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Entries in field trips (11)


Fox on a farm

When Calvin did his first YPT show last year I remember being skeptical when the powers that be warned us about post-show depression. There was entire handout on the topic, warning us to be prepared for irritable, recalcitrant children in the week or two following the production. In my head I giggled a little, but remembering the validity of similar afflictions, like post-holiday ennui, I filled those weeks with activities sure to keep a young mind engaged. 

Having at first inwardly giggled let me tell you, post-production depression is a real thing, and it way outpaces post-holiday ennui. These kids put so much work in the show that it becomes a defining part of their lives for the two plus months they rehearse. During tech week and production weekend, the show really is their lives. And's gone. Just like that this creature they'd been nurturing with all their energy and time has passed away, and the days following such a loss will inevitably be devoted to mourning. Inevitably.

Last year, all the activities I had planned were not enough to ward away the blues, but I know they helped, so this year I focused on a combination of extra activities, and a pointed return to routine. After letting him sleep in for a couple of days I dragged him out of bed and kicked him out the front door to play with the kids at the bus stop. When I set our weekly school calendar (after having taken tech week mostly off) I planned all the subjects in their usual places, but lightened the load a bit in most. And I registered us for two homeschool field trips during the week.

But you know what doesn't care about my kid's depressing week of post-show mourning? The weather. So we didn't make it to the frog catch-and-release field trip because even though frogs don't mind the rain, we do. And our second field trip was almost as much of a bust except that laughter, and our own brand of sarcastic cynicism, is also good medicine. Because Northfork Farms, where were slated to enjoy a morning of reliving the wild west, turned out to be a strange mixture of backwoods zoo, cheap carnival, and run-down roadside tourist trap. We played some "old wild west kids' games", which until I've seen their resources I'll be convinced were games they made up to go along with the cheapest plastic kid toys they could get on clearance last fall. We embarked on the Louis & Clark trail, which was a short walk through a collection of small dioramas in plastic boxes so yellowed by the sun that it was hard to see the "animals" in them (I'm still not sure whether they were taxidermied or merely plastic molds with fake hair glued on, but I'm leaned towards the latter). We went to a saloon (where they ran out of time to give us the snack we'd been promised) and learned that women didn't go to saloons because they didn't (not couldn't...didn't) vote back then. What? We washed our rags at the "Chinese laundry" (a mini lesson so racist I was embarrassed just listening) and panned for a gold piece that later chipped away until it had returned to its original state as a pebble. 

So the trip, while disappointing, turned out to be okay, misleading and offensive lessons aside, simply because it was such an easy target for comedic absurdity. That, and because there was a baby fox. A baby fox who loved people and just wanted to be held. Who wouldn't love holding a baby fox? (And here I'm refraining from touching on how I actually feel about a fox in captivity, or the coati, tiny monkey, and peacock they also had in captivity, all in tiny cages, because that's a big subject for another platform). And then we rode off into the sunset (because that's what they do in the wild west, right?) on a weird oil drum mini-train (because that's what they do in the absurd wild west, right?), and laughed all the way home. And they do say that laughter is the best medicine...for post-show depression.


Detroit Parade Co. tour

The Detroit Thanksgiving Day Parade is one of the traditions that has remained strong in the streets of that beleagured city. According to the Parade Company's website, it is a 90 year old event that takes 4,500 volunteers and reaches over 100,000 viewers in their homes every year while about a million spectators line the streets. It's a big deal, preluded by parties, music events, and a charity run, all over the city. 

To pull it all off, the parade relies on the Parade Company, which takes all the support, physical and monetary, and manages it until it produces a festivity for the ages! And they do it from the skeleton of an old auto plant building in an unsurprisingly barren part of the city. This warehouse is where they store old floats and build new ones, and they offer group tours of the facility year round, although I can't imagine wanting to go anytime other than November, when the space is crazy with creativity. 

We went last week with our homeschooling field trip group. The tour took the better part of the morning as we were ushered through the facility by a well informed guide. We spied the tracks on the ground from the old assembly line, and noticed the spots where the artsy but poorly planned roof windows tend to leak. We got to take pictures with iconic floats, like Santa's sleigh, and peaked at, but couldn't photograph, the up and coming new floats for this year's parade. The world's largest collection of paper mache heads will stick with me for some time (possibly in nightmares). When we left, nspired and excited for the parade just a couple of weeks away, we were sporting red clown nose parting gifts.



