system,
Alex whispers a question,
"Why do you think
Jupiter is so hot
When it's farther from the sun than Earth?"
I actually am not even sure
That Jupiter really is hotter than Earth.
"I'm gonna ask him," whispers Alex.
When the presentation is over
he approaches the elderly gentleman.
Balding gray head and gel-spiked black
Bend over the model.
A few minutes later,
my junior scientist returns.
"it's because of the internal pressure,"
he says knowingly.

Sweet shy M,
drags me across the room
"Look, Miss Wilcox,
Feel this.
This is what a deer's antlers feel like."
Holds up deer ears.
"Look, Miss Wilcox,
Try these.
This is what it sounds like to be a deer."
Rubs my fingers
across a deer's summer coat.
Then the winter one. "Feel this.
Miss Wilcox, can you feel it?
This one is thicker. It's for winter."

I lose Maria
in the Arctic exhibit
I find her 
kneeling in front of 
a polar bear exhibit
completely engrossed
in copying facts 
 onto index cards.
"I need these for
my ecosystem powerpoint,"
she says, 
when I ask her what she is doing

At the snake and lizard exhibit.
My kids marvel over
a red spitting cobra,
an enormous python,
a bumpy skinned iguana
We see sixty kinds of snakes and lizards
 wait in a long line for gecko bracelets. 
Assemble a snake skeleton.
Stand in front of a green screen
to have our pictures taken
wrestling a cobra.

Finally, Darius leads the way as we mount the stairs,
To the third floor atrium
An all glass wall
Panoramic view of the lake at City Park.
Collected intake of breath,
"I never knew 
there was anything 
this beautiful,"
says Alijah-na.
We stand there a long time
maybe 15 minutes
before I must break the spell
and herd my students
back onto the bus
to their reality. 


Donna Smith said...

I love how you wrote this. Isn't it great how these places can so grasp a child's interest, but they would never know they existed if they stayed in their electronic world. No one else is taking them. Your students are so full of curiosity and wonder, as they should be. Hope they can keep it for ever! You've made a good start of it.

Michelle said...

Perfect moments captured! Maybe you'll share the little slices with your students? How proud you must be! It is amazing taking kids to places they have never experienced - places as you said that we take for granted. I loved, loved, loved the last stanza. The waiting, the watching, the wondering and then back to reality. But think about the impact of this day? Wow!

Tara @ A Teaching Life said...

"I never knew 
there was anything 
this beautiful,"
says Alijah-na.
I just loved everything about this post - the structure, the vivid details with which you took us there...and the way you shared the wonder and love with your kids. Awesome!

Mary Lee said...

I am remembering my first field trip ever -- with fourth graders to the brand new Dallas Museum of Art. And with no parent chaperones. Because I didn't know any better. And as it turns out, I didn't need them.