Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Field Trip

A couple-three weeks ago I got a phone call. The caller ID said it was from my friend Hannah*, but when I answered I heard was a little voice saying, "Hi, this is Letty.* Will you come to a field trip at my school?"

Somewhat mystified, I asked her to put her mother on. Hannah* explained that Letty's* kindergarten class was making a fall excursion to a large nursery, but she's back to work full time so she couldn't be a parent-chaperone. Letty* was extremely disappointed; would I mind going along as an adopted aunt?

I would be honored, I said.

And today was the big day.
I arrived at the school by 8:30 AM and was sequestered in the library with the other chaperones until the kindergarten teachers had their charges in hand. When I came to the door of Letty's* classroom, I found that she and I were going to lead the dance. She was waiting expectantly at the front of the line, along with two other five-year-old's who would also be in my care. "Letty*, Buster*, and Rosalind*, you're all going with Letty's* aunt," the teacher announced, and I resolved to do my best not to be an "aunt" with quotation marks.

My little flock and I ended up in the back of one of the busses. When staring out the back window flags, you can get miles of entertainment out of your "aunt's" digital camera, especially when she lets you use it.

Even before we set out I was disabused of the notion that this trip was to be a five-year-olds' fall frolic, all about pumpkin carving and hay rides and corn mazes. No, the venture was educational: The pupils were to learn about apples and cider making.

I have to wonder a little what the kids made of it. They were all very well-behaved and attentive, considering their age, especially. They raised their hands and volunteered answers and showed their cheerful intelligence. But due to the size of the classes, the children were broken up into smaller groups and taken off the various points as they were available.

Thus our group saw the cidermaking equipment before they'd learned about apples, apple picking, apple sorting, or apple storing. More awkwardly, the cider mill wasn't actually going today. So as we stood in the room with the pulper and presser and so on (we chaperones a discreet distance to the side), the orchard worker wrangled a TV into place and showed the kids the process on a video! At least it was awkward to me. The kids, it didn't seem to faze. When we moved on to the shed to learn about apples, the worker there asked, "Did you see the cider mill? Were the machines going?" Oh, yes, the children assured her, they had! And maybe for a lot of modern children, seeing something virtually on TV is as good as seeing it in real life!

My three charges continued to behave themselves, considering, though Rosalind* just had to poke at the weird pumpkins and gourds they showed us, and I had to exert myself to keep all three of them together. I was haunted by one teacher's saying "We haven't lost a child on one of these trips, yet." No way were they starting with me!

The nursery-orchard is situated in a very hilly spot, and to reach the various storehouses and sheds you had to walk up or down short ramps or slopes. More than once, Letty*, holding my hand, complained, "This is really steep! My legs are tired!"

"Well, you should get more exercise," I told her.

"That's silly!" she retorted. "I'm a little kid! I don't have an exercise coach!"
At last, in the picnic pavilion, the children (and we chaperones) were given samples of the apple varieties the orchard grows. The kids received and ate them eagerly-- except for this one boy at Letty's* table who sat staring at his apple slices as if he were waiting for them to transform into robots or race cars or at least a Snickers bar.

After lunch, there was time for play in the miniature frontier village and a visit to the petting stable. The consensus in my little crew was that it'd be a fine thing to have a goat-- always assuming the goat wouldn't eat them.
By noon all the children were collected and on the busses and heading back over hill and dale to the school. A lot of little spines and legs seemed to have turned to spaghetti over the morning, for somehow the kids just couldn't help sliding off their seats. I chaperoned with the best of them: "Sit up, please!" and "Sit down properly before you get hurt!" and if any kindergartners remained as pools of protoplasm on the floor of the bus when we got back, it wasn't from my lack of vigilance.

Hannah* called me this evening to find out how it went. She said, "I asked Letty* if she'd had a good time, and she just said 'Yeah.'" Next time we're all together I'll have to prime the kid a bit, and see if she can tell her mom what's the difference between a bruised apple and a rotten one, and what it means if your apple is calling for sunburn salve!

1 comment:

blackdiamond06 said...

That sounds so wonderful. Sometimes, (as a wife and college student), I yearn for the more innocent days.