Get your students exploring business ideas as a classroom activity, and maybe even see those ideas through...
My 4 year old son, Charlie, has been requesting, more like demanding, that we buy him toys. Not just every time we leave the house, but now toys can be purchased right from our couch. He has discovered Amazon. My attempt to explain greed, materialism, poverty, waste, the difference between needs and wants to a 4 year old has been unsuccessful.
And anyway, does my 4 year old need to know about human suffering this early in his life? Maybe, maybe not. We can save that discussion for another day. Regardless, he wasn't getting it. That approach didn't work.
So I tried something else. I told him he could earn money and save it for "wants". We discussed how a four year old boy might go about doing that. He observed that some kids make money with lemonade stands. We determined that it was too cold for that. I asked him what kinds of things we eat and drink in the fall? He said hot chocolate. We didn't have ingredients for hot chocolate. He reminded me that we had two gallons of apple juice left over from his sister's birthday party the week before. That is how "Hot Apple Cider Central" got it's start.
Charlie designed a sign (what it should say), and I wrote it out. He decided where the sale would be, and what extra treats he could give away to lure in customers. I showed him how to post an advertisement to our online neighborhood forum. He had to brainstorm and engineer a way to keep the apple cider hot outside. I introduced to him the Crockpot. He even chased neighbors down the street shouting "apple cider for sale!" We then had a conversation about appropriate sales tactics.
Charlie made $4 his first day out. He charged his customers "5 monies" for a cup of apple cider. Considering he has no concept of money, I'd say $4 was a success! But the bigger success was the knowledge and skills gained in the process, and the pride he took in his work.
All of us are entrepreneurs at heart. Check out this free graphic organizer from my TpT store, Experiential Learning Depot. It is a guide for brainstorming business ideas, geared toward all ages and skill levels. It would be a fun activity to incorporate into your class, or could be treated as the starting-off-point to something bigger, like writing an actual business plan and hosting an exhibition night to show them off.
If you use the graphic organizer with your students or own children, I'd love to hear about some of their business ideas! Thanks for reading.
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There's no question about it, children learn by watching and imitating. These pictures are cases in point. This child of mine is a mini-me. I see her observing me. She examines my actions, takes mental note, mimics my every move, analyzes the outcome, and adjusts her behavior accordingly. All the while her brain is rewiring and building new connections as she's learning from me. I can see all of this go down simply by the expression on her face as she's watching me and mirroring my behaviors.
It’s a reminder for me as a parent and educator to model behaviors, values, and priorities that I hope to see in my own children and my students. It's a seemingly simple concept. Don't hurt others, don't disrespect others, work hard. But I catch myself often doing things that I wouldn't want my own children doing. I have to stop myself, reflect, and make changes. For example, I want my children to be good listeners. If I want that, I need to listen to them. I believe I do that....when I'm physically AND mentally present. My cellphone compromises my ability to be mentally present. My children take note. They are learning that it's OK to have their faces buried in their phones while others are speaking to them. That's not OK with me.
So I have to take a step back, reflect on my actions, ask myself if I want to see these behaviors in the children in my life, and make changes if not. Educators and parents, we need to be cognizant of our actions, because these kids are watching us!!
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Experiential Learning Travel Mishaps and the Lessons Learned
I like this quote from John Dewey. Although there have been trip-ups on every travel experience I have ever taken, with students and without, there are lessons to be learned from all of them. Struggle and failure, albeit annoying, are catalysts for learning, especially when combined with purposeful reflection. The intention of these posts is to tell stories of hardship, complication, unexpected obstacles, defeat and downright failure. But most importantly it's to encourage persistence. Along with calamity comes new knowledge, change in current thinking, and self-growth. Not just with travel blunders, but with mishaps in life! Failure isn't a set-back, it's progress.
Check out this free school trip reflection on my TpT page. It can be used for a field trip or something more elaborate like a camping trip or travel experience abroad.
Alright, upward and onward! I'm back with part 2 - another story of adventure and mishaps on school travel experiences.
