Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Yeah, but for how long...

Things have been happening. I just haven't written about them. It's not usually what I do. Some people can write pretty freely, for others it can take quite an effort. Some of our kids are that way, at least. I've found that in a classroom situation, providing journal prompts can be helpful in getting kids to write faster. Write about this. Write about that. Instead of thinking about what they should write about, they think about the topic itself. Anyway.

Humboldt Park is beautiful. There's wildflowers, and birds, trees, lagoons, marsh areas, and streams, and footbridges with all kinds of things to look at. It's the kinds of place I could have roamed around and explored for days on end as a kid. Now I'm working there, and I'm trying to get high school kids to enjoy being outside. When it's hot. And uncomfortable. And they're lazy.

We usually start out by walking them toward one of the lagoons, and wind up near a spot where there's plenty of room to spread out, and lots of trees for shade. I like giving them ten or fifteen minutes of time to reflect on things, think about the day, relax, or just zone out. I tell them to listen to the birds. Listen to the sound of the trees in the wind. Feel the grass under their hands. Watch how things move.

Mostly the girls try to sneakily send text messages, while the boys throw sticks at each other.

Then we talk about a few different things involving the ecosystems at the park, interaction between different forms of wildlife, why things are the way they are, etc. Last week we did an experiment that showed them that all the fall colors of a leaf are actually in the leaf year-round. We talked about amphibians, and one of the students told us a story about catching tadpoles. We also played softball one day, and football the next. One of the kids who barely said ten words the whole week came alive after our second play. He called plays, organized our team and positions, called blocks during run plays, and encouraged his teammates. It was kind of inspiring.

Today was rough though. No one was motivated. They were bored, angry, and aggravated. We tried to lighten the mood with some games. We even tried Duck, Duck, Goose, after some discussion on the rules of play. Apparently no one could remember how. That helped ease things up a little.

The rest of the day was filled up with lunch and a scavenger hunt, though everyone's attention was on the fact that two of the kids were supposed to fight after the program. And they're good kids. Well behaved, and smart. Just something over a girl. I tried to talk to them at the end of work today, but I don't think it did any good. And I don't really have any reign when the workday is over, as long as they don't do anything at the park where we work. I told them I didn't want to see either of them busted up in the morning. I hope I don't have to.

Yesterday was pretty great. We had some things planned, but ended up scratching them when the Greater Chicago Food Depository showed up at about the same time we usually start. There were 250 people waiting for a semi-truck full of food that needed to be unloaded, separated, sorted, and distributed, and the truck was an hour late. And they were way short on volunteers. So we helped with that for the day, and it seemed to make everyone feel good.

We unloaded assembly-line style, packed bags and boxes, passed out everything, and helped people to their cars. And no one complained. It was big success, and it felt really good to help out. Anyway, I hope that's the stuff that sticks with these kids. We'll see.


Caleb said...

w00t writing!

Glad to hear program is going. I hope this year turns out to be a success with two programs in Humboldt.

Sounds like the programs are doubling as food truck volunteers as well.

Oliver said...

that girl better be damn cute!

Oliver said...

okay. I'm confused. who wrote this?

marthamatters said...

Thank the All Mighty that you posted! I'm uber jealous that you get to work in nature with those kids. Even though it's daunting at times, I can't think of a better spirit to be guiding them. And what ARE the rules to Duck Duck Goose? All I remember is running around and then sitting in some sort of "pot" waiting for the game to end. See you soon!

Cass said...

and you used to make fun of me for loving chromatography like it was alive and my pet. good job jay, i'm glad to hear things are going well. miss you boys and simone--let's hang out soon :)