Baby turkeys and tiny frogs

The days are getting longer, the afternoons are getting hotter, and the neighborhood is alive with the noise of children all day long. With the final day of school last week, our early morning bus stop ritual came to an end and, almost as if on cue, our newly minted pre-teen started sleeping in. Maybe it was the extra digit, maybe it was the loss of the rowdy bus stop crew, maybe it was the excessive consumption of sugar over the birthday weekend, or maybe it was a combination of all three, but whatever the cause, late mornings, grouchy days, and contrite evenings have been the norm all week.

That would be a terrible way to start the summer, but it's even worse as a way to finish up a school year, and though the rest of the district is no longer in their desks, we find ourselves wrapping things up a week later after taking two weeks off around the busy spring theater schedule. So through all this we've still been attending the kitchen table school, trying to tie things up in one final week. Gah.

By Thursday the lure pull of that something savage, and free, and totally summer was too strong a force to resist, and we gladly left our business to join friends, also released just that morning from the confinement of school, at the botanical garden. Not even the heavy, wet, almost chilly day could keep us down. There are inside gardens, too, with cacti and enormous, almost Jurassic fish. And when we finally did get outside, the wet weather had drawn the tiniest toads out into the open in such great numbers that the ground practically errupted in jumping toads with every step we took. Then, surrounded by lush, brilliant gardens, the kids spent an hour playing in the building scraps pile, constructing and deconstructing again and again. Refreshed by laughter and friendship, we are now ready for the upcoming week of choir camp and school planning.

Plus, baby turkeys (look hard—they are hiding in the grass behind their mama).


Heifer Global Village

If you've ever sought to give in honor of someone you love, you may have run across Heifer International. This is the organization that allows you to give the gift of livestock (a goat, a water buffalo, a rabbit, you name it...) to an impoverished family, and wrap the giving of gift as a gift for someone else who will greatly appreciate not having another vase to store only to remember at the last minute to drag it out and dust it before you come over. The gifts are fun (who doesn't want to give away a water buffalo???) and mindful, and Heifer will even provide you will a printable certificate so you have some. We have purchased gifts through them in the past for family members at Christmas.

But Heifer International is not only involved in helping the impoverished around the world, they are also into teaching in order to raise a more mindful and involved next generation. We are fortunate enough to have one of their Global Village education centers very nearby (there are only four such sites in the United States), and last week we took a homeschooler's field trip to the Howell Nature Center's Heifer Global Village. The "village" is a collection of authentically erected and sustained shelters or homes that would be found in outlying areas around the globe: an adobe hut from Africa, an elevated house from Indonesia, a traditional structure from Peru, and a shack from the Appalachians.

We were given a guided tour of the site by a very well-informed docent who did a great job of pulling the kids in with games and tantalizing factoids. They also had llamas. Llamas make anything an easy sell. And while I think our tour was completely worth the afternoon, probably the real meat and potatoes of the site are the overnight and shelter building group programs offered for older kids. 


Our very own cows

We have been using the same milk in our house since Calvin was first drinking it in a sippy cup from a high chair at the table. It comes from a daily farm not quite an hour from our home, and in those early years, before it was available in the local stores, we had it delivered. It came in glass jars, carried in a wire basket by a real milk man driving a truck painted with traditional dairy cow spots. It was a highlight of our day, especially when we added things to our order like ice cream, or their annual egg nog, so thick you could eat it with a spoon. 
These days the glass jarred Calder milk is available in a handful of our local grocery stores, but even though we no longer get visited by the milk man in the cow truck, I still feel loyalty and connection to our milk that I might not if it was a national brand in the carton. So it's a little odd that, with the dairy less than an hour away, we never visited our cows to actually see where our milk originated. I mean, that's a homeschooler's bread and butter, isn't it? (They have great butter, too, by the way, that comes in great big wax paper-wrapped blocks).
So today we rectified that educational omission. Our local homeschool field trip club organised an afternoon at the Calder Dairy Farm with animal feeding opportunities, cow and milking education, a hayless wagon ride, and a (very large) scoop of delicious Calder ice cream. The little bit of rain didn't hurt our fun. We fed farm ducks (I love farm ducks!), goats, sheep, and baby cows. We met amazingly portly pigs (they snore). We milked a friendly cow (with a lot of help from an obvious expert). We enjoyed delicious ice cream. 
And now we've met our cows.