Third Grade Field Trip · 8 June 2007
Each year, all the third graders in the Monroe School District are treated to quite the field trip. They go to a wetlands area. This year, I got to go with my third grader, Peter. It was a great experience and I learned lots more than why we need to preserve our wetlands. I had a great time and I was reminded why taking days off to be with my kids is so valuable.
The wetlands field trip was not led exclusively by teachers but almost entirely by a bunch of students who are part of the Environmental Science School. The Environmental Science School is part of the Sky Valley Education Center, an alternative school in Monroe. The sixth through tenth graders from the Environmental Science School led the third graders through a series of nine stations which showed different aspects of the wetlands.
It was great to see these young Environmental Science students leading science experiments and demonstrations, giving tours like docents at a living museum, and for the most part thoroughly enjoying themselves and the eager young third graders who were their students for the day. Most of these young teachers showed enthusiasm and poise during the part of the day when we were at their stations. At one station in particular, our group of three adults and about thirteen students was treated to a rare display of showmanship and poise from a young man who was showing us what happens when oil, antifreeze, and other pollutants are dumped onto the ground. He was abandoned by his teammates for much of the presentation and yet explained to his audience how all those chemicals end up in the watershed of the region when it rains. While I was impressed with his knowledge, I was even more impressed with his composure.
Most of the other teams of Environmental students also conducted their presentations and demonstrations with great enthusiasm and confidence. The third graders were in turn enthused by their young mentors. It was fun to watch my son, his three classmates, and the rest of our group taking part in walking through water, watching birds (even though most of the birds they saw through their binoculars were pictures hung on trees), identifying plants, determining pH, making casts of animal feet, and just getting from station to station. It was encouraging to see the students participating in a positive way with their older counterparts and soaking up information by having fun. I am not sure that the third graders will remember that wetlands are a large water filter or that they are a habitat for many animals. I am not sure that they even will remember that wetlands are important and that they, like the Environmental Science students, can make a difference in preserving not just our wetlands but our whole ecosystem. But I am sure that they will remember the students who led them and the fun that they had while in a large natural wetlands area.
I am not sure that I will remember lots about the wetlands and their importance to not only our region but to the entire ecosystem we call Earth. I am sure that I will continue to put gasoline into my vehicle that I drive to and from work everyday. I am sure that I will forget much of the wetlands when I am going about my everyday life. But I will remember the look of joy on my son’s face just because we were somewhere together. We got to do something without either of his brothers or his mom. There were others there but we got to look at animal skins and skeletons and we got to traipse around in the water of the wetlands. We got to have a sack lunch and spend time together. Okay. Maybe he did not have a look of joy because of the time we spent together, but I did.
As important as the wetlands are to our region and our environment, I learned much more than just an appreciation of what the wetlands are and what they do. I learned about a segment of the Monroe education community that I did not know existed. I saw real learning taking place. Most importantly, I remembered that I need to take time from my busy schedule and give some of it back to my family and my community. I may not go to the wetlands when our youngest son gets to third grade but I am thankful that Peter let me go with him on his field trip. I hope he enjoyed our time together as much as I did.
© 2007 Michael T. Miyoshi
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Published 03 July 2007 in The Monroe Monitor & Valley News
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