Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Birmingham Field Trip, 12/2013

I thought I knew something about Birmingham, then I went on a third grade field trip.

We started with a driving tour of downtown Birmingham, getting us acquainted with the city's layout as well as with each other and who was going to be in whose group, who was cute and who wasn't and what did YOU bring for lunch??

There are a good many curves and hills, so one mom puked on the bus, but she was fine. Good times.

Then we went to Sloss Furnaces and learned about the impact of melting elements into steel and how that affected the growth of Birmingham's economy. Go pig iron!

Svea and I were familiar with the layout of Sloss since my brother used to work there. And there was that time I saw the Counting Crows perform under one of the furnaces.

This field trip was in December, but there were still remnants (fake blood and disembodied baby dolls) from the Haunted House at Halloween.

Nothing delights a third grade boy like a random baby doll's arm and maybe a deflated rubber mask on the ground.
Nothing delights this mom like crawling out of the underground tunnels towards the light:

We were fascinated with how massive it all seemed...

And then we spotted one of Uncle Johnnie's sculptures! (bottom right of the picture)

We were proud of, through and around Sloss.

Walking and talking with third graders, it was amazing to me how much misunderstanding happens in a conversation.
One boy tilted his hat and started walking like he was on the moon and said, "One small step for large step for mankind!!"
I was staring at him like, "Whaaa? We are learning about iron ore, coke and limestone!"
Another kid heard him and said, "Alert the mannequins? The moon is mine?"

It reminded me that I had heard that Neil Armstrong had defended him famous quote, insisting that he had been misunderstood. He claims he said "humankind," not "mankind."
That should pacify some feminists/inclusionists out there.

The third graders didn't care...they just wanted to play and eat lunch at Railroad Park:

Svea loves a good selfie:

Then we were off to the Art Museum. I'm just going to say it:
Third graders get really bored really quickly when a docent is asking them what they see and feel in a painting.

Like this painting:

I was tired of standing too, and some of the girls just started braiding each others' hair while the boys just sat down and complained (or attempted to break 18th century French ceramics).
A few stared at the painting and wondered if those were boys or girls?
Did they steal that dog?
If he's playing that guitar he must be getting ready for a birthday party!
They are outside but it looks inside!
Why would they wear that?
If we could have sat down, I think I could have listened to their analysis of French art all day. All. Day. Long. It was hilarious.

Then we were off to the Civil Rights Institute.

Again, I'm just going to say it:
This was about the time of day when some children's medication was wearing off.
As a note to myself, I never again want to be at a place so amazing and powerful as the BCRI with children who have not had the opportunity to run and play and blow off steam, and who maybe struggle with some impulse control and attention deficit. I want to be in a park, a pool or on a trampoline instead.

Before going inside, we admired the breathtaking sculptures in the park across the street:

And then prepared to enter the institute.

Again, GREAT idea in theory, but a self-guided tour with hyper yet gifted third graders after 3pm is not the best idea in my opinion. However, I am so grateful I was there.
This quote by Desmond Tutu really got my attention:

-“I am not interested in picking up crumbs of compassion thrown from the table of someone who considers himself my master. I want the full menu of rights.” 

YES! I had to pump my fists in the air on that one!
After I was done fist pumping, I tried to eavesdrop on some of the kids' conversations.

Then one girl separated herself a little and was very still.  Here's the conversation I heard:

8 year old girl:  This place makes me feel scared.
Adult: I know, honey, but you are old enough now to understand all this and remember how important it is that we are nice to each other.
8 year old girl: I know...but I'm still small enough to feel scared.
Adult: We all are, baby, we all are.
8 year old girl: I wish black and whites were always nice to each other. At least we have THIS PLACE to remind us.

I kept walking and heard an 8 year old boy say, "A black classroom circa 1953? And a white classroom circa 1953? Hey!! Where's the LATIN classroom?"

Each one of us was looking for our own storyline, our own place to identify in that Institute. I was blessed and humbled to watch those minds process and try to understand the history...and the present.

The final stop was Vulcan, which was amazing because it revisited a lot of the information we learned at Sloss.
What was not amazing was that the temperature had literally dropped 40 degrees and fog had settled in with the icy rain.
We rode the elevator to the tippy top of Vulcan, but it was too foggy to see anything:

As we sprinted back to the bus, I heard one gutsy third grade boy yell, "I'll miss your big butt cheeks, Vulcan!"

So scandalous saying "butt cheeks"!

Back in the bus I was so tired I could hardly talk. I have no idea how teachers, aides, specialists, and staff at elementary schools do it. Their stamina and patience and wit are astonishing to me.

Thank you, field trip, for the conversations, the misunderstandings, the clarifications, the wonder, and the time spent to make us all so proud to be a part of Birmingham's past, present and future.


Anonymous said...

Love this entry- I didn't realize the extent of this trip! Svea was great on our second visit last Sunday

Anonymous said...

Beautiful words. But seriously, that was a HUGE field trip. That is what I call a summer's worth of visits. Denise