New Education

I went on a field trip today with my class.

The class is Natural Disasters. We have been dealing with different topics – this week’s is flooding. An appropriate topic for the Pacific Northwest and one that can be easily explored, unlike earthquakes or volcanoes.

We weren’t just casual observers on this trip. This trip required active participation, which I’ve heard is standard for field trips, but I had never seen it. In my mind, field trips are where the boys and girls would split up into mean-spirited little groups and make snide commentary until the trip was over.

It is possible that this happened, but if it did, I didn’t see it. The age group is older, although the vast majority of my classmates are sitting between eighteen and twenty. What I saw were students paying attention to their teacher and trying to fulfil the requirement of the class.

We went to Whatcom Falls Park. The river is swelled right now due to a lot of rain coming in over the past week. Fortunately for us there was a rain break.  We stood on bridges and tried to measure the river’s speed, depth and width with a string, a rock and some leaves.

I felt like I was on The Amazing Race. We struck out to the first bridge, away from the teacher. I got distracted by a leaf that was suspended by some errant cobweb, and took a picture of it while the other team sailed past us. We caught up to them, but I felt like we were behind on the challenge. The other team would get their clue before us!

Our team worked together well. I found a rock to tie to the string to plumb the depth of the river. My other two teammates got leaves and a stopwatch and started doing time tests. The other team seemed to be struggling, although I wasn’t paying enough attention to know why. They didn’t ask for our help, and soon enough we had our data and were ready to go.

The leaf was still hanging by the same thread when we came back through.

This isn’t the first instance where I’ve been surprised by the quality of group work in my class. In my Communications class, we had to each look at a picture. Then using only words to describe the picture, line up in the order the pictures went in. My heart went to my throat thinking about talking to twenty some kids that I barely knew. I appeared to be the only one with this concern. The kids in the class wandered around like this was an everyday occurrence, with self-confidence and determination to get the job done. To my surprise we did it, too.

Education would come a long way since I’ve been in school the first time, but experiencing those changes first hand leaves me feeling a bit out of place. My ingrained habits are outdated. I’m no longer a bullied girl playing defense just to get through class, which is wonderful, but a little disorienting. It’s taking time to develop these new skills. In the long run though, developing these new skills underscore how much this new education is worth.