Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Beyond Tourism

For the last couple days, I have been trekking around the Badlands National Park with Don Duggan-Haas as a part of the ReaL Earth Inquiry Project. This is the second year that I have been lucky enough to be involved with this and have loved every minute of it. Not only do you get to hang out with amazing teachers, but we are creating what Don refers to as VFEs. This deserves its own post, so I will come back to that soon.

Today, we were at the Yellow Mounds and while I am over trying to figure out where the fault line actually ran, a tour bus pulled into the parking area. Out jumped a couple dozen people who on average walked about 15 steps away from the bus and took approximately 100 pictures of the "pretty rocks."

I watched them for a few minutes as they pivoted around, smiled, chatted and loaded back on the bus to travel on to their next stop. I couldn't help but think about how different our experiences were at this exact same place.

Yes, the Yellow Mound are gorgeous and deserve to be front and center in a landscape photo. But what really gets me is that so few people are truly concerned with WHY they are so gorgeous. How did they get there? For goodness sake, why are they yellow?

I thought about that for awhile and how I honestly cannot drive by a formation in any location any more without trying to figure out what it is and how it formed. While my family is usually pretty game, at some point I have to roll the window down and snap a picture on the go because they get annoyed when we have to stop more than five times on a trip to pick up rocks. I tried to think back to a time when I just looked at the rocks (or looked past the rocks) without trying to decode the history. And I couldn't.

This is my hope for my kids. When they take my geology class (or astronomy, meteorology, whatever) I hope they begin to appreciate how beautiful a world we live in and that there is so much we don't know about it.

I have had a couple instances where kids have apparently against their will really got into the actual learning. And I cannot tell you how that makes my heart sing.

Jesse came into my astronomy class one day and threw his books down and said, "Mrs. Schroeder, I hate this class." I was extremely confused by this because he seemed like he was really enjoying it. He said he was driving home with his family last night and started pointing out stars and constellations. "You have me talking to my mother and I don't like it."

This spring I overhead the baseball coach talking about kids in the outfield looking like they were staring at the sky during practice. I smiled the rest of the day when I realized they were in my meteorology class and were trying to figure out what types of clouds were out that day.

So it is possible. There is the chance that what I am doing is reaching through and sticking with some. Not as many as I would like, but I suppose I can start small.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Graduation Cards

So the other day, my nephew graduated from Flint Hills Technical College. I was only planning on paying attention as he walked across because I didn't think I knew anyone else who was receiving that honor. But as we were waiting for the ceremony to begin, I skimmed through the program. At the bottom of the third page was a name I recognized, but never would have expected to see there.

And my heart just swelled.

Cory was a student of mine several years ago. He was a great kid, but came to us with a whole host of disadvantages. He was one of those that I wish I could have taken home and just given another chance.

I always feel so proud of my kids when they have accomplished something amazing like that. I never know how some of them are going to feel about it, so I try not to make too big of a deal about it, but when I got home, I sat down and wrote Cory a note. Just a short congratulations to let him know his accomplishment had not gone unnoticed.

The next day, I had the opportunity to watch my seniors walk across the stage. Mary and Garrett are two kids that I have loved watching grow over the last few years and I am going to miss them terribly.

Mary is one of those students we wish we could duplicate. She is brilliant, organized, driven and she loves learning. As her track coach I threatened to put her in the 3200 m so she would get bored running in circles and discover the cure for cancer. There has never been any doubt that she wouldn't make it through high school and there is no doubt that she will make it through college and graduate school.

Garrett holds a special place in my heart as well. As a freshman, he was awkward and more than a little bit annoying. As a sophomore, he was still awkward, but slightly less annoying. He never made it out of the slightly annoying phase, but really grew into his own person. He is unique in a lot of ways and I really believe that one of these days, he will discover his calling and find his niche.

I have tried to write notes to each of them, tried to express how much I learned and benefited from having them move through my life. I still haven't found the right words for either of their cards.

Sometimes they just don't come out right.

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