"You'll have to wait here for an hour. You can't drive in your condition" - Big Island, Hawaii
I took several girls to Hawaii in 2012 on a marine biology trip, entirely planned by a student. Check out How to Plan a School Trip - Student Led Project (free) at my TpT store if you're interested in assigning a theoretical or real project. Hawaii is an awesome place to travel with students because the best learning experiences are free. Everything you want to see is outside, so aside from spendy excursions, money spent on activities really doesn't exist. This particular student probably spent 100 hours of her life fundraising for this trip, so I told her she could choose one excursion for the group to go on. She chose night diving with manta rays. I was nervous about it from the start. I wasn't sure about swimming at night. I'm from the Midwest, no ocean in either direction for over a thousand miles, so my perception of the ocean is essentially what I've seen on TV, which comes dominantly from Shark Week. Shark Week has led me to believe that under no circumstances should anyone be swimming in the ocean at night! The biologist in me knew this was probably irrational thinking, and that's what this student wanted to do, so I went ahead and booked it.
I scheduled our dive with the manta rays for the evening of our second day on the trip. The girls were so excited to do this. The excursion required a 45 minutes boat ride to get to where the manta rays hang out. Some of the students had never been on a boat before, and few of them had never seen the ocean. The captain of the boat allowed the girls to go to the top deck where they could see better. I think the students would have been satisfied if we had only done a boat ride. It was that amazing. The view of the coastline was gorgeous at dusk, the ride was a little bumpy and wild, but what teenager doesn't like that? When they went to the upper deck they looked out to see schools of dolphins surfing the wake. It was an unbelievable experience for the students, one they will never forget.
We finally arrived at our snorkeling site, and began to get geared up. I noticed one of the students in a daze. I asked her if she was OK and she didn't respond. She was sweaty and clammy and her face was turning a scary green color. I leaned in a bit closer to ask again, thinking maybe she didn't hear me, and in that exact moment she sprayed vomit across the entire boat. That probably that dramatic, but it's how my brain has shaped this particular memory. Her instinct understandably was to find the edge of the boat and vomit into the ocean as to avoid puking in the boat or all over herself. The boat crew in unison dove at her with buckets to stop her from vomiting in the water. At this point the boat was parked in the water and we were still sitting on it. There wasn't a dock or slip to pull our boat into so the kids could get out onto dry land. We had to sit on the boat, and at this point it was rocking on 5 foot waves. The crew encouraged the student to get in the water to relieve some of the discomfort associated with her sea sickness.
We got in the water and proceeded to observe one of the most spectacular sights I've ever seen. Manta rays are massive creatures and they're not afraid of people. These weren't anyway. So they swam right next to our bodies. We put our faces in the water, and looked down, and they glided and danced all around us. Some even swam right up next to our bodies, like we were lying on a manta ray bed. It was wild and exhilarating. Thankfully in the water the sick student felt a little better, but at some point we had to get back in the boat to take the same ride home. So we did. Within minutes she was vomiting again, only now ALL of the students were sick too. Every single student on this trip was sick and vomiting in unison. I have never seen anyone sick like that in my life. They weren't just nauseous. They were delirious. One student didn't speak at all for the entire duration of the boat ride. Another was saying things that didn't make any sense. I felt like another was going in and out of consciousness. At one point I looked around and it was just a pure vomit bath. The boat ride was so wild that some of my students were getting thrown around the boat, buckets in hand, vomit everywhere. Again, a little dramatized perhaps, but this is how my brain has preserved this memory.
I thought I was in the clear. We were SO close to home, when suddenly I felt nauseous myself. This deep, pit in my stomach persisted no matter what I did - stood up, sat down, closed my eyes, put my head in my lap - I couldn't make it go away. My body started to ache like I had the flu, I got a headache, I was completely disoriented. And then we arrived. The girls got to dry land as fast as their legs could carry them, which wasn't fast considering they were all violently ill. I stumbled off the boat, in shock that I never actually threw up myself.
If you've ever been sea sick you know that you aren't immediately fine as soon as you reach dry ground. My students were definitely not fine. I was not fine. We got all of our things loaded into the car, I turned the key to the ignition, started to drive out of the parking lot and had to stop. I could't drive. It felt like our car was in the water, bouncing up and down on waves. I felt drunk. I stopped the car, got out and sat on the curb. A crew member from the boat came over and said I should wait it out for at least an hour. I never even threw up, but the boat ride was enough to make me feel like I was intoxicated.
