‘Oh, the Places You’ll Go!’: Plan field trips for kids this summerHomeschool your children this summer. Try thinking like a homeschooler and make some summer plans to go on some unconventional local field trips.
Homeschool your children this summer. Don’t call district 709 and tell them you’ve had it, you’re going off the grid and sewing up some denim jumpers. Instead, try thinking like a homeschooler and make some summer plans to go on some unconventional local field trips. When time is spent experiencing life together, bonding happens.
This month and next, my column will focus on places where you can take your kids to do some pragmatic learning. Many would argue that hands-on learning is the most effective, and one of the best ways to do that is to go somewhere where people are doing exciting things. If your children resist the educational appeal, you can tell them that you are making your own summer version of the popular Discovery Channel television show “Dirty Jobs,” a program whose host is shown performing difficult, strange, disgusting, or messy occupational duties alongside the employees.
The first step is to listen to your children and figure out what they are interested in. My son Danny said to me, “Mom, where does the water go after it’s gone down our drain?” I gave him the abbreviated and unsatisfying answer, but then I started to think about it. We are in a neighborhood of houses, in a city of houses, and all of us are pouring dirty water down our drains — just exactly what does happen to all of it? So I called up the Western Lakes Superior Sanitation District (WLSSD) on 27th Avenue West, got some friends together and scheduled a trip.
This turned out to be one of my favorite field trips. Our group had too many young children to do the wastewater treatment plant tour, but we were able to tour parts of the building and go to the organic composting site, which were both, uh, engrossing. Early in our tour one of the children asked the WLSSD employee, “Why does it smell bad outside here?” His mother pinched his little arm, but the public relations officer openly responded, “I am so glad you asked me that. This is what we do. We clean the stuff which you have sent to us. So what did you send us this morning? What did you send us in the garbage? What did you send us from your sink and toilet pipes?”
A great pause followed. One could almost hear the paradigms shifting. This was just the start of a thought provoking tour. There were many other ideas ignited at WLSSD on the edge of the harbor, but you will have to learn about that guy who goes through all your garbage and the surprising temperature of dirt on your own.
Other “dirty jobs” sparked great conversations back home. We visited the Duluth Transit Authority where we got to ride a bus through the water-saving bus wash. We traveled through the St. Louis County Courthouse, where we sat in the courtroom and asked, “Why DO judges wear those black nightgowns?” There also was a thrilling, crime deterring stop in the prisoner holding cells.
A visit to the police station let us glimpse into the very uncomfortable backseat of a squad car. The entire trip our smallest children stood with mouths agape while watching men and women with guns and vests stride around us.
Our visit to the mayor’s office allowed us to peek in on an interview between the mayor and a television reporter. Then we all got a picture with the mayor. (We were the ones with the goofy grins!)
One dirty job we didn’t expect was at the Members Cooperative Credit Union. They outfitted us with bags and gadgets, and then we got to see the walk-in safe, watch how the drive-through works and most importantly, handle money. The clerks allowed each of us to take a turn holding a huge wad of cash, but when we were done one clerk said, “Now, smell your hands.”
“Ooooh, disgusting!” was the kids’ response. The clerks affirmed that money is one of the dirtiest things on earth because it touches so many hands. I could almost see the wheels turning in the little heads as their perspective of money altered.
Other workplaces we’ve visited are the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Cirrus Aircraft, United States Postal Service, KBJR, WDSE, KDNW, Fox 21 and, of course, the ever hospitable Duluth News Tribune.
These occupations weren’t exactly “dirty jobs.” They were realistic and authentic though, and kids love to be part of something genuine. All these field trips were free. These businesses open their doors to educational groups because they know it is good exposure for their business and it is good for the children.
When children are in school all day they forget that other adults are greasing the cogs which turn this civic machine. Seeing real grownups working hard at real jobs that make a real difference in our community has a broadening effect on them.
Monthly Budgeteer columnist S.E. Livingston is a wife, mother and teacher who writes for family and education newsletters in northern Minnesota (and lives in Duluth). E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.