End of year fun

As the year comes to a close, I thought everyone might enjoy a bit of light-hearted fun. Here, once again, are some of those more interesting comments from the students I teach.

During a program on soils, I passed out a piece of clay to each of the first graders. ?So, what do we usually do with clay?? I ask. A student in the front row was quick to answer: ?We eat it!"

In another program, third graders divide up into groups and role play a family: mother, father, older and younger children. One teacher not only chose the groups, but also announce the roles each student in each group would play. As we listened to the groans or laughter as some discovered who their ?spouse? was, one boy waited anxiously. ?I hope I am a kid,? he explained. ?I?m not ready to have a wife.?

At the conclusion of my Dino Dig program, I have kindergartners examine other fossils and guess what they are. Usually when I hold up a large snail shell, they answer ?seashell.? One student had a more unique answer to the question, what fossil do you think this is? She guessed ?bellybutton.?

In another kindergarten program, I review the differences between four vertebrate groups: mammals, birds, reptiles, and amphibians. I usually begin the program with adding that there is one more family with a backbone, but we aren?t discussing it today and that is fish. With this particular program, I had already covered the main differences and reached the part about intelligence. ?Which family,? I asked, ?is the smartest.? We examine brain size as a way to reach a conclusion, and, meaning to help, I asked them which family is the only one that has a member that goes to school? One five-year-old responds, ?Fish!?

One thing I have noted about early elementary is that they have a very limited perspective of where they live and how their location relates to other places. During a discussion about animals, the students had strayed off topic and mentioned jungle animals. Trying to bring them back, I interrupted and said I was speaking about Iowa animals. One chatty kindergartner informed me, ?I?ve been to Iowa.?

While the younger grades tend to be fun, I sometimes enjoy the older students more because I can see them thinking deeply about the implications of the topic at hand. Of course, that doesn?t always mean they form a logical conclusion. During a conclusion on pollution, one fifth grader came up with a rather interesting solution to get people to stop. ?It?s simple,? he says, ?They just need to develop solar energy from pig manure.?

Of course, getting kids outside is my main goal. Often with elementary school hikes, I try to spark their interest with a subject close to home: food. As we walk, I search for a variety of wild edibles. Naturally, tastes differ and not all plants are palatable. I noted the following joke in a third grade thank you letter, complete with pictures: What did the onion say to the dandelion? I taste better than you.

Another favorite is construction. During my summer day camps, I often have children build shelter, animal homes, or other stick structures. One Dragonfly camper gave a lot of thought to the animal for which he was building a home. ?I am removing all the prickly stuff from the house,? he told me. Before I could praise the idea, he added, ?and I?ll use it for their beds.?

I hope you have enjoyed these tidbits as much as I enjoy the experiences. As we travel through the holiday season, knowing it can be sometimes stressful, remember to look for such bits of joy. See you in 2014!