The lesson learned from this experience was simple. Be prepared for anything. I was so consumed by the irrational potential for sharks that I didn't bother to think that someone could get sea sick. Motion sickness is very common. Shark attacks are not. The experience was so magnificent. It's a little sad to think that one student was so sick that she vaguely remembers being there. She missed it, and may never have the chance to do it again. From that point on I have been sure to cover every possible angle. That's hard since you can't plan for everything. Next weeks story of adventure and mishap is case in point. Stay tuned....
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Multicultural Awareness in the Classroom: how to Celebrate Student's Cultural Diversity
Happy apple picking season! Well, the end of it anyway. Apple picking in September and October is a long time Minnesota tradition. It is probably a tradition in the Midwest in general and maybe a few other places that grow apples. Apple picking with the family in Minnesota however, doesn't just mean heading to an orchard and picking apples. It means an entire afternoon of kid rides, face painting, corn mazes, climbing haystacks, taking haunted hayrides, picking out pumpkins for carving jack-o-lanterns, sipping hot apple cider and snacking on brats, fresh apple donuts, and caramel apples. It's shooting rotten apples with a giant sling shot. Yes, this happens, and if you don't know about this, check out Arie's season of the Bachelor! And the celebration isn't over when you leave the parking lot. You then go home and bake loads of apple inspired treats because you have too many apples to just eat!
The sights, the sounds, the smells - mmmmm, apples and cinnamon. This experience reminds me of fall, family, who I am and where I come from. Fall just isn't fall in my world without apple picking. It's not that apple picking is that great. It's the same year after year. But that's the beauty of it. It's a fond tradition that I share with my family, and have since I was a child. I am now passing that tradition on in my own little family. It's a deeply rooted part of my heritage. Yes, getting lost in a corn maze, the same time and place every year, is part of who I am, and I love it!
But, OK. This is an education blog. Yes, yes. So what's my point? This has been an unusually rainy and cold fall for Minnesota. There was a point where I thought maybe we wouldn't be able to apple-pick this year, and I felt devastated even imagining that. This experience has come to play such an important role in my life. Not just apple-picking, but traditions like this in general. I think having and creating traditions is so meaningful. It's an important part of one's self-concept, and knowing who we are and where we come from. There is massive effort on the part of my coworkers and I to help our students have these same feelings of nostalgia, belonging and pride in who they are and where they come from. I've noticed with my students that the learning activities they most enjoy and look forward to year after year are those that have to do with culture and tradition.
I do a heritage project with my students every year, where they focus on a piece of their heritage and culture. They learn about themselves and their family history. They pinpoint family traditions and discover how those traditions came to be. They essentially learn about their family background and then have the opportunity to brag about it in an annual heritage festival, putting their exhibits on display for the community. This project is something the students look forward to each year. If you're interested in trying this with your students, check out this resource to get it going - Project-Based Learning: Heritage.
It's an interesting project to do even when you suspect your students may not have many family traditions to draw from, and those that do may not be fond of their family traditions. I suspect that with my own students, yet they STILL always find something about who they are that they are proud of and want to share.
You could also expose your students to traditions in school. Start them in your classroom. I have two co-workers that are especially great at that. One of them, Val, started an annual tradition called "Feast" every year around Thanksgiving, where each advisory cooks something together, and then the school sits down and shares a meal. Val also brings her own family traditions into her classroom, such as making lefsa with her students. It's a bonding experience for everyone. Another coworker of mine, Tom, is also great at this. He brings his apple cider maker into his advisory in the fall to give students a little dose of that Minnesota apple-picking experience without ever leaving the building.
All of these activities may not hit any of the standards, but they help tremendously in building a strong community within your school and strong personal self-concepts within your students. Children can't think about biology for example, until their basic needs are met. Their learning environment needs to be a place of safety, trust, kinship and belonging. Having school or classroom traditions helps to build on those needs. Check out this free resource for more ideas on creating bonding experiences by implementing school traditions.
What are your favorite family traditions? What are some traditions you have as a school or in your class that the students look forward to?
Happy fall folks!
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School Travel Program Blunders and the Lessons Learned
Last night I was lying in bed recovering from a minor stomach bug. I was reminded of the time I thought I had rabies on a school travel experience to Costa Rica. That's how this post came to be! This article will be the launching point for a grander series of posts on student travel.
Most of you know this already, so I'll keep it brief. When I was teaching (I am now temporarily home with my children), I coordinated a lot of school trips, from nearby camping overnights, to elaborate travel experiences abroad. In my nine years teaching there, I planned, coordinated and chaperoned dozens of trips. Take a look at at my school travel blog to check out some of our travels. The first trip I ever took with students was a service learning experience to Texas after Hurricane Ike tore through cities like Galveston. I took that trip as a first year teacher. It was a tough one in many ways, but upon reflection, I realized just how dramatically the lives of students were forever changed (for the better). From that point on I was committed to providing as many of these life-changing-experiences with my students as possible.
Traveling did not come without a lot of trial and error! As I said, there were some mishaps on the Texas trip......and the Costa Rica trip, and California, Florida, Colorado, Hawaii. Pretty much all of them. I look back on those experiences now and laugh, because everyone got home safely, some of the mishaps were comical, and ultimately, each obstacle we faced was a learning experience. These adventures and mishaps bonded us (many of us for life). They presented opportunities to problem-solve in real-life situations, resolve conflict effectively, push through even the harshest of conditions. We all came out on the other side as stronger individuals for having endured and overcome these blunders.
1) "Awe, your friends came to welcome you home!" - Texas
The mishaps (a nice way to put it) on this trip were humdingers, to say the least. I have it listed as the first story strictly because it happened first chronologically. But it probably should be saved as the grand finale. I was a first year teacher, so hadn't planned any school trips up to this point. A colleague of mine at the time organized the trip, and I just tagged along as a chaperone, which even that I was ill-equipped to do at the time. Together we packed 10 kids in a van, hitched a trailer for our things, and trekked across the country from Minnesota to Galveston, Texas, which took about 3 days.
On the way to Texas there was an under-the-radar feud developing between two students. My colleague and I were for the most part completely oblivious to this fact. When we got to Texas, minor altercations started to surface here and there. We'd see conversations between students elevate a little, we'd quietly calm them down and move on with our work. About half way through the trip, a couple students sneaked into another students room in the middle of the night, took all of his things, and threw them in the hallway. My colleague and I dealt with that the best way we knew how at the time. We got mad, pulled the "I'm disappointed" card, had a mediation circle. The works. They all agreed they could tolerate each other for the rest of the trip, which they did as far as I was aware. We thought we were in the clear.
On the drive home everyone was joyful, happy, friends. We sang songs, played road-trip games, laughed, reminisced about the trip and the important work we did and the people we helped. When we pulled into the school parking lot I saw a large group of people congregating around their cars. I thought, "Oh wow, how nice. The students friends and families have come to welcome them home".
We all stepped out of the van, and before I could even open my mouth to say hello to the visitors, a full-blown riot erupted in our parking lot. Students, parents, aunts and uncles, cousins, and friends of our student travelers all felt the need to get involved. People throwing punches, tackling, taking each others shoes. Yes that happened. Turned out that our two rival students had planned this before we left, and were texting away, recruiting their people on the road trip home. Right. Under. Our. Noses. The only thing I knew to do was call the police. They arrived and everyone scattered. The rest is history.
The aftermath involved standard school protocol for such an event. There were some suspensions, some expulsions, some restorative circles. The usual. I will remember that trip forever, for one because I couldn't have in my wildest dreams expected what happened to happen. I learned a lot about myself as a person and as an educator. Students did as well. One of the kids involved in the the altercation graduated that year, and has since stayed in touch. That was nine years ago. He successfully started his own business, and is a kind individual. This is an example of how our past mistakes don't have to define us. I try to remember this with each new student I encounter. Who they were before they came to me is irrelevant. They start clean in that moment.
2) "There's a bat in the room" - Costa Rica
My sister, a volunteer chaperone, and I took a small group of female students to Costa Rica in 2014. Anyone who has been to Costa Rica knows it's a wild place, hence the reason we went. I am a biology teacher with a background in ecology and conservation, so the purpose was to study tropical biology. We got what we asked for. There was tropical life EVERYWHERE - beetles the size of cell phones barreling into our foreheads at max speed during dinner, howler monkeys providing our daily morning wake-up calls, poisonous frogs, "bullet" ants (just imagine what that means), some of the most dangerous snakes in the world, invisible stinging insects, and bats. At times it felt like a scene out of Jumanji or Avatar. Costa Rica is one of the most beautiful places I've been by the way. I don't mean to make it sound bad.
One of the hotels that we stayed at had an open ceiling sort of concept. There was technically a roof, but the walls didn't go from floor to ceiling, so anything that flies could be in your room at any given moment. One evening my sister and I were winding down from a full day hangin' in the rain forest. We were lying in our beds, watching a Spanish version of Frozen on TV. Something was telling me to look up. My eyes slowly directed their gaze toward the ceiling like a scene from a scary movie, and low and behold, right above the bed on the ceiling was a bat. Now normally a bat is not something I would be afraid of. I'm a biologist after all. But the hypochondriac that my sister is felt the need to dive to the floor like a bat outta hell (ha, good one, right?) She was literally shaking in fear. She proceeded to explain to me, as I'm still laying in bed with a bat hanging over my head, that sometimes people get bit by bats and don't know they were bit. They die from rabies within hours. Parts of that are true. I've heard stories. Just a little dramatic. I got out of the bed to go get a hotel staff member to remove the bat from our room, when suddenly the bat started flying around our room and took a dive right at me. I dove to the floor, army crawled to the corner of the room behind a small desk, and proceeded to lay there in fetal position for the next ten minutes. Finally a couple of our students came knocking, walked in to see my sister and I both curled up in corners while a bat continued to fly around the room. Surprisingly the students were cool as cucumbers, and went to get a manager for us (because my sister and I were afraid to get off the floor).
A manager came into the room and basically laughed. By that point the bat had crawled into some small space in the ceiling. Not only do I think the hotel manager didn't believe us, but he walked into a room with two grown women shaking and screaming on the floor, while two young students saved the day. Tourists at their finest. We ended up going to bed and crawling deep down under the covers to avoid any bat attacks in the middle of the night.
Around 2 a.m. I awoke, drenched in my own sweat, but shivering. My muscles were weak, my bones were sore. I was cold and weak. I was so lethargic that I had to drag my body across the floor to the bathroom where I attempted to take a warm shower. It was cold and there was only a trickle. My sister rolled my suitcase in the bathroom where I proceeded to put on every item of clothing that I brought, crawled back into bed, and didn't sleep a wink because I was CERTAIN that I had rabies. How could I not? The next morning I was still in a bad way. Still weak, still freezing, but sweating profusely. But we had plans, I was their instructor, I had to pull through. We had plans to go white water rafting that day, and it was absolutely the most miserable experience of my life. Nothing like getting drenched in frigid water when you have rabies. Ok, turns out I didn't have rabies, obviously. But it's pretty crazy that I just happened to get a 24 hour flu the same night we slept with a bat flying around our room. Things happen on all school trips that you don't anticipate. That's a great lesson in life - for all of us.
3) "Uh, my pack broke. Do we have another one?"
- Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore
"Ummmmmmm, no!?" I believe was my answer to that question, along with something like, "Are you kidding me right now? You're kidding, right? Right? RIGHT!!??", in a tone somewhere between frustration and utter and complete panic.
Approximately three hours prior to this conversation, a group of students and I set off on our 5 day trek along Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. It is a stunning hike along Lake Superior, with a mix of pine forest, rock cliffs, and sand dunes. It's one of the most beautiful places I have been. We arrived after a seven hour drive from Minnesota to our trail head, excited to get started. Now let me give you some background information before I continue. The school at which I worked serves inner-city, at-risk students, many homeless, almost all under the poverty line. They are not rolling in the best backpacking equipment. And anyone who has ever done serious backpacking knows that you can't bring a 20 lb tent, a huge camping stove, a pillow, a drawstring bag for your pack! Everything you're going to eat, cook with, sleep with, dress with ends up on your back, which is carried with you for the entirety of the trip.
Knowing that my students didn't have all of this equipment sitting around, I gathered what the school already had, got a few donations, and thought we were good to go. My students and I spent a significant amount of time before the trip planning for it, talking logistics like what to pack. I unloaded all of our equipment in front of them offering each one of them great packs. Each student except one insisted that they had their own stuff. I remember thinking it was a little strange, but trusted that if they said they had it covered, then they had it covered.
We arranged to meet at the school before our departure to get the school van and pack up our stuff. When students pulled in, got out of their cars, and walked toward me with little to no gear, I started to get concerned. I asked one student where all of his stuff was. He turned around to show me his bag - a small, black, draw-string bag, no bigger than 18 inches long, with fraying seams and wearing ropes. I never swear in front of students, but there were no other words at the time. They just tumbled out of me under my state of complete shock. "Holy shit!" I believe were my exact and only words. I think I was truly waiting for him to say "gotcha!" and run back to his car to grab a legitimate pack. He did not. You'd think I would have marched right into the school to grab one of our bags. I didn't, and I don't remember why now. It was either because I couldn't get in the school, or it was sheer stupidity on my part. Likely the latter. None of the other kids had drawstring bags, but their arrangements were not much better. Somehow we managed to stuff everything we needed into all of our bags. I do remember having to hang a lot of things off of their bags with bungee chords. I think we even put a bunch of food in a plastic shopping bag and tied it in a knot around his drawstrings! Ha. Ah, it's so crazy to think about now. I'm not sure how we survived it.
Flash forward, we start our hike. It's gorgeous! We're admiring the view, telling stories, laughing, blah blah blah. We had been hiking for hours, and about 5 miles in I see a good photo op, and let the kids walk ahead a bit. Once I got my picture I sped up to catch up with the group, and from a distance saw them all crouched down on the ground. They must be checking out an insect or a toad, I thought to myself. As I got closer I noticed one of the students was fiddling with his bag. When I approached he gently let me know his bag was broken. There was nothing we could do. We couldn't turn back, we didn't have an extra. We reallocated some of our things, and because I had the best equipment, I ended up carrying most of our gear. Within the first hour of this arrangement, I was pretty sure I was going to be crippled for the rest of my life. But we pushed on. To top the cake, it started down-pouring about five minutes before we needed to set up camp. All of our gear hanging off of our packs (because there was no room inside them), including our tents and sleeping bags, were soaking wet within seconds. We arrived to our site, set up camp in the rain, and slept in puddles all night. The students didn't complain. Not once.
The rest of the trip was a series of this type of mishap. All of us were tested that week, and we all came out of it stronger and better for having experienced it. At times I thought we might die out there. I realize now that that is hyperbole and irrational. But it's how I felt at the time because we were so unprepared for the physical and mental rigor of this trip. My students were rock stars, and to this day, I would hire any of them for a job that requires working under harsh conditions, because they will get it done, they'll push through, and they'll probably enjoy every second of it. My students taught me that week to be positive, and regardless of the circumstances, see the beauty in front of me, because if I allow myself to get bogged down in pain, hardship, frustration, then I will miss it completely. I think about that when I think about raising my own children. There are so many pieces of life where this philosophy holds true.
Many lessons were learned on this trip. The biggest takeaway though, for me anyway, was to go with my gut. I knew my student's backpack would give out. I knew it, yet I let him bring it. Your gut is probably right most of the time. I have learned that the hard way, and after too many times. Thankfully we all survived it and learned a great deal from the experience.
4) "What if he has to get his foot amputated on my watch?"
- Hawaii, 2017
I took a group of students to Hawaii in 2017 to study environmental science. Earlier the year before, a student of mine did a project on Hawaiian monk seals. It spiraled into a variety of other interests like the Pacific Plastics Patch and climate change, both heavily impacting Hawaii. This student decided she wanted to help coordinate a trip to the Big Island, and so we did (a lot of fundraising and detailed planning later). I lived and worked in Hawaii a decade ago for the endangered palila project with USGS. The organization arranged within the first week of my arrival a mandatory seminar on the dangers of Hawaii. I was 22 at the time, frontal lobe not entirely developed yet, and of course thought I was immune to any significant danger. Turns out at the time I was immune. Thankfully nothing dire happened to me while I lived there, but looking back I realize I made a lot of reckless choices. Anytime I bring students to Hawaii I think of that seminar I had to go to - shark attacks, getting caught in the rip tide, falling through lava rock, stubbing your toe or falling on lava rock, getting sucked into an underwater lava tube, severe sun burn, drowning, falling through the cone of a volcano. Yes. He talked about that. The Big Island of Hawaii at the time had, and still does have an active volcano, so hiking to one of many pu'u's (volcanic cones) to take a look at the action is not unheard of. In fact, some of my colleagues at the time did hike right up to the cones of Pu'u O'o. I opted out. It was a life-changing experience for them I'm sure, but not a safe one.
Back to the students. So when I decided I would take students to Hawaii, I had all of these risks in mind. Hawaii has this beauty and power over me that I haven't experienced anywhere else in the world. I knew that a trip like this would be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for many of my students, and life-changing for all of them. I also had matured since I'd last been there, knew the island well, as I lived there, and would take every precaution I could to keep students safe, without taking away the experience. Generally, that all worked out. Everyone is alive. But one student in particular experienced or came close to experiencing almost every hazard mentioned above.
Let's start from the top. We went kayaking the very first day. This student proceeded to get the worst sun burn I have ever seen, on any individual, my entire life - the worst of it was on his feet. Note, Hawaii is all outdoor activity. You don't spend time inside, and when you are out, you need to be able to walk to see anything cool. The best sites are those off the beaten path. At first his feet were just red. Peeling a little here and there. Slowly but surely his feet started to swell, a little more every hour it seemed. He continued to keep up with the group, and I kid you not, didn't complain once. So I really thought he was fine. He could just put some aloe on it, and the swelling would slowly go down.
I mentioned earlier that lava rock is brutal. It's like millions of teeny tiny shards of glass clumped together. If you fall on a rock in Minnesota, you get a scrape on your knee. If you fall on lava rock your knee is pretty much gone, especially if you were wearing shorts! We went swimming in a river one day, and this same student cut his foot on a lava rock in the water. When he got out of the water, I looked at the cut on the bottom of his foot, and it, in combination with his sun burn was crazy gnarly looking. It was a long gash, but not that deep so I thought we could just bandage it up and move on. We did that. He didn't complain, and continued to quietly participate in whatever plans we had the rest of the day.
When we got back to the house where we were staying, I pulled out some aloe and fresh bandages for his foot. He pulled off his sock, and I just about passed out right there. Not only was his foot still bright red and swollen from the sunburn, but it was now starting to turn purplish/blackish/bluish/greenish - every color that your foot is not supposed to be - and the colors were in tracks. It looked like a splatter painting of the most grotesque colors of the rainbow. My stomach already turning, I asked him to take the band aid off the cut he got earlier from the lava rock. As he peeled the band aid back, a huge patch of skin came with it. The gash it turned out was long, not deep, but it was also much wider than I thought. This lava rock basically took a silver dollar sized chunk out of his foot. I turned to my sister and said, "We need to get him to a hospital. I think he has gang green." I was certain that there was going to be an amputation before we left Hawaii.
He didn't have gang green. He didn't have anything amputated. Again, totally irrational thinking, but when children are under your care, and parents are expecting to get their kids home with all of their limbs, your mind goes places. I'm not sure what the lesson was here truthfully. It still amazes me that this particular student got home all in one piece. He is accident prone, but again, minor injuries are part of life in Hawaii. What really blows my mind is that this student still had a great time. He still learned a lot. He didn't complain, and loved every second of it. He was a total mess, but was determined to get everything he could out of a trip he may never have a chance at again. Maybe that's the lesson? Carpe diem. It's so cliche and I'm not always certain that it's great advice. But that this student made it through this trip AND took advantage of every opportunity to grow and learn, is really inspiring. It was to me and I think it was inspiring to the other students on the trip as well.
I think that'll be all for now. I have many more stories on student travel mishaps. I'll share them next week in part 2!
If I haven't scared you away from school travel experiences, check out this template for planning a school trip. It's free, and makes a good PBL project for students - How to Plan a School Travel Experience: Student-Directed PBL Project.
You can also take a look at Project-Based Learning: Plan a Trip Around the World - a hypothetical plan for a trip around the world.
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Raise money for learning activities this Halloween with these spooky and spirited student-led fundraisers:
Approaching holidays make great excuses to fund raise for your school or organization. People love Holidays. Get into the spirit of Halloween this year by organizing some fundraising events that are not only fun, but help you raise big money for your school.
Happy Halloween, and happy fund raising!
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To provide innovative educational resources for educators, parents, and students, that go beyond lecture and worksheets.
Sara Segar, experiential life-science educator and advisor, curriculum writer, and mother of two.